Quality over Quantity. A Diachronic Approach to the Influence of Old Norse on the English Language

Master's Thesis, 2017

69 Pages, Grade: Distinction: 9/10



1.1. Nature of the research
1.2. Background
1.3. Objectives
1.4. Relevance
1.5. Hypothesis
1.6. Operational definitions
1.6.1. Cognates
1.6.2. Danelaw
1.6.3. Grimm’s Law
1.6.4. Intercomprehension
1.6.5. Interculturality
1.6.6. Metathesis
1.6.7. Rhotacism
1.6.8. Umlaut
1.6.9. Verner’s Law

2.1. Historical, social and cultural contact
2.1.1. First period (787-850)
2.1.2. Second period (850-878)
2.1.3. Third period (878-1042)
2.2. The Germanic group of languages
2.2.1. Phonology
2.2.2. Morphology
2.3. Old English and Old Norse: a comparative analysis
2.3.1. Phonology
2.3.2. Morphology

3.1. Intercomprehension and interculturality
3.2. Linguistic borrowings
3.2.1. Morphology
3.2.2. Grammar
3.2.3. Vocabulary

4.1. Results
4.2. Implications
4.3. Limitations of the study
4.4. Lines for future research



This dissertation aims at explaining the enormous impact of Old Norse on the English language, more prominent in quality than in quantity. Such influence is firstly dealt with by focusing on the historical and sociocultural context, which, split into different periods, becomes of paramount importance in order to grasp the essence of such contact, both linguistic and cultural, between both societies throughout the centuries. Linguistically, general features of the Germanic group of languages are approached from different perspectives, mainly from the phonetical and morphosyntactic ones. Likewise, such analysis is followed by a comparative one between Old Norse and Old English as coexisting languages, thus allowing similarities and differences between both of them to come to the fore. Finally, the Old Norse influence is covered by taking into special account morphosyntactic and lexical elements, that is, those areas where both Germanic languages have come closer to each other. Therefore, this has allowed us to delve into those numerous items stemming either from the same or from dissimilar sources, most of which, whatever the case, are still substantially present in the everyday uses of today’s English.

KEY WORDS: Cognates, contact, influence, Modern English, intercomprehension, interculturality, loanwords, Old Norse, Scandinavian, stem.


Este proyecto pretende explicar el enorme impacto que ha tenido el nórdico antiguo en la lengua inglesa, de carácter más cualitativo que cuantitativo. Dicha influencia es tratada centrándonos primeramente en un contexto histórico y sociocultural que, dividido en diferentes periodos, resultan indispensables para las bases de dicho contacto, tanto lingüístico como cultural, entre ambas sociedades con el paso del tiempo. En lo lingüístico, las características generales de las lenguas germánicas se abarcan desde diferentes planos, principalmente fonético y morfosintáctico. De la misma manera, a dicho análisis le sigue un estudio comparativo entre el nórdico antiguo y el inglés antiguo como lenguas coetáneas, en el que se resalten tanto similitudes como diferencias. Finalmente, la influencia del nórdico antiguo se analiza teniendo en especial consideración aspectos morfosintácticos y léxicos, es decir, aquellas áreas donde ambas lenguas germánicas se aproximan en mayor medida. Así pues, todo ello nos ha permitido indagar en numerosos elementos con la misma procedencia o con un origen dispar, y mucho de los cuales, en cualquiera de los cases, aún permanecen bien arraigados en los usos frecuentes del inglés actual.

Palabras clave: Cognados, contacto, escandinavo, influencia, inglés moderno, intercomprensión, interculturalidad, nórdico antiguo, préstamos, raíz.


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1.1. Nature of the research

Following the criteria promoted by Seliger and Shohamy (1989), this MA dissertation has been projected to be mostly theoretical, according to the general structure of the research, since this has been developed on the basis of bibliographical compilation. Furthermore, regarding the sources of information, it is based on secondary research, that is, attention has been paid mainly to the most relevant written materials, ranging from articles to academic papers, and covering different issues, from sociocultural and historical to more general and more specific linguistic topics.

Concerning the approach, this dissertation must be defined as holistic, as general aspects have been covered from different areas of expertise. This does not mean, however, that analytic approaches have been completely ruled out and some points have not been analyzed deeply and specifically, as this is just the opposite. In any case, it is essential to point out that, since analytic approaches delimit the range of the research too much, they have clearly remained on a second level.

As to the methodology of the research, this dissertation should be labelled as deductive, because it moves from the most general theoretical points to the more specific topics (i.e., introduction, literature review, sociocultural and linguistic influence, conclusions and implications, etc.). There are also some results and further proposals which may be categorized as possible practical applications (e.g., future lines of research in different fields).

With regard to the form of data, this dissertation deals primarily with the qualitative value of ideas, comments, impressions, opinions and assumptions. However, if necessary, quantitative data have been taken into account, whenever figures and percentages found in research and case studies have been considered relevant for our purposes (e.g., percentage or amount of English vocabulary inherited from Old Norse).

In connection to the sources of information, data collection has been carried out in a non-experimental manner, that is, using neither laboratories nor tests, but resorting to the most relevant authors and bibliography. Once again, this does not imply that some aspects or suggestions within the practical application cannot be defined as quasi-experimental. Nonetheless, it should be made clear that there has been no possibility at all of putting such proposals into any sort of practice or test.

In relation to the moment of the data recollection, it has been completed from a longitudinal point of view (i.e. from top to bottom[1] ). Apart from the fact that the different books and materials employed vary diachronically (i.e. over a time period, throughout the centuries[2] ), they deal with a wide array of contents (from Old through Middle to Modern English, though this dissertation has especially focused on the last one) in a dissimilar way (e.g., in the shape of academic articles, books, or websites).

Finally, data analysis has been carried out through an interpretive method, as emphasis has been laid on the ideas found in the bibliography. However, again, the possibility of resorting to other types of method at times has not been discarded. Therefore, for example, the practical application of the dissertation may leave the door open for an applied framework, whereby many of the lines and contents proposed by this dissertation might be put into practice (e.g., the making of a didactic unit for the educational field; as well as translation, cultural studies, etc.), not to forget relevant quantitative results in the shape of percentages, whereby quantitative forms of data become susceptible of being analyzed through a statistical method.

1.2. Background

This master’s dissertation has been deeply influenced and planned in accordance with a series of assumptions. Most of these arose from my own perceptions and pers.al experience, which mainly took shape on the basis of previous class dealing with history of the English language. However, above all, I must refer to further suggestions and future lines to which I already made reference in previous projects.

Among these projects, mention should be made of the two dissertations that I have written: my end-degree dissertation with the title of The Influence of Latin to the English Language: Morphological and Lexical Features, and my Teacher Training dissertation with the name of “’ It’s Greek to Me’: Teaching Ancient Greek Language and Culture in the English Classroom”. As they deal with language contact from different perspectives, they might perfectly be conceived as the backbone or the very starting point of this research.

