Old Norse

Spoken in

  • Indo-European Germanic North Germanic Norse




  • Altwestnordisch
  • Old Danish and Old Swedish
  • Altgutnisch
  • Krimgotisch
  • Old English
  • Other Germanic languages ​​with which Old Norse was mutually understood

In Old Norse, a distinction is made between Altwestnordisch and Altostnordisch, eg on the basis of ostnordischen monophthongization. The Norse includes Old Norse, Old Icelandic and Altfäröisch that Altostnordische Old Danish, Old Swedish and Altgutnisch, which is only slightly differed from each other until the 13th century.

The proper name of this gradually differentiated from each other from the 9th century languages ​​in the Middle Ages was dǫnsk tunga (literally Danish tongue).

For the early to high Middle Ages, some researchers still take part even in a mutual intelligibility of the Norse languages ​​with the Altniederdeutschen ( Old Saxon ) and Old English.

  • 3.1 vowels
  • 3.2 consonants
  • 3.3 orthography
  • 4.1 Nouns
  • 4.2 Article
  • 4.3 verbs
  • 8.1 launches
  • 8.2 grammars
  • 8.3 dictionaries
  • 8.4 History of Language

More disambiguation

Since most of the Old Norse literature is handed on Old Icelandic and Old Norse, the terms Old Norse, Old Icelandic Altwestnordisch and are often used interchangeably.

Due to the close relationship the Old Norse languages ​​are seen as dialects of Old Norse, as its standard form then the normalized Old Icelandic applies.

In Scandinavia, the old ( west) is norrön Nordic languages ​​( swedish norrön, dän. / Norw. Norrøn (t)) called, based on the Norse culture to some extent. The Neuisländische norrænt mál ( Nordic language ) refers to the modern North Germanic languages ​​, as the Icelanders strongly identify with their wide range of medieval literature and want to preserve continuity with the Middle Ages, especially languages ​​.

Relationships with other languages

Successor languages

The modern successor to the Old Norse are the West Nordic languages ​​Icelandic, Nynorsk, Faroese and the extinct Norn of the Orkney and Shetland Islands and the ostnordischen languages ​​Swedish, Danish and Bokmål.

For Norwegian Main article Norwegian language.

From the Old Norse language level is Icelandic and Faroese have the least diverged within the last thousand years, when one considers the morphology. Both languages ​​have many grammatical features that have been lost in the other Scandinavian languages. It is still very accurately between three genders ( masculine, feminine and neuter ), and four and three cases ( nominative, genitive, dative, accusative in Icelandic, Faroese preserves the genitive is very limited in elevated language, but has the other three cases). Also in the vocabulary of today's Icelandic and Faroese many old words are preserved, he reminded by the virtual absence of foreign words very to the Old Norse. In the orthography of both languages ​​, care was taken in defining the 19th century that they are based on the Old Norse original, but the debate was primarily the vowel signs redefined.

Relation to English



The vowel phonemes mostly appear as a pair of short and long vowel. Written the long vowel is marked by an accent. All phonemes, more or less, the expectable phonetic realization.

Characteristic of the Norse are frequent umlauts and refractions ( For details, see the article urnordische language):

I- umlaut, generally caused by i, j, r:

  • A / á > e / æ, o / ó > ø / œ, u / ú > y / ý
  • Au > ey, iu > ý

U - umlaut, generally caused by u, w:

  • A> ǫ, e> ø, i> y

Interruption of "e" generally caused by a subsequent or U:

  • E> Ea > ia ( yes ) e> ěǫ > iǫ ( jǫ )


The Old Norse has six plosives. From this occurs / p / rare word-initially, while / d / and / b / does not occur due to the fricative allophones of the Proto -Germanic between vowels (eg, * b * [ß ]> v between vowels ). The phoneme / g / is realized within word and word-final velar fricative as voiced [ ɣ ], except it is geminiert.

