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Author Topic: Norse Words?  (Read 7801 times)

Jayson

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Norse Words?
« on: September 29, 2014, 04:05:30 AM »
http://www.babbel.com/magazine/139-norse-words?slc=engmag-a17-info-139norsewords-tb
I'm not sure whether I agree with what is being said on this site, but then I am not an expert.  What do you experts think about it?
Wessex Woman

Eanflaed

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Re: Norse Words?
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2014, 09:59:43 AM »
I wish I was an expert (cue you guys who are!) but I think he's overstating the Viking influence. I read somewhere that OE has a word hoard of 25,000, so even a few hundred Viking words are a drop in the ocean. I also read once that OE consisted of only 3% loan words. And please don't get me started on the days of the week again!!

Steve

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Re: Norse Words?
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2014, 06:30:08 PM »
I missed your posts on the days of the week, they sound interesting.  When were they posted?

Eanflaed

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Re: Norse Words?
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2014, 12:09:39 PM »
Hi Steve - the thread is under General Discussion, posted around March 22nd and titled "Days of the Week". The Gesiðas have an excellent handout about the days of the week, a copy of which I pinched last year at the Battle of Stamford Bridge Festival and have subsequently emailed to several interested parties.

Horsa

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Re: Norse Words?
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2014, 03:02:27 PM »

I am not an expert, and certainly not an expert in the relationship between Norse and English cultures, but I have studied Norse, Icelandic and old English. The thing that struck me comparing English, Swedish, Old Norse and Old English is that the structure of Modern English is almost exactly the same as Modern Swedish and is very similar to Old Norse, whereas it's relatively much further from the structure of Old English.

There are a ton of words in Modern English that are of norse provenance. There are also a number of words in Modern English that could have come from a norse word or an old english word - both words were so similar that it's hard to tell which one gave us the modern English word. I am particular fond of the ordinal numbers which kind of tell the story of Modern English First (Norse fyrsti OE forma) Second (secundus latin) third (OE þridda ON þriði)



I remember a while back reading Aelfric's Lives of the Saints (which I thoroughly recommend, by the way, if you can get your hands on a copy) and being quite surprised coming across a number of words that I suspected were originally of norse origin. The one that comes to mind is friþ and griþ. I can't remember if both of them are loanwords or just griþ. Then there's Bishop Wulfstan who, if I remember correctly, when composing his sermons, deliberately chose words of norse origin much of the time to represent the speech of his anglicized Norse congregation.


The thing here is that Norse and Old English are so similar, that it would be very easy for speakers of one to learn the other language, and then it would be very easy for the bilingual English to throw in words of either language.

David

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Re: Norse Words?
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2014, 04:32:32 PM »
There are a ton of words in Modern English that are of norse provenance. There are also a number of words in Modern English that could have come from a norse word or an old english word - both words were so similar that it's hard to tell which one gave us the modern English word. I am particular fond of the ordinal numbers which kind of tell the story of Modern English First (Norse fyrsti OE forma) Second (secundus latin) third (OE þridda ON þriði)


The thing here is that Norse and Old English are so similar, that it would be very easy for speakers of one to learn the other language, and then it would be very easy for the bilingual English to throw in words of either language.

There are several Old English words for first.
Are you saying that "forma" fits the idea of an ordinal number best?
Are you saying that the Old English word "fyrst" is a loan word from Old Norse.

Horsa

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Re: Norse Words?
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2014, 07:13:44 PM »
Nope, I was saying that modern English 'first' comes from Old Norse fyrsti. I had come across OE fyrst only to mean a period of time. I had never come across it as a an ordinal number. I had only come across forma and ærest in old English and had come across fyrsti as the first ordinal in Old Norse and had assumed that Modern English had got first from ON.

You learn something new every day.

... I did say I wasn't an expert.

I shall have to check this book

Eanflaed

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Re: Norse Words?
« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2014, 01:18:24 PM »
Here's a curved ball for you: several scholars, including Prof Hildegarde Tristram (in "Britons in A-S England" edited by Nick Higham) believe the Britons had much more influence on the English language than the Norse!! With old English and old Norse we are just haggling over the lexicon. Very few words of the British lexicon found their way into old English - but old Welsh profoundly altered OE grammar, particularly in syntax. Grammatically (apparently) OE is more different from other Germanic languages than would be expected, this is believed (by Tristram et al) to be because the British, who were then the substrate of society, attempted to speak the language of the elite but (as we see today) it became pidgin English, simplified. This was a bottom-up language shift. The way the A-S really spoke, they argue, is only written down after the Norman Conquest and is called Middle English. The word order of Middle English is very similar to that of Old Welsh. Before the Conquest, only the "pure" form of OE was written down by ecclesiastical elites, giving the impression that that was how it was spoken - a bit like BBC English today vs how most people really speak.

Horsa

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Re: Norse Words?
« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2014, 07:52:38 PM »
I had heard that, too. And analogous examples are given of Irish English where the syntax is affected by that of the Irish language. And it would make perfect sense especially with some of the migration theories that suggest that the number of Germanic people coming over was relatively low and they immediately occupied the top social rungs (much as the Normans) and the subject people or peoples completely adopted the Germanic culture and language .

I don't know much about Old Welsh, but as I have said, I have been long been struck by the similarity in word order and tense formation between Old Norse (and indeed modern Swedish, Norwegian and Danish) and Modern English. My difficulty in reading Old Norse is down to the fact I haven't put in nearly as much time learning vocab as I have with Old English, but the sentence structure is fairly straightforward due to it's similarity to modern English, whereas my difficulty reading Old English is often down to the unfamiliar construction of the sentences.

Also, I remember reading somewhere that Modern English has particle verbs composed of a verb and 2 particles - get along with, put up with, look forward to - apparently English is the only West Germanic language that does this, whereas all the Norse languages do this. The last example has a counterpart in Swedish - ser fram emot. Also we have separable particle verbs eg "Look the word up in the dictionary." Norse languages do this. West Germanic languages, all apart from this insular renegade, like to keep their phrasal verbs tightly bound together, so much so that they often don't write them as separate words.

I'm not discounting the idea of a significant British influence on English, just that there were a number of languages present and contributing to this monstrous chimera we now speak.

A couple of years ago, I was thinking about the word bloke. That's clearly not Germanic and I was wondering if it was British in origin. I checked out the word in the Collin's dictionary, which has an excellent etymology, and it turns out it's from a language called Shelta, a language spoken by Irish travelers: a Goidelic language.

Eanflaed

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Re: Norse Words?
« Reply #9 on: October 06, 2014, 09:55:59 AM »
Check out Melvin Bragg's "The Adventure of English" - he explains all the historical influences on our language and shows how it has thrived and survived by being accommodating. It really has been an adventure. He concentrates on the lexicon though, I don't remember too much about verb particles, though it was several years ago that I read it!