On the one hand, my English Studies BA dissertation was associated with the influence of Latin on the English language, mainly in terms of lexicon and morphology, which turned out to be evident linguistic areas where conspicuous influence occurred. As a consequence, the conviction of the language construct understood as a mixture and evident linguistic and cultural influence was strengthened to a higher degree.

On the other hand, my Teacher Training Master’s dissertation, revolving around a didactic unit based on how the Greek language and culture are currently present in English, helped to back up the idea, from a rather practical perspective, that language and cultural contact not only did inevitably occur, but is still happening and will likely take place as humankind, society, countries and, with them, their languages, move forward.

Nonetheless, there is still a long way to go for a whole understanding of the nature of the English language. In other words, language and culture influences cannot be limited to certain groups or aspects (e.g., Latin and Greek from a purely theoretical or practical perspective, such as education, in my case). Instead, different internal and external language families and their corresponding elements must be thoroughly analyzed so as to get the big picture of what English was, is and will likely be in the future. That, together with other elements, such as Greek or Latin, is where it must be proved the Scandinavian influence has played a decisive role, since it managed to condition the general shape of English throughout the centuries (i.e., from late 9th onwards until nowadays).

1.3. Objectives

Although this research does not intend to become quite ambitious in terms of objectives, quantitatively speaking, it will attempt to reaffirm most of them explicitly and strongly enough. In other words, in spite of the modest number of objectives, they will become relevant as far as qualitative analysis is concerned.

First and foremost, this research is aimed to raise awareness of the English language nowadays, which can be generally understood as a contact among languages not only in the shape of elements that existed in the past, but also which still remain at present. In other words, we will focus on the analysis of the Scandinavian element so as to restate the inherent nature of English to borrow new items, ranging from grammar (e.g., phonology and morphology) to vocabulary.

What is more, some research has claimed the need for investigation based on qualitative, rather quantitative, form of data (cf. Moskowich-Spiegel, 1995: 11). Hence, this dissertation attempts to deal with what could be defined as qualitative research. This is carried out by laying emphasis not only on the historical and sociocultural framework, but mainly on the type of influence of the Scandinavian element on English, ranging from lexical distribution, to types of influence divided into grammatical (e.g., grammar features shared in common or varying from each other) and lexical (e.g., types of words borrowed) sections.

As we deal with these types of influence, the purpose of this dissertation is to ensure that quantitative factors not always lead to qualitative prominence necessarily. Although this point will be covered more deeply below, we can already make a contrast between Classical Languages (i.e., Latin and Greek), which, according to previous research (cf. Finkenstaedt and Wolff, 1973), might encompass around 35% of the total English stock vocabulary, yet they are items that are generally used in certain fields and registers; and ON, whose percentage of items might not exceed 10% but, on the other hand, includes a significant amount of items that are frequently used in English for daily purposes and tasks.

Sociocultural awareness should be conceived as germane to the linguistic situation as this has to do with the perception of contact between cultures. In other words, linguistic features cannot be properly understood independently, without considering any type of cultural element (e.g., decisive historical and political events and decisions, social conflicts, invasions, settlements, discoveries, the establishment of social statements, etc.) Irrefutably, all those cultural aspects, among others, must go hand-in-hand with language, as the latter is not but a sociocultural product which is transmitted in the same way as customs and habits might do. Therefore, our endeavor throughout this dissertation lies also in fostering linguistic and sociocultural awareness as a whole. In other words, this research is aimed to prove that ON language influence cannot be analyzed separately from cultural repercussions, historical and political events. What is more, such events become much more prominent when they occurred in a peaceful and dynamic way, such as those social and political changes between Scandinavian tribes with AS locals.

1.4. Relevance

Apart from the aforementioned need for academic research (Moskowich-Spiegel, 1995: 9), which should be based on qualitative forms of data, rather than on quantitative, when it comes to highlighting the reasons why this research might make a positive contribution.

On the one hand, emphasis must be placed on language, or rather, on linguistic lack of awareness, which is represented in many forms. First, the inability to stop and think for a moment about language, both in a general sense (e.g., a unique feature in constant change and evolution that is inherent of human beings and that defines us as communicative beings), and in a specific way (e.g., language applied to education, to translation, to sociolinguistics, etc.). More concretely, in the case of this dissertation, when thinking about language influence, one is always prone to thinking of Classical Languages, which have been also disregarded as dead isolated languages that there is no point learning them. Therefore, this research might serve to consider that not only Classical Languages are worth studying, because they are still living in the core of our own modern languages, but also that many other external elements are present in English apart from Classical Languages, whose influence ranges from phonological to lexical items which are still deeply rooted in our present-day languages.

On the other hand, as stated above, language and culture must be brought together in the analysis of such linguistic influence. Therefore, due to such connection language-culture, general lack of awareness can be also understood from a sociocultural perspective. Once again, apart from the conspicuous lack of knowledge and capacity to define and link culture with language, or vice versa, countless attempts to study cultural features separate from language as absolute independent entities must be underlined. For instance, Finkenstaedt and Wolff, 1973 conducts a research based on statistical language loanwords, yet no emphasis is placed on sociocultural explanations at all. Logically, this differentiation between culture and language drives us to a serious misconception of language, understood as a different product far from culture, where one may influence the other, yet always making clearly limited distinctions.

Additionally, this research may contribute to the field insofar as it tries to promote, from a theoretical perspective, all those numerous attempts with the intention of seeking a remedy for such lack of awareness. These attempts, as they have been mainly made by public institutions, have been usually expressed in the form of laws and regulations which are still present in our current educational legislation.

For instance, the Spanish law on education (LOE, 2006) included as compulsory elements to exploit in the classroom a set of contents where emphasis lies on[3] “reflecting upon the linguistic diversity, sociocultural aspects and intercultural awareness as enrichening elements of society”[4]. Furthermore, as regards cross-curricular issues (i.e., transversal aspects to cover whichever the subject), the such law advocated multicultural education in the classroom, which must be strongly linked, either directly or indirectly, to the sociocultural awareness of a globalized world where societies are to come into more intense and frequent contact.

The Spanish law for the improvement of education (LOMCE, 2013) should be especially considered, as it is the latest educational piece of legislation that has been implemented. Even though linguistic and sociocultural awareness have been omitted as explicit key competences and contents, the government establishes them as set cross-curricular elements, in the form of “linguistic and sociocultural awareness and expression” (LOMCE, 2013: 97870)[5]. This presupposes that such linguistic expression and sociocultural awareness must be fostered implicitly within the rest of key competences and contents of every subject. However, particularly, such point is emphasized in the language classroom in the form of contents, objectives and key competences appearing in the LOMCE (2013), whereby sociocultural awareness and linguistic expression should be mainly focused on the improvement of communicative competences and objectives hand-in-hand with transversal issues[6].

