Norn.

A while back I quoted this passage from MacDiarmid’s On a Raised Beach:

I try them with the old Norn words – hraun,
Duss, rønis, queedaruns, kollyarum;
They hvarf from me in all directions
Over the hurdifell – klett, millya hellya, hellyina bretta,
Hellyina wheeda, hellyina grø, bakka, ayre, –
    And lay my world in kolgref.

If anyone wondered what Norn might be, it’s “an extinct North Germanic language that was spoken in the Northern Isles (Orkney and Shetland) off the north coast of mainland Scotland and in Caithness in the far north of the Scottish mainland,” and you can find all existing texts in the language as well as material on its grammar and pronunciation at this fine site. Thanks, Trond!

Update (Aug. 2017). JC says the fine site has malware, so I’ve delinked it. Sigh.

Comments

  1. Trond Engen says:

    And thanks to you for repeating the lines from MacDiarmid. I missed out on them the first time.

  2. Trond Engen says:

    Those words really wharf, quarf, kvarf in all directions. They seem to reflect very different spelling conventions or degrees of Norn authenticity. A feature, not a bug, probably, in the context of the poem.

  3. Yes, I imagine he felt about consistency much the way T. E. Lawrence did.

  4. Hraun means lava or lava field in Modern Icelandic but I don’t know about the etymology.

    Is kolgref the same as kolgröf? Kolgröf is a pit where wood was burned under conditions that transformed it into a coal-like substance that was used as fuel. I think. Don’t quite know how that worked.

    Kolgröf — coalgrave

    “They hvarf from me in all directions”. This must be hverfa, disappear.

    Klett is cliff or rock.

    Bretta perhaps bratt or brattur, steep.

    Grø, is that grænn (green) or gróa-something (grow, heal)?

    The rest of the norn-words don’t ring many bells, except for fell. There are al lot of fells in Iceland.

  5. AThRd: That’s called charcoal burning. Essentially, wood is roasted under anoxic conditions.Incidentally, Colegrove is a common surname where I come from.

  6. ‘Anoxic’ is the word I was lacking Rodger C. No or low oxygen.

    In Iceland charcoal burning survived into the 20th century but just barely. The only reminder of the practice is Kolgrafafjörður, a placename. The small uninhabited fiord was much in the news in Iceland a year or so ago because herring in the quadrillions swam in there (for reasons that aren’t fully understood) and just bunched up and died of asphyxiation. Fittingly.

    http://img.visir.is/apps/pbcsi.dll/storyimage/XZ/20131122/FRETTIR01/131129690/AR/0/AR-131129690.jpg?NoBorder

  7. Stefan Holm says:

    The Icelanders know little of charcoal burning, since the original Norwegian settlers cut down every tree on the island and totally deforested it. In continental Scandinavia however the mila, ‘charcoal pit’ was all over the place until early 20th c. when hydropower, oil and coal replaced it. (The Icelanders today get their energy from their volcanic underground).

    This must be hverfa, disappear.

    Spontaneously to my mind came stanza 57 of the mighty Voluspa describing the end of the world:
    Sól tér sortna / sígr fold í mar / hverfa af himni / heiðar stjörnur.
    Sun seems to blacken / sinks earth in sea / disappear from heaven / hot stars.

    Klett is cliff or rock.

    Certainly – in unassimilated Swedish it is ‘klint’. ‘Klitt’ is used specifically about the shifting sand dunes of the western Jutland (Denmark) coast.

  8. Mila? For a charcoal pit? Now, where does THAT word come from?

    Re. Völuspá. By my understanding “heiðar stjörnur” means clear stars or distinct stars or bright stars. Not “hot stars”.

    About trees in Iceland and charcoal burning, I’m not about to get into an argument about that on a language blog.

  9. Stefan Holm says:

    By my understanding “heiðar stjörnur” means clear stars or distinct stars or bright stars. Not “hot stars”.

    Who am I to tell? Google translate gives English ‘clear’ → Icel. ‘ljóst’ and Eng. ‘bright’ → Icel. ‘björt’. It may be that I confused English ‘hot’, German ‘heiss’, Dutch ‘heet’, Danish ‘hed’, Norwegian ‘heit’, Swedish ‘het’ and Icelandic ‘heitr’ with Old Icelandic ‘heið-’. Please enlighten me!