The velar fricative [ x] is an allophone of / h / when it is pronounced in the combinations hv [ xw ], hl [ xl ], hr [ xɾ ] and hn [ xn ], as in words like hvat what hlaupa, run, race, hringr ring hnakki neck, neck.


Unified Norse spellings were developed in the 19th century and are phonemic in part. The most notable difference is that the non- phonemic difference between the voiced and voiceless dental fricatives is marked. As mentioned above, long vowels are marked by an accent. Most other characters are expressed with the same glyph as the IPA, exceptions are given in the following table.


The Old Norse is a highly inflected language. The majority of the grammatical complexity was preserved in modern Icelandic and Faroese - while Danish, Norwegian and Swedish have a greatly simplified morphological system.


Old Norse nouns could have one of three grammatical genders: masculine, feminine or neuter. Nouns - as well as adjectives and pronouns - were divided into four grammatical cases declined: nominative, genitive, dative and accusative, each in singular and plural. There was such as in Latin different classes of nouns within each gender, including

ARMR ( German arm), a masculine a-stems:

Troll ( German Troll), a neutral a- tribe:

Hǫll ( German hall, living room), a feminine ô strain:


The Norse knows how the modern Icelandic, a particular item that is attached to the noun and mitdekliniert (see the table above). There is also a free-standing articles, in association as in English with the weak adjective.


Unlike the modern festlandskandinavischen written languages ​​Old Norse knew conjugation by people. Since Norse time is that the form of the 2nd person singular ("you ") occurs also for the 3rd person singular ( " he / she / it " ) both in the indicative as ending- r,- ar, -ir depending on the class of verbs. There was, as in all ancient Germanic languages ​​, only two synthetic tenses ( times ) - present tense and past tense. Then there are the modes indicative and subjunctive, and even an imperative in the present tense.


When developed the Urnordische in the 8th century the Norse, the umlauts distinguished by geographical location: the typical umlauts (about Fylla from * fullian ) were stronger in the West, while those that resulted in a diaeresis (example: hiarta of Herto ) in East were more influential. This difference was the main reason the Dialektisierung in the 9th and 10th centuries, which marked a Norse dialect in Norway and the Atlantic settlements and a altostnordischen dialect in Denmark and Sweden.

A second difference was that the Norse certain combinations of consonants lost. The combinations - mp-, -nt, and nk were the Norse to -pp -,- tt -and- kk- assimilated, but this phenomenon was restricted in Altostnordischen.

However, such differences were the exception. The dialects were very similar and were often seen as one and the same language, a language, sometimes called dǫnsk tunga ( Danish tongue [ language ] ) and is sometimes referred to as norrœnt mál ( Nordic languages ​​). This is evident in the following quotations from Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla:

Móðir Dyggva var Drott, Dottir Danps konungs, sonar rigs he fyrstr var konungr kallaðr á Danska Tungu. Dyggves mother was Drott, the daughter of the king DANP, Rigs son, who was named in the Danish language as the first king.

Stirt ... var honum norrœnt mál, ok kylfdi mjǫk til orðanna, ok hǫfðu margir menn That mjǫk at Spotti. Nordic ... language was hard for him, and he looked very much like words and many people took the mockery.

Here is a comparison between the two dialects. This is a transcript from one of the Funbo runes ( U990 ), with the meaning: Vedr and Thane and Gunnar erected this stone after Haursa, her father. God help this soul.


The earliest inscriptions in Old Norse language are runes from the 8th century. Runes were in use until the 15th century. With the conversion to Christianity in the 11th century came the Latin alphabet. The oldest surviving Old Norse texts in the Latin alphabet date from the middle of the 12th century. Gradually the Norse became the transport of a large and diverse vernacular literature - unique in medieval Europe. The majority of the obtained literature was written in Iceland. Best known are the Norse and Icelandic sagas, as well as the mythological literature, but there is also an extensive body of religious literature, translations of courtly romances into Norse, Classical mythology, the Old Testament, as well as instructions, grammatical treatises and many letters and official documents.