The best example of such attempt can be found in Non-Compulsory Education, where the academic curriculum seems to foster linguistic awareness by means of the study of the Classical Languages, their syntax and morphology as the basics in L1 and L2. Undeniably, Classical Languages (i.e., Greek and Latin) have managed to reach the majority of modern languages in almost every aspect (e.g., vocabulary, grammar, etc.). What is more, their influence not only came directly, but also indirectly (i.e., through other languages working as mediators). Nevertheless, Classical Languages are not to be considered either as the beginning or as the end of language and culture influence under any circumstances. Indeed, many other elements, which are often defined as “minor” influences given the scarce number of items borrowed (i.e., moderate quantitative factor), do deserve to be taken into account, since, unlike Classical Languages, they are clearly present in everyday language (i.e., prominent qualitative factor).

At this point, a parallelism between Spanish and English could be drawn so as to get a clear picture of what has been stated in this last paragraph. In the case of the former, even though Latin is undeniably the essential pillar, other prominent elements such as Arabic or Jewish cannot be overlooked at all. The same applies to the latter, in which research has raised the direct Latin influence on the English lexicon up to over 30% (Finkenstaedt and Wolff, 1973), despite its not being a Romance language. Nonetheless, other external elements should be borne in mind, such as Gælic or, in the case of this dissertation, ON, since, quantitatively, they account for a quite moderate percentage (i.e., as observed in figure 1, only 6% if the former is to be included as “Other Languages”, and no more than 26% when considering all Gmc. languages, in the case of the latter). Nevertheless, unlike other quantitatively prominent elements, in a qualitative sense, their items remain quite alive at present.

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Fig. 1. Percentage of external sources present in English. Based on Finkenstaedt and Wolff’s (1973) results after analyzing a total word-stock of 80.000 English lexical items (Quora, 2017)

This dissertation might also contribute to the analysis of English from a communicative perspective, that is, by wholly understanding the English language, where its elements stem from and the reason why. English is the lingua franca of today’s world. As a result, quantitatively, it has become the most broadly and frequently used language for international communication between countries. Additionally, English becomes qualitatively prominent, as it is employed by such countries when they need to communicate among them whatever the purpose might be (e.g., diplomacy, politics, business, etc.). On top of that, the use of English as a lingua franca has proved to be independent of whether any country counts on English as a Native or Second Language or as a Foreign or International Language. Just as happened with Latin centuries ago, English has become the most effective facilitator of worldwide information and knowledge nowadays, ranging from the leading figures of the academic, scientific, philosophical and linguistic fields, to the daily aspects or tasks: films, music, radio, TV, etc. Would it not be necessary to travel back to the origins of a language of such magnitude, as well as to the reasons why it has taken the current shape and not another one?

Finally, moving back to education understood from a more sociolinguistic outlook, though, this dissertation may help understand what I have called ‘the two inters’: intercomprehension and interculturality. Although both these terms will be explained below, let it suffice to say here that the former has to do with promoting language relations and influences so as to improve the comprehension of different languages, normally belonging to the same group of languages, such as English with ON, Swedish, Norwegian, German, Icelandic, Dutch, or vice versa. Accordingly, due to intercomprehension, it comes as no surprise that, for example, speakers of Germanic languages generally find it easier to acquire a proficient level of English than Slavic language speakers, for example, as was claimed by Marian (2017):

[…] when an English speaker starts learning a Germanic or Romance language, thousands of words will look familiar to them. Since vocabulary tends to be the nemesis of most language learners, this makes learning a Germanic or Romance language much easier than learning Slavic and Asian languages.

As to interculturality, the same criterion is applied. However, in this case, attention is paid to cultural diversity and relations among societies which normally remain close enough due to historical, political, social or, above all, linguistic factors, as happens between English and Gmc. (especially Scandinavian) societies. Accordingly, it can be already presupposed that this research might contribute to considering intercomprehension and interculturality as “facilitators” of an optimal learning and understanding of languages. Particularly, both intercomprehension and interculturality become relevant when the languages in question belong to the same group, which makes them be linked through a series of common social patterns that, just like language, are repeated from one society to another, mainly in the shape of folk literature, architecture, social migrations, etc.

1.5. Hypothesis

As has already been discussed above, and in connection to the background and objectives expressed, this research will demonstrate that ON remains when the linguistic core of English is analyzed not so much in terms of quantity as it is in a qualitative sense. Furthermore, this dissertation will try to prove that the prominence or lack of prominence of the quantitative factor does not imply the prominence or the lack of prominence of the qualitative one, and vice versa. Such qualitative prominence will be reflected, for example, on those lexical terms stemming from OE that, when they come into conflict or, rather, coexist by referring to the same realities; the Scandinavian token has been able in many cases to acquire much greater prominence in form, use or meaning than the local OE token, which tends to become obsolete, move away from the original stem or undergo some meaning change promoted by the Scandinavian element.

Concerning sociocultural factors, this dissertation is to prove that language and culture cannot be analyzed independently. In fact, we suggest that ON influence is strongly linked to cultural and social features, as well as other historical and political factors, without which the Scandinavian element could not be understood at all. Therefore, such linguistic-cultural dependence will be present in the fact that Scandinavian elements were borrowed at the initial stages of the Viking settlement in a quite moderate way, as it became rather violent and aggressive. Instead, later waves of Scandinavian invasions became more relevant when they developed in a more peaceful way, which clearly gave rise to social contact, thus allowing mutual linguistic and cultural intelligibility and, accordingly, to the qualitative and quantitative prominence of items borrowed. As a result of such peaceful historical period after the Viking settlement across the island, this dissertation carries the conviction that both languages influenced each other not exclusively owing to the need of giving names to new realities, but usually as the most cogent evidence of such social interaction between settlers and locals. This gave rise to a series of factors. First of all, borrowing might have adopted as a matter of chance. Secondly, loanwords were incorporated into the English language due to mutual intelligibility, that is, when lexical or grammar elements had a similar origin, with also similar form or meaning. Generally, such variables greatly depended on a stronger or weaker sociocultural impact of settlers on the land, as well as on the culture of the AS local people.

Another assumption to pay heed to, as a result of these linguistic and sociocultural contacts, is the interdependence between languages from the same language family. Such interdependence advocates the mutual influence among languages belonging to the same “branch” of the “language tree”, metaphorically speaking. Consequently, we will deem that languages of the same language family underwent similar changes and fell under influences which mainly came from similar old languages of the same group. In this case, we can think of English and ON: both of them belong to the Gmc. group of language, just like German, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, etc.; all of them being preceded and profoundly influenced by other close relatives such as Old High German, OE, Gth., etc., since, at the end of the day, they all had a considerable number of common features, ranging from historical and sociocultural environments to grammatical and lexical linguistic features.