    Mila is – as so many words in continental Scandinavian – from Plattdeutsch, which in turn is ‘of unknown origin’.

  10. heiðr ‘bright, clear, cloudless’; cf. German heiter ‘bright.’

  11. From the Iceland Travelers FAQ:

    Q. What should I do if I get lost in the forest in Iceland?

    A. Stand up.

  12. Google Translate isn’t much to rely on, at least not when it comes to Icelandic.

    When I Google up the Icelandic word “heiður” (the word in question) I get “honor” (honour). Well, that’s right if you’re talking about the noun. But “heiður” is also an adjective — meaning “clear” — and for some reason Google is unaware of that.

    “Heiður himinn”, there’s only one way to translate that sentence into English: Clear skies.

    But when I Google up the English word “clear” all I get “ljóst”.

    “Clear” has more than one meaning in English. It can mean obvious or evident, as in: “It’s clear he’s lying”. If you were to translate that sentence into Icelandic you’d probably use “ljóst” (Það er ljóst að hann lýgur). But “ljóst” has a narrow meaning, you wouldn’t use it to describe natural phenomena like the skies or some star.

    As for “bright”. I checked and you’re right, Google comes up with “björt”. Which is interesting because “björt” is the feminine form of the word. Dictionaries are dead set on treating masculine forms as the norm.

    I find Google Translate useful but in a very limited way.

    I mostly use it to translate recipies.

    Google Translate has also come in handy at work. I work with a Senegalese guy who speaks Italian pretty well (his English is next to nonexistant) and I know enough Italian and am familiar enough with Italian grammar to be conversant if I’ve got my iPad with me, looking things up via Google Translate. I’m by no means a language person.

  13. David Marjanović says:

    German heiter ‘bright.’

    Said of weather, sky and mood; not of stars, but that’s close enough… especially, perhaps, when “sky” is the word right in front of it!

  14. I was comparing it etymologically, not semantically (though obviously the semantics have to be close enough for the etymology to work).

  15. David Marjanović says:

    Just for the sake of completeness. 🙂

  16. Trond Engen says:

    I’m at loss with some of the words too. To take the easier ones first,

    hraun is (literally) a textbook example of semantic change by adaptation of old words to new conditions. In the old country it used to mean “bare rock”. In Iceland it came to mean “lava (field)”. It seems from what I read that Shetland Norn was monophtongizing, strangely out of place, with au > o or ø depending on dialect, so rønis could be from hraun as well. But the grammatical form eludes me? An English plural?

    hvarf is the preterite of hverfa “disappear”, though I’d rather expect quarf in Orkney/Shetland.

    hurdifell

    klett, millya hellya, hellyina bretta,
    Hellyina wheeda, hellyina grø, bakka, ayre
    . Here, klett is “cliff” as said above millya

  17. Something seems to have gone amiss with the latter part of that comment.

  18. Stefan Holm says:

    I’m by no means a language person

    You by all means are, like everybody by woman born. And I thank you for enlightening me about words so closely related but still so semantically different as between Icelandic and Swedish. As for ljóst our word ljus is as a noun ‘light’ and as an adjective ‘bright’. When it comes to björt we have ‘bjärt’, which in English would be ‘stark’ or ‘glaring’. ‘I bjärt kontrast’ would be translated as ‘in stark contrast’. Klar is semantically similar to English ‘clear’.

    Maybe you are not a football person either? But I am! Together with my all fellow continental Scandinavians we today follow the Icelandic national team (under the leadership of Swedish Lars Lagerbäck). Denmark, Norway and Sweden aren’t really doing well but your guys go like a rocket, beating the Dutch (2-0)!

    Friedrich Engels once said about the Icelanders, that they live in dugouts and feel unhappy in every environement that doesn’t smell from rotten cod. My good friend Artur in the late 70.s when I worked partly as a journalist and partly in a dairy always asked me to bring some whey. He enjoyed it together with the rotten shark his loving mother sent him.

    Now, not tot be unfair, even continental Scandinavians appreciate raw fish like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravlax or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pickled_herring .

  19. Trond Engen says:

    Did I post it? Stupid iPad.

