Sunday, October 19, 2008

Norwegian and English

I'm reading Norwegian poet Rolf Jacobsen in a bilingual edition of his Selected Poems called "The Silence Afterwards". It's fascinating discovering so many words in Norwegian that have English counterparts. Here are a few I have noted:

drypper over : drip over
kolde : cold
varme: warm
blod : blood
mørke : darkness (or "murk")
under : under
hjerte : heart
drøm : dream
furer : furrow
hånd : hand
fingre : finger
stoppet : stopped
glinsende : glistening
spor : tracks (or "spoor")
dør : door
bryst : breast
hundre : hundred
tusen : thousand
runde : round
tre : tree
ende : end
først : first
fjell : mountain (or "fell")
lang : long
is : ice
hate : hate
sten : stone
melk : milk
kysser : kisses
sand : sand
hel : whole

It seems that very few, if any, of these words can be traced back to Old Norse origins. Instead they have common Proto-Germanic roots in Norwegian and English. I suppose they have found their way into Norwegian via Danish influence.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, Old Norse was the Norwegian language as written and spoken c.100 to 1500 C.E., the relevant phase of it (for the English language) being "Viking Norse" (700-1100), the language spoken by the invaders and colonizers of northern and eastern England c.875-950.

Wikipedia has a list of English words that can be traced back to Viking Old Norse origins, which includes such evocative words as anger, awe, berserk, club and die. And here is another site that lists yorkshire dialect words of Old Norse origin.

I've also found a couple of websites that provide courses in Old Norse, including one from The University of Texas Linguistic Centre and this one.

This all provides good food for thought, but doesn't get me much further with the Norwegian homework which I ought to be doing tonight...

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