All this considered, this dissertation will finally promote the study of language and sociocultural contact so as to foster intercomprehension and interculturality, respectively: acquiring a better knowledge of linguistic and cultural contacts between English and ON will not only ensure greater mutual knowledge and intelligibility, but also of many other languages and cultures remaining closely to both of these groups, such as Icelandic, Dutch, German, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian.

1.6. Operational definitions

This section includes some of the most relevant key terms which become essential to the understanding of certain contents that are bound to be emphasized on throughout the development of this dissertation. The terms defined in this section have been placed in alphabetical order, for the readers’ convenience.

1.6.1. Cognates

As defined by Stockwell[7] and Minkova (2001: 47), cognates are those roots, bases or lexical items which have a close historical relationship with a common ancestor, which means, they have a common origin despite minor changes (i.e., phonology, spelling, etc.). Generally, cognates can be traced back to a single IE root where different meaning nuances emerge, especially when they undergo some sort of grammatical change as they move from one language or group of languages to another[8].

1.6.2. Danelaw

Originally known as the Danelagu, it was the name given to those areas across the island of Britain which Scandinavians were allowed to occupy. Dating back to 878 of our era, the Danelaw was established by King Alfred on behalf of the AS people and by Guthrum representing the whole Scandinavian tribes with their signing of the Treaty of Wedmore, just after the Scandinavian defeat by the AS army in their unsuccessful attempt to take over the kingdom of Wessex.

The Danelaw would condition the evolution of the following centuries of the entire island of Britain for several reasons. On the one hand, the distribution population would become strictly controlled, since it was established that Scandinavian tribes could only settle in the areas covered by the Danelaw, stretching over the north-eastern parts of Britain (i.e., Scotland, Northumbria, East Anglia), and, as claimed by Baugh and Cable (2010: 84), partially the Midlands (i.e., Mercia), “running roughly from Chester to London”. On the other hand, cultural and political differentiation was clearly set up, since, although basic pillars remained the same (e.g., an economic model based on agriculture and commerce), as the term indicates (i.e., the law of the Danes), different administrative and political structures could be found, which were not even consistent within the Danelaw[9]. Therefore, as Moskowich-Spiegel remarks (1995: 50-51), such differentiation was clearly reflected in the subdivision of the land, which split into hundreds in the AS areas, while this was done into wapentakes in the areas inhabited by Scandinavians, which were ruled by twelve thegns or lawmen, equivalent to the lagemanni in AS territories.

1.6.3. Grimm’s Law

Also known as the First Germanic Sound Shift, as Robinson puts it (1992: 10), it was initially formulated so as to explain certain correspondences between the Gmc. languages as a group with other numerous language families, such as Greek, Italic, Indic or Slavic, with the final purpose of linking them all to the common source, that is, PIE.

Therefore, Grimm’s Law advocates that certain items taken from PGmc. with certain fixed phonological patterns, either vocalic or consonantal. That is the case of, for example, phonemes as /f/, /ϸ/ and /x/ appearing at the beginning of words (e.g., OE fæder, ϸrie or hundred), which is paralleled to other IE languages, such as /p/, /t/ or /k/ in Latin (e.g., portare, tres or centum, respectively).

1.6.4. Intercomprehension

In accordance with Möller and Zeevert (2015: 314), intercomprehension can be defined as the process of receptive multilingualism, mutual intelligibility or “semicommunication” between different speakers of different languages. Therefore, intercomprehension is far more present among those group of languages which are much more closely related as far as certain grammatical aspects are concerned (e.g., phonology, morphology or syntax). Lexically, intercomprehension does also become relevant, particularly in those cases in which a set of languages may share a set of lexical tokens which stem from the same root (cf. cognates). In such respect, OE and ON are clear examples of closely related languages from the past that went through a process of intercomprehension when speakers of both languages came into contact.

1.6.5. Interculturality

Resorting to the explanations provided by Osuna (2012: 38-58), interculturality can be described as the mutual understanding, cultural intelligibility and relationship among more similar or dissimilar cultures, societies, civilizations, tribes or ethnicities. Similarly to intercomprehension, interculturality gains particular strength in those environments where cultures with similar behavioural patterns, traditions and customs mingle with one another, given their linguistic, historical, political, social or religious proximity. Turning to the interculturality between AS and Scandinavian people, as remarked by Moskowich-Spiegel (1995: 24), most of the cogent evidence of strong relationship can be found in their architectural and, above all, cultural remains, mainly in the shape of legends and literary heritage, such as Beowulf, Widsith or Finnesburh.

1.6.6. Metathesis

The term is briefly defined in the[10] OED (2017, s.v. metathesis) as follows: “the transposition of sounds or letters in a word, or (occasionally) of whole words or syllables”. As will be seen below, metathesis usually happens when two consonants, usually /r/ as the second one, come into contact with a vowel (i.e., consonant + /r/ + vowel), thus deriving in a change of position of the vibrant phoneme (i.e., consonant + vowel + /r/) (e.g., ON hross, OE horsian) (cf. 2.3.1.).

1.6.7. Rhotacism

As explained by Stockwell and Minkova (2001: 130-132), rhotacism is a paradigmatic alternation whereby the alveolar fricative/s/ changes into /r/ when it is flanked by two vowels. In the Gmc. group of languages, at a phonological level, the pronunciation of consonants s and z, pronounced as voiceless */s/ or, when stressed, voiced */z/, respectively, has been usually obscured by such rhotacism (e.g., */s/ > */z/ > /r/, as in PIE * leis- > PGmc. * liznojan > OE leornian, “learn”) (cf. 2.3.1.).

1.6.8. Umlaut

As described by Robinson (1992: 85), umlaut (or mutation) is a phonological alternation whereby the qualitative prominence of a vowel, generally /i/, /u/ or /a/, whether long or short, is influenced by the vowel or semivowel, usually /j/ or /w/, of the following syllable. In more precise terms, umlaut facilitates the inputted vowel to change its qualitative properties so as to become closer, that is, to assimilate, to those qualitative features of the following vowel or semivowel (e.g., PGmc. * kuning-az > ON konung-r - OE cyning > ME king > ModEng. king). Although Gmc. languages are characterized by umlaut, the vocalic processes and modifications in question tend to differ from one to another.

1.6.9. Verner’s Law

Emerging as a solution to irregularities presented by Grimm’s Law, as Robinson puts it (1992: 10-11), Verner’s Law became relevant for considering not only the surrounding elements of the affected phoneme in question, as Grimm’s Law does, but also for the type of accent a word had, as well as the place where it fell, either on the initial or final syllable. This was usually carried out by taking the IE root as the central reference. For instance, */p/ became */f/ in word-initial position (e.g., IE * patér > OE. fæder, “father”) or after a stressed syllable (e.g., IE * népôt > OE nefa, “nephew”), but voiced to */v/ before a stressed syllable (e.g., IE * upéri; Gth. ubar, “over”). However, in many cases, ON and OE did not undergo Verner’s Law (e.g., ON yfir; OE ofer).