    Anyway, I read millya as “between”. The next word, hellya could be several words, but I think a plural of hell “hillside” makes sense in the context. Norn was plalatalizing like Norwegian dialects north of (roughly) the Sognefjord. The form hellyina is definite. as for the adjectives, bretta “steep” is easy, the two others make sense together: wheeda must be ON hviða “white” and grø ON grá “grey, black”. Then we come to bakka “hills”, or maybe here “banks”. I’m less sure about ayra, but I’d guess ON eyrir “sands, deltas” So: “Between hillsides. The steep hillsides, the white hillsides, the grey hillsides, Banks. Sands.”

  20. Trond Engen says:

    I meant ON hvíta “white”, since ON also seems to have been leniting like “southern tip” Norwegian. (ON hviða means “cold wind”, I pondered that for a while and it seems I forgot to rewrite it when I changed my mind.)

  21. Trond Engen says:

    Substitute “since Norn seems to …”

    The line Duss, rønis, queedaruns, kollyarum is difficult. I’ve had a guess on rønis, so that’s something. My only guess for duss is ON dús “calm (of wind)” and that makes little sense in this collection of landscape terms. Unless queedaruns is from hviða and this line a list of winds instead. Winds blowing in all directions. I’d rather have kollyarum as some case form of kollr “bare head; round hill”, or maybe even better “room in the bow (= kolla) of a boat”.

  22. Trond Engen says:

    Thanks. Yes, dys “heap, mound” makes sense. So does hvítahraun and kollahraun.

  23. Trond Engen says:

    Jakob Jacobsen has hellya = ON hella‘”flat stone”. I see now that that’s better.

  24. Those words really wharf, quarf, kvarf in all directions.

    But where is muster Marf in all of this?

  25. Where all does the *hv>kv sound change happen in Scandinavian? I recall reading that in Icelandic it is (or was) a dialect feature of southern Iceland; I also recall reading that it occurs in some Swedish dialects, but I don’t remember any details.

  26. Trond Engen says:

    The primary distinction is not defined by hv- > kv- but by hv- > v-. This took place in southern Sweden, eastern/central Denmark and partly southestern Norway. (The actual dividing lines through Sweden aren’t completely clear to me.)

    I’ll contain that the secondary divide is hv- > h- in central/northern Sweden and southeastern Norwegian. Some regions later lost the h-.

    The situation in the retaining regions is more messy. We see from Shetland that the wh-/qu- distinction seems to have been dialectal within the islands. The same goes for Iceland. In Norway it’s k(v)-, except for some scattered intermediate dialects with gv-. In Denmark Jutlandic has hv- or even hw-.

  27. David Marjanović says:

    But where is muster Marf in all of this?

    Win.

    In Denmark Jutlandic has hv- or even hw-.

    What, [hw] with [w]?

  28. Trond Engen says:

    David M.: What, [hw] with [w]?

    Yes, although I’ll admit to not having heard it myself. And Danish dialects are moribound, so I don’t think anyone will hear it much longer. Here’s a map from Jysk Ordbog. Search for e.g. hvor for examples. This map treats initial w- (i.e. not hw-). Some areas of Jutland has w- even before o/u where the rest of Scandinavian lost it, but I can’t find a map of that.

    It’s said that English and Övdalen Swedish are the only IE languages preserving PIE *w as [w]. I’ve not added Jysk, since it has [w] even for what historically is voiced f, and I’m not sure if [w] was preserved or rather redeveloped.

  29. Trond Engen says:

    Dang, I replied with multiple links.

  30. From what I’ve read, in the northernmost varieties of Jutlandic (the same that have [w] rather than [ʋ] even before front vowels), hv-, hj- coalesce into [ʍ, ç].

    Maybe someone wants to try this:

    http://dialekt.ku.dk/dialektkort

    (choose “kort 11” from the menu). I can’t: I’m on a train and it wouldn’t be polite to expose my fellow passengers to dialect samples.

  31. wh-/qu- distinction

    It’s hard to be sure if written qu represents /kw/ or /xw/, as in older Scots.

    hv-, hj- coalesce into [ʍ, ç]

    Just like English which, huge in varieties that preserve the implicit /h/ in these words.

  32. Trond Engen says:

    Piotr: I can’t: I’m on a train and it wouldn’t be polite to expose my fellow passengers to dialect samples.

