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Old Norwegian
Old Norwegian: norrǿnn mál[1]
Bokmål: gammelnorsk
Nynorsk: gamalnorsk
RegionKingdom of Norway (872–1397)
Era11th–14th century
Early forms
Medieval Runes, Latin
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)
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Old Norwegian (Norwegian: gammelnorsk and gam(m)alnorsk), also called Norwegian Norse, is an early form of the Norwegian language that was spoken between the 11th and 14th century; it is a transitional stage between Old West Norse and Middle Norwegian, and also Old Norn and Old Faroese.

Its distinction from Old West Norse is a matter of convention. Traditionally, Old Norwegian has been divided into the main dialect areas of North Western, Outer South Western, Inner South Western, Trøndersk, North Eastern, and South Eastern.[citation needed]

Phonological and morphological features

One of the most important early differences between Old Norwegian and Old Icelandic is that h in the consonant combinations hl-, hn- and hr- was lost in Old Norwegian around the 11th century, while being preserved in Old Icelandic. Thus, one has e.g. Old Icelandic hlíð 'slope', hníga 'curtsey' and hringr 'ring' vs Old Norwegian líð, níga and ringr, respectively.[citation needed]

Many Old Norwegian dialects feature a height based system of vowel harmony: Following stressed high vowels (/i/, /iː/, /y/, /yː/, /u/, /uː/) and diphthongs (/ei/, /ey/, /au/), the unstressed vowels /i/ and /u/ appear as i, u, while they are represented as e, o following long non-high vowels (/eː/, /øː/, /oː/, /æː/, /aː/). The situation following stressed short non-high vowels (/e/, /æ/, /ø/, /a/, /o/, /ɔ/) is much debated and was apparently different in the individual dialects.[2]

The u-umlaut of short /a/ (written ǫ in normalized Old Norse) is not as consistently graphically distinguished from non-umlauted /a/ as in Old Icelandic, especially in writings from the Eastern dialect areas. It is still a matter of academic debate whether this is to be interpreted phonologically as a lack of umlaut or merely as a lack of its graphical representation.[citation needed]

Old Norwegian had alternative dual and plural first person pronouns, mit, mér, to the Common Norse vit, vér.[3]

Old Norn

See also: Norn language

Norn is an extinct language derived from the North Germanic language family that died out in the late 19th or 20th century. It was primarily spoken in the Northern Isles, or Orkney (Orkneyjar) and Shetland (Hjaltland), and Caithness on the northern tip of Scotland. Little remains of Norn other than a few literary works in Orkney Norn and Shetland Norn, while Caithness Norn is expected to have died out in the 15th century, replaced by Scots.

Sources from the 17th and 18th century report that Norn, often misidentified as Danish, Norse or Norwegian, was in a rapid decline, although prevailing in Shetland more then Orkney. Walter Sutherland is generally considered the last native speaker of the language, dying in 1850, though many claims describe the language, probably in verses and songs, spoken in the islands of Foula and Unst as late as the 20th century.

Old Faroese

Main article: Faroese language § Old Faroese

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (April 2016)

Middle Norwegian

Main article: Middle Norwegian

The Black Death struck Norway in 1349, killing over 60% of the population.[4] This probably precipitated the current process of language development.[citation needed] The language in Norway after 1350 up to about 1550 is generally referred to as Middle Norwegian. The language went through several changes: morphological paradigms were simplified, including the loss of grammatical cases and the levelling of personal inflection on verbs. A vowel reduction also took place, in some dialects, including in parts of Norway, reducing many final unstressed vowels in a word to a common "e".

The phonemic inventory also underwent changes. The dental fricatives represented by the letters þ and ð disappeared from the Norwegian language, either merging with their equivalent stop consonants, represented by t and d, respectively, or being lost altogether.

See also


  1. ^ "norsk". Bokmålsordboka / Nynorskordboka. Language Council of Norway. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  2. ^ Homepage of a symposium on Old Norwegian vowel harmony, held in Bergen in March 2015 (in Norwegian)
  3. ^ Richard Cleasby, Guðbrandur Vigfússon — An Icelandic-English Dictionary (1874). Eirligr-Ekkill
  4. ^ Harald Aastorp (2004-08-01). "Svartedauden enda verre enn antatt". Archived from the original on 2008-03-31. Retrieved 2009-01-03.