In our endeavor to deal with the Scandinavian influence on the English language and culture from various perspectives, contents and resources have been divided into different groups according to the topic they mainly cover. In other terms, although the following sections might be perfectly interwoven, they have been clearly delimited to reflect, as clearly as possible, how the high degree of interculturality and intercomprehension between the Scandinavian and English societies made it possible that such variables should be considered as the key enablers that paved the way to qualitative prominence, rather than quantitative, once cultural and, consequently, linguistic contact occurred between both Gmc. societies.

Therefore, the first section of the literature review deals with the description of the historical and sociocultural panorama in that era. This ranges from the arrival of Vikings in Britain until the settlement of different tribes across the land, with the subsequent establishment of the Danelaw and the most important repercussions. Then, the following sections have to do with the linguistic features, both from a general (i.e., key characteristics of the Gmc. group of languages) and from a particular perspective. This is where, apart from separate linguistic descriptions of both ON and English, the contrast between both languages has been underlined.

2.1. Historical, social and cultural contact

Either general or particular details about the Scandinavian invasions and further historical events are provided in the majority of the references consulted. A few, however, are very thorough and exhaustive in their treatment, such as Serjeantson (1961) or Moskowich-Spiegel (1995). We have divided the Scandinavian influence into three periods, following Dawson (2003: 41-43).

2.1.1. First period (787-850)

As mentioned in Moskowich-Spiegel (1995: 9), the initial contact with Scandinavians must be dated back to the late 8th century, when certain areas of the isle of Britain were visited and, later on, inhabited by northern Gmc. people. There is, nevertheless, no absolute agreement in relation to the social groups to which these early Scandinavian people belonged, let alone how many members constituted each of such social groups. Therefore, research on this aspect has obliged researchers to resort to documents of the period, such as the Parker Chronicle (from late 9th c. until 1154), where it is said that hostile contacts occurred with the arrival of “strange visitors that were unwelcome” (Moskowich-Spiegel 1995: 9). Consequently, this might presuppose that the very first visit, occurring in 787, could have been made by Scandinavian groups composed of male warriors, looters, sailors and adventurers.

Many causes have been attributed to such early visits, which mainly consisted in sacking and looting of AS properties. In fact, as remarked by Moskowich-Spiegel (1995: 20-22), such causes could be found in different key areas during the same time span (i.e., from the 8th to the mid-9th century, approximately).

Politically, it should be borne in mind that Scandinavian people lacked the nationalist feeling of pertaining to one single political unit. Moreover, the repeated falling of central royal dynasties paved the way to “large-scale tribal movements and ethnic displacements” (Moskowich-Spiegel, 1995: 27), deriving in continuous raids and migrations, in preference to stable commercial connections, as the central economic model.

Geographically, the barren homelands of the Vikings would often lead to starvation, pestilence , and chaotic natural disasters. All this even worsened as a result of the demographical situation, since, due to the widespread practice of polygamy among Scandinavians, overpopulation was frequently found in many territories. As a result, such determinants would force them to pursue lands in better conditions for harvesting and survival. This may also explain why most Scandinavian farmers emigrating from their homelands throughout the last decades of the 8th century would settle in the northern archipelagos of Britain, such as Orkneys, Faroe and Shetland Islands. This enabled the progressive establishment of their own language and culture, which was not hard at all to assimilate by the native Pict tribes (Moskowich-Spiegel, 1995: 25).

Historically, two key determinants must be considered. On the one hand, most of the southern Scandinavian homelands (i.e., areas bordering with Denmark) remained submissive to the Carolingian Empire. On the other hand, most of the Scandinavian incursions across the old trade connection with Byzantium, in the Mediterranean Sea, were frustrated by the Arabs. As a result, this blockage allowed Scandinavian societies to look towards the western lands, rather than the southern ones.

Culturally, the Scandinavian tribes settled in the continent usually served as mercenary warriors to the highest bidder king or lord. This meant their code of honor implied loyalty to any lord of king until his death, as occurred with vassalage societies in the rest of the continent. Therefore, based on such premise, as Moskowich-Spiegel (1995: 23) puts forward, many Scandinavian invasions to the isle have also been considered to be commanded by many of those leading figures. What is more, such enterprises completely matched with their insatiable appetite for adventure, a trait which often led them not only to a wide array of excursions and land invasions, as proved in the following map:

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Fig. 2. Viking expeditions and settlements around the European continent between 800 and 1000 (Robinson, 1997: 70)

This complemented with their obsessive mania to destroy other people’s properties, a character which often led them to raids and loots rather than commercial incursions. as a reflection of their. In fact, there is even a religious motive for them to move abroad, namely, their fanatical loathing of Christianity, a peculiarity which made them not worry at all for sacking religious places, such as monasteries and temples.

When it comes to the areas firstly invaded by Scandinavian societies, it must be made clear that this strongly depended on the homelands from which such incipient Scandinavians came, since that would condition the route taken, which, according to Moskowich-Spiegel (1995: 22), were mainly two. On the one hand, Norse Scandinavians, hailing from Sweden and Norway, would sail towards the Western Islands, that is, the Orkneys, Faroe and Shetland Islands, as well as the northern areas of Scotland and Northumbria. On the other hand, the Danes, coming from northern Germany and the Jutland peninsula (i.e., present-day Denmark), would navigate their ships into the eastern and southern kingdoms within the English Heptarchy[11], namely, Kent, East Anglia, Mercia and southern parts of Northumbria.

In any case, whatever the origin and route, the beginning of the so-called ‘Viking Era’ was not amicably welcomed. After 787, as Moskowich-Spiegel (1995: 29-31) underscores, it will not be until 835 that Scandinavians sailed again to the isle of Britain, and not until 37 would a confrontation take place in, and which, in most cases, finished with the AS defeat.

2.1.2. Second period (850-878)

Quoted by Dawson (2003: 41), “[…] widespread plundering by large armies marked the second period, and this resulted in extensive settlements and the establishment of the Danelaw and Norse institutions in parts of England”. So drastically were the continuous defeats of the AS that the Parker Chronicle highlights year 865 as the establishment of the danegeld, whereby locals were forced to pay taxes to Scandinavians so as to avoid being raided (Moskowich-Spiegel, 1995: 28).