    I can’t either. My ears are still recovering from my daughter’s 15 girls strong birthday party. And besides, this device won’t show me the map with the links.

    But good points, both of you. Shetlandic hj > ş is a case in point.

  33. Trond: “It’s said that English and Övdalen Swedish are the only IE languages preserving PIE *w as [w]. ”

    What about Sorbian as a possible addition to the list? Can’t think of any others, though.

  34. Sorbian (both Lower and Upper) is a bona fide example. Quite a few other Slavic languages (Slovene, Slovak, Ukrainian, Belarusian) have [w] as a positional allophone of /v/.

  35. David Marjanović says:

    [w] is also preserved in West Flemish and in at least one Walser (Totally-Over-The-Top Alemannic) dialect spoken high above the Aosta valley; I’ll try to dig up a link tomorrow – it’s on the Alemannic Wikipedia…

    Some areas of Jutland has w- even before o/u where the rest of Scandinavian lost it

    Wow, so it’s technically not descended from Old Norse!

  36. David Marjanović says:

    Uh, “it” being “those areas” or something. I cannot brain today, I have the tired.

  37. Stefan Holm says:

    Trond: when you wrote ’Ödalen’ I suppose you meant Älvdalen, the area north of lake Siljan in Dalecarlia. It’s true that the dialect there has preserved /w/ together with a lot of other ON features such as four cases in the noun declension system. It has been well studied in Sweden. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elfdalian

    Another less rural area with preserved /w/ is the southernmost part of Västergötland, just some 100 km southeast of Gothenburg. (Look for e.g. ‘Svenljunga’ or ‘Tranemo’ on Google Maps for a location). There vit (white) is /wi:t/, vete (wheat) is /we:tə/, svin (swine) in /swi:n/ etc. As far as I know it hasn’t been scholarly studied but I can tell since it’s just around the corner from the places where I’ve been living all my life.

    A preserved /w/ (or /j/) in front of /u/ or /o/ I’ve never heard of though. And all those older dialects are probably doomed to die within a generation or two.

  38. Five years ago I had the opportunity to meet — I suppose — the only Polish expert on Elfdalian, a graduate student from my own university. She read a paper on Elfdalian sociolinguistics at a young linguists’ conference. It was the first time I had ever learnt anything concrete about that dialect, and I found the topic fascinating. It seems that she finished her dissertation soon afterwards and that it was published as a book and warmly received.

  39. Stefan Holm says:

    Financial Times has the sad story why this unique dialect of ‘Transiljania’ (a Swedish pun) is unlikely to survive other as a tourist attraction. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/72068044-a23c-11e2-8971-00144feabdc0.html#slide0

  40. Trond: when you wrote ’Ödalen’ I suppose you meant Älvdalen

    Well, the language is apparently called Övdalian (from Piotr’s second link: “Övdalian (Swe. älvdalska, Övd övdalską or övkallmåleð), sometimes also called Elfdalian in English”), so I can see where confusion would arise.

  41. Stefan: That’s a very good article; thanks for sharing it. It has a surprisingly sophisticated grasp of what a language is for a newspaper story:

    Although the whole of rural Scandinavia is a patchwork of dialects, all being eroded by television, centralised schooling and emigration to the cities of the coast, Elfdalian looks to linguists like a proper language rather than a mere dialect since it has not only a vocabulary of its own but grammatical features that are not found in any other Scandinavian language. It’s perfectly incomprehensible to Swedish speakers, much more so than Norwegian or even Danish. But it has been preserved in this remote valley at the centre of the country.
    […]

    The grandparents spoke it as a still living dialect. The young people are trying to recover it as a gesture of local pride and identity. If the government in Stockholm were to recognise it as a real minority language, and not just a dialect, it would be obliged by law to encourage and subsidise its use. But that’s not going to happen, whatever the linguists say.

    For the rational economists in Stockholm or Berlin these valleys have no real use except for tourism. The ministries in Stockholm see them as a picturesque wilderness, where wolves should be encouraged to resettle. […]

    Kudos to Andrew Brown, the reporter.

  42. FWIW PIE *w can be found retained in at least some positions also in quite a few (if not most?) smaller Iranian and Dardic languages.

  43. Andrew Brown has an excellent volume of memoirs on his time in Zweden, where he lived (and married) long enough to become fluent in (regular) Swedish; having read it, I am unsurprised he would get languagey things right.

  44. Stefan Holm says:

    I agree that Andrew Brown’s article even from a native point of view is excellent. He illustrates the problem with preserving endangered dialects and languages. But he of course, with an author’s right, exaggerates the ‘exoticness’ of the Elvdalians. After all they are just as modern and well-informed as the rest (or most) of us.

    I also wondered what he meant with rational economists in Stockholm or Berlin. Why Berlin? Did he mean Brussels and the EU bureaucracy? Was that in turn a slip? Or was it a sophisticated way to tell, that ‘Brussels’ is just a formal and cosmetic paraphrase for Berlin and Frankfurt am Main?

  45. David Marjanović says:

    Another less rural area with preserved /w/ is the southernmost part of Västergötland, just some 100 km southeast of Gothenburg.

    Wow.

    the language is apparently called Övdalian

    L-Umlaut just like in Central Bavarian. ^_^

    FWIW PIE *w can be found retained in at least some positions also in quite a few (if not most?) smaller Iranian and Dardic languages.

    I was wondering! Reconstructions, as well as transcriptions of Avestan and Old Persian, always use v, but I’m not sure how much sense that really makes.

    Why Berlin?

    Merkel, who has convinced half of the world – in a glorious triumph of common sense over science – that expenses must be cut everywhere and always.

  46. Trond Engen says:

    So much interesting discussion provoked by one incorrect comment! I’ll be an Internet troll from now on.

  47. Trond Engen says:

    Stefan: Trond: when you wrote ’Ödalen’ I suppose you meant Älvdalen

    Yes, sorry, typo on my part. Fitting in a discussion on losing the v.

  48. Trond Engen says:

    Stefan again: Another less rural area with preserved /w/ is the southernmost part of Västergötland, just some 100 km southeast of Gothenburg.

    I certainly didn’t know. This is in the belt where uvular and alveolar r are positional allophones (complimentary distribution)? The closest I find on Swedia is Öxabäck, which does have uvular r word-initially, alveolar elsewhere, but the v is a [v] to me.

  49. Trond Engen says:

    David: a glorious triumph of common sense over science

    Or over maths, reducing one side of the equation to increase the other. (Although understanding the science would help with the maths. So maybe it’s more like reducing force to promote acceleration.)

  50. Trond Engen says:

    I should also say that the loss of initial w is erratic in Norwegian. The prime example is vond “bad, painful”.

  51. It’s essentially the desire of a company to cut costs by firing workers, which of course leads to the conclusion that the best way to cut the most is to fire them all. Unfortunately….

  52. It’s essentially the desire of a company to cut costs by firing workers, which of course leads to the conclusion that the best way to cut the most is to fire them all.

    It’s said that economist John Kenneth Galbraith visited China, and seeing thousands of laborers removing earth from a construction site with small pails, asked his hosts why they didn’t mechanize the job. They responded that this was the best way to ensure high employment. Well then, said Galbraith, why don’t you take away the pails and give them spoons . . .

  53. David Marjanović says:

    I should also say that the loss of initial w is erratic in Norwegian. The prime example is vond “bad, painful”.

    Huh.

    Perhaps North Germanic is just as big a mess as West Germanic.

  54. David Marjanović says:

    I promised a link to that Walser dialect with [w]. The fun starts here! The article itself is written in Weaksauce Low Alemannic; if you can read German, it should be workable.

    Further fun fact: the same dialect has turned short /f/ (from Proto-Germanic */f/) into [v] in all positions, not just at the beginnings of words.

  55. Stefan Holm says:

    Trond: the preserved /w/ is restricted to Kinds härad (Swedish Wikipedia: http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinds_h%C3%A4rad). Öxabäck which you linked to is in Marks härad, the immediate western neighbour to Kind.

    A ‘härad’ is an older administrative and military division of the Nordic countries. The word is derived from ‘här’ (army) and covered an area which could bring about some 120 battleworthy men. The English word is ‘hundred’ (which oddly seems to have meant 120 in Germanic). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kind_Hundred.