This, however, would not prevent the Scandinavians from moving forward in their intention to invade all parts of the island, yet always being faced by AS armies in a series of battles often won by the Scandinavian invaders, such as Englefield and Reading in 870 and Reading, Ashdown, Basing or Mæredune in 871. Consequently, continuous battles deriving in notable Scandinavian victory would result in the first official Scandinavian settlement in 876 in the lands of Northumbria. Nevertheless, the attempt to invade Wessex in 878 left the so-called “Mycel Hæþen Here” (i.e., “the Great Heathen Army” lessened by the armies of King Alfred, which led to the establishment of the Danelaw. However, despite the Scandinavian defeat, the establishment of the Danelaw and the subsequent systematic occupation of the northern territories of the island, further consistent and harsh disputes would still happen between locals and settlers until the final decade of the 9th century, when the war between both societies came to an end and Scandinavian tribes were forced to permanently retreat to the majority of areas covered by the kingdoms of East Anglia, Mercia and Northumbria (Moskowich-Spiegel, 1995: 36), as is shown in the following map:

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Fig. 3. The Danelaw (Graddol, Leith and Swann, 1996: 109)

2.1.3. Third period (878-1042)

Should any aspect be highlighted in this third period, it would definitely be its complete dissimilarity with the first one. In other words, contrary to the so-called ‘First Viking Period’, migrants of this wave are essentially members of lowest class in their homelands, usually farmers and immigrants seeking a better life, which may explain the reason why this is known as the “peasant migration”.

Furthermore, as remarked by Dawson (2003: 42), “political adjustment and assimilation [in England] marked the third period”. Moskowich-Spiegel (1995: 36-38) also puts it clearly: although harsh fights still persisted between AS and Scandinavians, colonization since the early Scandinavian invasions and subsequent dealings with locals were having a clear effect on mutual acceptance all over the island, especially across the Danelaw. Furthermore, King Edgar ‘The Peaceful’ (959-975) manages to establish a harmonious environment between both societies, thus having a clear impact on both the economic model and social interaction between AS and Scandinavians. This is clearly reflected not only on the last unimportant confrontations between locals and settlers around 921, but also on the burgeoning development of trade between both societies.

The culmination of the third period would not be found until 1014, when King Cnut (1016-1035), son of the Norse King Sveinn (986-1014), took over the throne of England after some previous disagreements with the Danish dynasty, which had led to a huge massacre in the Danelaw some years earlier[12]. It is in such year (1014) that Cnut becomes the first Scandinavian king of England, which became part of “the biggest empire in northern Europe” (Moskowich-Spiegel, 1995: 39-40), as is shown in the following map:

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Fig. 4. Cnut’s empire, also known as the North Sea Empire (1014-1035) (Sommerville, 2016)

The reign of Cnut, however, was of little duration, and, after his death in 1035, the land split into two parts, each governed by one of his two sons, Harald and Hardecanute, respectively. This distribution would not last long either, since Edward the Confessor (1042-1066), half French, half Saxon, took the throne of England as the legitimate successor, on account of his being Æthelred’s son, king of England some years before (978-1013) was forced into exile to France after the Scandinavian massacre within the Danelaw. This may also explain the diaspora occurring throughout the oncoming final years, especially until the Norman Conquest in 1066, during which Norse societies would go to Britain not only for such aforementioned welfare pursuit, but also to fight against the progressive French hegemony, which jeopardized their social status as freemen.

2.2. The Germanic group of languages

As claimed by Robinson (1992: 16), the presence of the incipient Gmc. languages in Europe cannot be attested until the third millennium BC, just when the primitive Gmc. tribes, known as ‘the Battle-ax Culture’, settled in the southern areas of the Scandinavian peninsula. However, the constant splitting-up of such tribes made them migrate towards different parts of the continent, mainly around the eastern lands of the Vistula River, the southern areas of the Upper Elbe and northern Belgium, which clearly had an impact on the dissemination of Gmc. languages and the subsequent separation from one another. Therefore, it is not until 300 BC that distinct language sub-groups and dialects can be clearly perceived (cf. Fig 4). Nevertheless, it should be borne in mind that such division did not exactly have to do with a physical or geographical separation among their speakers, but rather with distinctive cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

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Fig. 5. Germanic tribes and the areas settled by 300 BC (Frings, 1957)

The first distinction between English and ON mainly lies in their belonging to a different sub-group within the same family, an aspect that had much to do with the geographical location of such Gmc. language inside Europe. On the one hand, whereas English is incorporated into the west-Gmc. group and, within it, is included in the Anglo-Frisian sub-group, the latter gave rise to the north-Gmc. group of languages, which, with the passing of time, split into present-day north-Gmc. languages, quite close to one another, such as Icelandic, Faroese and the official languages of the Scandinavian countries: Danish, Swedish and Norwegian.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig. 6. Germanic languages from Indo-European to nowadays (Robinson, 1997: 12)

Nonetheless, as presented by Robinson (1992: 1-10), despite the huge linguistic and cultural differences among Gmc. languages and their respective speakers, making them hardly intelligible nowadays, there are starting points of similarity among practically all of them on many levels, as seen between ON, OE, ME and ModEng.

First of all, the lexical closeness should be highlighted, particularly in those items or actions that are used in everyday tasks or activities (e.g., German Mann, Maus or singen; English man, mouse or sing). Cognates do become of paramount importance in this respect, since, by following Grimm’s and Verner’s Law, identical features and changes, especially at spelling and phonological level, can be closely related to one another (e.g., ON fa ð ir, fótr or ϸ r ī r are equivalent to OE fæder, fōt or ϸrīe, “father”, “foot” or “three”). Nevertheless, in many cases, some lexical tokens do not coincide in meaning (e.g., English knight and German knecht are similar in form, though it means “servant” in the latter case).

Grammar also contains many correspondences, especially in relation to regular patterns, and particularly when it comes to the inflection of vb. (e.g., the past tense of the German vb. hassen is hasste and of lieben is liebte; the past tense of the English vb. hate is hated and of love is loved, respectively (i.e., German –te; ModEng. –d) and adj. (e.g., comparative and superlative degrees in German: gut > besser > besten and dick > dicker > dicksten; in English: good > better > best and thick > thicker > thickest, respectively (i.e., German –er and –sten; ModEng. –er and –est).

Consistencies can be also found in certain irregular patterns that are repeated across Gmc. languages (e.g., German denken > dachte; bringen > brachte; correspond to English think > thought; bring > brought, respectively) (i.e. German –achte; ModEng. –ought), respectively).

2.2.1. Phonology

To begin with, as regards vowels, most Gmc. languages have 5 basic vocalic units: /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/ and /u/, both long and short in length, thus making it 10 vowels in total. Phonemes, as well as various form of spellings, are illustrated in Table 1:[13]

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Table 1. The five long vowels present in Gmc. languages (Robinson, 1997: 27 and Barnes, 2008: 8)

In spite of their undeniable presence in all Gmc. subgroups, long vowels were prone to variation from one Gmc. language to another. That is the case of ON, where, as Robinson (1992: 84) contends, it occurs in the form of acute accents (e.g., grípa, “grip”; tré, “tree” or sjá, “see”), but does not include any circumflex one.

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Table 2. The five short vowels present in Gmc. languages (Robinson, 1997: 27 and Barnes, 2008: 8)

Apart from these vocalic phonemes, some Gmc. languages, as in the case of ON, include a series of peculiar front rounded vowels. On the one hand, /ü/, which may be spelt as <u> or <y>, is similar to the phoneme /i/, but it is pronounced with rounded lips (e.g., yfir ‘over’). On the other hand, /ö/, which can be spelt as <ö> or <ø>, is pronounced like a rounded /e/ (e.g., d ø kkr “dark”).

With regards to consonants, most Gmc. languages have at least 19 consonantal phonemes, to which 2 semivowels must be added, all of them with a series of variable spellings depending on the type of Gmc. language in question, as is illustrated in Table 2:

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Table 3 Consonants and semivowels present in Gmc. languages (Robinson, 1997: 25-26 and Barnes, 2008: 10-11)

However, we should bear in mind that, even though phonetic correspondences are uniform for most Gmc. languages on a general basis, the peculiar properties of each one may give rise to certain alterations, especially in consonantal clusters.

For example, as Robinson (1992: 82-84) points out, ON /p/, /t/ and /k/ are normally pronounced as plosives. Nonetheless, in the case of /p/, it is pronounced as a fricative (i.e., closer to /f/) when they are followed by /t/ or /s/ (e.g., skapt, “handle”, is pronounced /skaft/). Additionally, the velars /g/ and /k/ undergo palatization when they are placed before any front vowel or semivowel, either short or long, such as /e/, /œ/, /æ/, and especially /i/ and /j/ (e.g., baggi is pronounced like /baggji/, and kenna like /kjena/. Similarly to ModEng., nasal /n/ is pronounced as /ŋ/ if it is followed by velars /g/ or /k/ (e.g., langa). Lastly, among other phono-tactic peculiarities of ON, /h/ is generally aspirated as in ModEng. (e.g., hard). However, it is strongly velarized when it precedes the fricative voiced labiodental /v/ (e.g., hvass, meaning ‘sharp’, is pronounced like /χwas/). This also frequently occurred in the case of OE when /h/ is followed by dental plosive /t/ (e.g., cniht /kniχt/ “boy”).

2.2.2. Morphology

When it comes to morphological features, as Robinson (1992: 29-34) claims, one aspect must be mainly considered as the most crucial one, and that is inflection. In more specific terms, inflections used by all Gmc. languages in one way or another, with obvious differences, as far as case endings are concerned.

With regard to nouns in most Gmc. languages, they can be classified into four types of declension, depending on the stem or root they have: a-stem, i -stem, ô -stem and n-stem. Generally, nouns are inflected for case and number. On the one hand, with the exception of ModEng., most Gmc. languages present different endings for different cases: nom. (i.e., when n. functions as subject or subject complement), acc. (i.e., n. functioning as direct object), gen. (i.e., for n. complement), dat. (i.e., n. performing the function of indirect object or adverbial) and, in some cases, instr. (i.e., indicating adverbial, adjunct of instrument). On the other hand, number is the second variable affected by inflection, which is mainly divided into sg. and pl.. However, in some Gmc. languages, as in the case of ON and OE, dual is also present, although this is usually restricted to pronominal systems: Gmc. * wiz > OE - ON vér, “we”; dual: Gmc * witz > OE wit - ON vit, “we two” / PGmc. * juz > OE eow – ON yor, “you”; dual PGmc. * > OE git – ON ϸ it.

Similarly to n., the vb. is also considered in terms of many variables (Robinson, 1992: 39-41). First, as to voice, Gmc. languages distinguish between active and passive. Regarding the mood, vb. inflection varies according to whether the vb. is in indicative, subjunctive or imperative. With regards to tense, Gmc. languages only possess inflection ending for present and past. Just as happens in ON, OE, ME and ModEng., future tends to be either analytically constructed (i.e., no inflection, no affix attachment) or by resorting to other vb. tenses, such as present simple. Number, as in the case of n., is divided into sg., pl. and, with the exception of ModEng., dual inflections. Lastly, pers. is split into three types in all Gmc. languages: first, second and third.

2.3. Old English and Old Norse: a comparative analysis

Despite the general features described above shared by both ON and OE as Gmc. languages, there are other grounds where both languages coincide and differentiate, respectively.

2.3.1. Phonology

Apart from sharing both long and short vowels, as seen above for all Gmc. languages (cf. 2.2.1.), OE is similar to ON in that it also contains lip-rounded vowels /ü/ and /ü:/, which are spelt as <y>, <ŷ> and <ý>, respectively (e.g., OE cyning, “king”; ON kýr, “cow”). Nonetheless, many diphthongs, with their corresponding long and short forms, are present exclusively in OE, such as /io/, /eo/, /ie/ or /ea/ (e.g., OE ϸ r é at, “threat”).

Generally, as seen in Robinson (1992: 158), both languages share the same property of having complex vocalic systems. Within such complexity, one of the most essential aspects to highlight is definitely umlaut, where a vowel is conditioned by the type and position of another vowel or semivowel (cf. 1.6.8. and 2.2.1), and whose results differ a great deal from one language to another.

On the one hand, OE contains two types of umlaut. In the case of a -umlaut, vowels like /a:/ becomes /æ:/ (e.g., Gmc. * dag-az > OE dæg “day”); /o/ and /o:/ become /e/ and /e:/, respectively (e.g., Gmc. * f ō t-iz > OE feet); and /ʊ/ and /u:/ become /ü/ and /ü:/, respectively (e.g., Gmc. * brugjo > OE brycge).

As to diphthongs, short and long forms of /ea/, /eo/ and /io/ become the corresponding short and long forms of /ie/ or /i/ (OE fiohtan “to fight” > fieht “fights”).

With regard to u -umlaut, instead of vowels shifting to other positions, they dipthongize. That is the case of /a/ > /ea/ (e.g., PGmc. * aluth- > OE alu > Early ME ealu, “ale”), /e/ > /eo/ (e.g., PGmc. * smerwajn > OE smeru > late OE smeoro, “grease”), and /i/ > /io/ (e.g., PGmc. * meluks > OS miluk > OE mioluc, “milk”). A similar diphthongization, traditionally called Breaking also occurred in West-Saxon OE when such vowels are followed by certain velar consonants, such as /h/, or /r/ and /l/ succeeded by other consonants: /i/ > /io/, /e/ > /eo/ > /a/ or /æ/ > /ea/ (e.g., PGmc. * er ð o > Early ME eor ð e, “earth”; PGmc. * fehta > OE feoht, “battle”; and OE wær ð “become” > wear ð “became”).

On the other hand, ON includes three types of umlaut processes (Robinson, 1992: 86-87). Regarding a -umlaut, /i/ is lowered to /e/ and /u/ to /o/ when they are followed by low vowels, especially /a/ (e.g., ni ð r “down” > ne ð an, “from below”).