    As for the two ’r’:s (alveolar and uvular) I myself am a native speaker (but my sons are not). You can read the details (in Swedish) at: http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6taregeln. For non-natives it’s a real tounge twister in compounds like ‘förrätt’ (first course), ‘överrock’ (overcoat), ‘kopparrör’ (copper pipe) and – David – ‘Österrike’ (Austria), where I at least in clear speech go /rR/ in the joining part.

  56. Perhaps North Germanic is just as big a mess as West Germanic.

    All real languages are messy. One simply shouldn’t equate documented Old Norse (for the most part = literary Old Icelandic) with Proto-North Germanic. The surviving texts evidently fail to do justice to its polymorphism.

  57. David Marjanović says:

    I at least in clear speech go /rR/ in the joining part

    My mind is blown.

    One simply shouldn’t equate documented Old Norse (for the most part = literary Old Icelandic) with Proto-North Germanic.

    OK, that’s one thing. But the other thing is the question whether there ever was a uniform dialect that could be called Proto-North Germanic, or whether the situation is like West Germanic, where several very distinctive innovations must have originated once and spread through a continuum of dialects, some of which had made other innovations earlier.

  58. Trond Engen says:

    Oh, that. It seems obvious that North Germanic, spread out over such a vast area already in its Proto days, never was uniform. Also, I’ve said some times that the labels East and West Scandinavian are mere artifacts of documentation. The main scribal centers were far southeast ( Scania, Gothia) and far northwest (Iceland, Trondheim), hiding the different directions of the isoglosses between them

  59. Trond Engen says:

    Posted accidentally while editing. Well, I was almost finished anyway.

  60. Trond Engen says:

    To the extent that a uniform ancestor of North Germanic is reconstructible, it may either reflect traits that weren’t universal at the time but spread within the area later, or traits that really belong to a time before North Scandinavian split from Common Germanic, or both. Not to imply that there was a clean split from Common Germanic. This, of course, is not unique to North Germanic but probably for every proto-language ever.

  61. Trond Engen says:

    … but probably the case in every proto-language ever.

    (I’m getting annoyed by this habit of posting-while-editing. I want to blame the iPad, but it’s really about me having pølsefingre.)

  62. …a uniform dialect…

    Is any dialect, anywhere, at any time, uniform?

  63. Stefan Holm says:

    whether there ever was a uniform dialect that could be called Proto-North Germanic.

    Scandinavian linguists in general should be acknowledged for not having relied to much upon the otherwise wonderful Icelandic litterature, our main source of PGmc mythology. The medieval language in Iceland of course reflects that of the settlers from Norway.

    Focus has rather been upon the meager runic inscriptions. They tell a story of a common North Germanic dialect however in some details divided into a western and an eastern variety. The most clear example is the word final /o/ (east) vs /u/ (west) as in ku, tru, snu, bu on Norwegian and some western Swedish)stones but ko, tro, sno, bo on Danish and eastern Swedish ones. The words are ‘ku/ko’ → cow, ‘tru/tro’→ believe/belief/faith (cf. ‘true’), ‘snu/sno’ → twist (OE ‘sneowan’) and ‘bu/bo’ → live/dwell/reside (OSax ‘buan’).

    This in turn is the main reason for historically dividing North Germanic into west and east ditto. The actual situation is that (1) Danish is on its own, (2) Icelandic and Faroese are somewhat close and (3) Norwegian and Swedish are fairly close.

    Traceable changes in Scandinavian have always followed a south-to-north track. The change of stein to sten (‘stone’) is on rune stones recorded as one to two hundred years earlier in Denmark and Götaland (southern Sweden) than in Svealand (middle Sweden) and Norway.

    One shouldn’t believe to much in fairy tales of the antiquity of dialects. Swedish linguists claim that the diversity of Swedish dialects was at its largest around the year 1900. Prior to that they were closer and today they are rapidly adjusting into little boxes just the same.

  64. Trond Engen says:

    Stefan: The change of stein to sten (‘stone’) is on rune stones recorded as one to two hundred years earlier in Denmark and Götaland (southern Sweden) than in Svealand (middle Sweden) and Norway.

    Not important to the general point, but even today ei, au, øy > e:, ø:, ø: is regular only in a couple of southeastern districts along the Swedish border (and the isogloss is on the Swedish side of the border further north).

    An inherent problem with the epigraphic evidence is that timing is circular. Age of inscriptions is inferred from language features and geography, and age of language features and geographical variation over time are inferred from age of inscriptions. This allows rough dating, but the margins of error are necessarily wide.

  65. David Marjanović says:

    Is any dialect, anywhere, at any time, uniform?

    No; but for a sufficiently restrictive definition of “one dialect”, there are plenty of dialects whose variation is so small that you shouldn’t be able to reconstruct any of it a thousand years later.

    Of course, barring a very fast expansion in its very recent past, no such thing is ever spoken in an area as large as Germanic-speaking Scandinavia. That may be what Trond was aiming at by “traits that weren’t universal at the time but spread within the area later”.

  66. Trond Engen says:

    This thread didn’t survive the Christmas holiday.

    David M: Of course, barring a very fast expansion in its very recent past, no such thing is ever spoken in an area as large as Germanic-speaking Scandinavia. That may be what Trond was aiming at by “traits that weren’t universal at the time but spread within the area later”.

    Well, yeah, maybe, sort of. I mean that features that are reconstructible for a proto-language aren’t all of the same age. Some may be younger than the split, due to parallel development or drift, some may be older due to internal variation.

  67. The site linked in the original posting has malware, so I just thought I’d paste a familar text in Norn:

    Favor i chimrie. Helleur ir i nam thite, gilla cosdum thite cumma, veya thine mota vara gort o yurn sinna gort i chimrie, ga vus da on da dalight brow vora. Firgive vus sinna vora sin vee Firgive sindara mutha vus, lyv vus ye i tumtation, min delivera vus fro olt ilt, Amen [Or:] On sa meteth vera.

  68. Trond Engen says:

    Interesting. At least tumtation and delivera are English, probably also firgive. English spelling conventions in <vee> [vi:], <yurn> “Earth” and perhaps <ga> “give” and <brow<> "bread". A very late attestation? Phonologically intriguing are <v> in <favor> "father" and <lyv> "lead", and <ch> for the [x]([X]?) of <chimrie> "heaven". <cosdum> "kingdom" looks more like an error of transmission. There's South Scandinavian (?) lenition in <himrie>, <da> "day", <helleur> and maybe <ye> "not".

  69. Trond Engen says:

    Or maybe <lyv> = Eng. ‘leave’. “leave us not in temptation”.

    I forgot to note the initial v of <vus> “us”.

  70. I read about Norn a long time ago; I think the ch in chimrie is the same as in “chimney.” the v’s you mention have their parallels in Faroese, don’t they?

  71. As for cosdum, the -dum is surely English -dom, though the first syllable can hardly be Norwegian kos.

  72. Stephen C. Carlson says:

    -dom is Scandinavian as well.

  73. Sure, but Norns obviously can’t spell.

  74. Trond Engen says:

    Stephen C. Carlson: -dom is Scandinavian as well.

    ON dómr in e.g. konungdómr m. “kingdom”. But cos- looks like an error, whether it’s meant to be English or Norse. An ON kosdómr would mean something like “arbitrary decision”.

  75. Trond Engen says:

    Rodger C.: I read about Norn a long time ago; I think the ch in chimrie is the same as in “chimney.”

    That must be right. Faroese has <hj-> [tʃ], but it didn’t strike me that Shetland Norn might have used it more widely. It should have, though, because of Faroese <ki-> [tʃi].

    the v’s you mention have their parallels in Faroese, don’t they?

    Yes, Faroese <-ðu-> [vu]. I forgot about that.

  76. Trond Engen says:

    Faroese is weird, but I keep forgetting exactly how it’s weird.

  77. My understanding is, Faroese is as conservative as Icelandic, except in phonology where it’s wildly innovative.

  78. David Marjanović says:

    So is Icelandic.

  79. Is any dialect, anywhere, at any time, uniform?

    I’ve forgotten the where and when, but a linguist was studying a language with just two surviving speakers, who spoke mutually intelligible but somewhat different varieties. As a good Bloomfieldian, the linguisti designated one’s speaker’s variety the standard language and defined the other speaker’s dialect in terms of it. So yes, both dialects were quite uniform.

  80. My idiolect consists of several uniform dialects. Some of them are extinguished. 😉

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