As to i -umlaut, /e/ changed into /i/, without lip rounding, when it came before /i/ or /j/ in the following syllable (e.g., PGmc. * medj-az > me ð al “between” > mi ð ja “middle”).

As for u -umlaut, all the back vowels tend to move towards the front articulatory positions, as in:

- /u/ and /u:/ > /ü/ and /ü̂/, spelt as <y> and <ý>, respectively (e.g., Gmc. * m ū s-iz > mýss “mice”)

- /o/ and /ɔ:/ > /ö/ and /ö̂/, spelt as <ø> and <œ>, respectively (e.g., Gmc. * m ō dr-iz > ON mœ ð r “mothers”)

- /a/ and /a:/ > /e/ and /æ̂/, both spelt as <æ> (e.g., Gmc. * mālijan > ON mæla “to speak”)

- /au/ > /eü/, spelt as <ey> (e.g., Gmc. * lausijaną > ON leysa “to loosen”)

- /ju/, stemming from /iu/ and /eu/, > /ü/, spelt as <ý> (e.g., Gmc. * deupaz > ON djúpr “deep”)

Similarly to OE, breaking did also take place in some ON vowels before /u/ and /v/ or /w/ in the next syllables, as in:

- /i/ > /ü/, spelt as <y> (e.g., Gmc. * sling-waną > ON slyngva “to sling”)

- /e/ > /ö/, spelt as <ø> (e.g. Gmc. * teg-uz > tøgr “ten”)

- /a/ > /å/, spelt as <ǫ> (e.g., Gmc. * land-uz > lǫnd “lands”)

What is more, in many cases, and differently from OE, ON tends to omit the umlauting vowel or semivowel (e.g., ON hurna > horn, not * horna).

Lastly, concerning consonants (Robinson, 1992: 159-160), both languages are clearly, on the one hand, OE is riddled with a wide array of changing features, such as:

- rhotacism (cf. 1.6.7., as PGmc. * liznojan > OE læran, “learn”)

- assimilation (e.g., Gmc. */k/ > palatized <c> /tʃ/, as PGmc. * kirika > OE cirice, “church”). This is especially common in cognates beginning with the ON consonant cluster sk-, thus becoming palatized (i.e., sc-) in OE and ME[14]

- nasal loss before any voiceless fricative (e.g., PGmc.. fimf > OE f ī f, “five”

- gemination, or consonant reduplication (e.g. PGmc. * saljan > OE sellan, “sell”)

- metathesis (ON hross, brennan; OE horsian and beornan, respectively)

Although a few of these phonetic changes are found in ON, such as rhotacism (e.g., from PGmc.. * maizon- > ON miri, “more”), some others do not take place at all, such as assimilation. Still, there are some others which may occur either in a much more restricted way, such as gemination (only with /k/ and /g/, as PGmc. * lagjan > leggja, “lay”) and nasal loss before fricative (only with /s/, as from PGmc. * gans > ON gás, “goose”), or exclusively in ON, as sharpening, where /j/ is not omitted when in contact with /g/ (e.g., PGmc. * twagjan > OE tweg (e) a > ON treggja, “of two”). In other cases, ON and OE assimilate with each other for not including other phonological alterations, such as consonant shift, which is present in other Gmc. languages, such as Old High Saxon.

2.3.2. Morphology

Even though morphology is full of features distinguishing both Gmc. languages, there are still some points, as those stated by in Robinson (1992: 160-162), that are worth mentioning. Nouns

Concerning similarities between OE and ON, neither language has retained the PGmc. ending *{ az }, which marked the case of nom. sg. for a -stem masc. n. and strong adj. However, while it was completely lost in OE, ON underwent a process of rhotacism, whereby the PGmc. ending *{ az } developed to {r} (cf. 1.6.7. and 1.6.9.) (e.g., PGmc. * god-az * gast-iz > OE g ō d-ø gæst-ø / ON gó ð- r gest-r, “good guest”).

The two languages also differ in the ending for indicating nom. pl. for the same a -stem masc. n.: OE has -as (e.g., “birds”), whereas ON, as a reflect of rhotacism, has -ar (e.g., Gmc. * fogl-oz > OE fugelas > fuglar, “birds”). Furthermore, both ON and OE distinguish between generic and dual pl. in their pronouns for:


[1] Macmillan Online, 2017 s.v. longitudinal

[2] Macmillan Online, 2017 s.v. diachronic

[3] Quotes retrieved from educational legislation have been synthesized and translated by myself.

[4] Spanish: “g) La formación en el respeto y reconocimiento de la pluralidad lingüística […] y de la interculturalidad como un elemento enriquecedor de la sociedad” (LOE, 2006: 17165).

[5] Spanish: “[…] expresión y comprensión oral, la lectura, la escritura […] la adquisición de nociones básicas de la cultura, y el hábito de convivencia […]” (LOMCE, 2013: 97870).

[6] Spanish: “se priorizarán la comprensión y la expresión oral” (LOMCE, 2013: 97871).

[7] The word cognate comes from the Latin theme ‘co-’ (i.e., “together”) in combination with the past participle of the vb. root ‘ gen ’ (i.e., “to produce”) (OED, 2017, s.v. cognate).

[8] Cf. Grimm’s Law and Verner’s Law below for further details.

[9] Local administration units of the Danelaw were clearly delimited between the East Midlands, composed by the Five Boroughs (i.e., Derby, Nottingham, Leicester, Lincoln and Stamford), and Yorkshire, whose jurisdiction depended on the Scandinavian kings from York (Moskowich-Spiegel, 1995: 49).

[10] Composition between the Greek prefix meta-, with the notion of movement and permutation, attached to the Greek n. thesis, meaning ‘the most relevant or stressed part in a foot, verse or word’ (OED, 2017, s.v. metathesis).

[11] “A government by seven rulers; an aggregate of seven districts or petty kingdoms, each under its own ruler; spec. the seven kingdoms reckoned to have been established by the Angles and Saxons in Britain” (OED, 2017, s.v. heptarchy). Constituent kingdoms: East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Mercia, Northumbria, Sussex and Wessex.

[12] St. Brice’s Day Massacre (13th November 1002) (HistoryPod, 2015).

[13] International Phonetic Alphabet (2016) has been the system thoroughly employed for phonetical transcriptions.

[14] cf. 3.2.3. for further explanation about sk- and the palatization of it in OE.

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Quality over Quantity. A Diachronic Approach to the Influence of Old Norse on the English Language
University of Jaén
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Cognates, contact, influence, Modern English, intercomprehension, interculturality, loanwords, Old Norse, Scandinavian, stem
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Rafael Damas Quiles (Author), 2017, Quality over Quantity. A Diachronic Approach to the Influence of Old Norse on the English Language, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/416100


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