Icelandic: -n- infix

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by Obeorn, Jul 21, 2013.

  1. Obeorn

    Obeorn Junior Member

    American English
    Are there any ways/resources to tell which nouns have the -n- infix in Gen pl?

    Dictionaries I have give no indication, and I can find no web sources.

    The best I've come up with is to do a google search for the word with the -n- infix included to see if it shows up.
     
  2. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    It really would be helpful to specify what language you're talking about but judging by the only two other 'latest posts' in the profile feature I can see the only other threads you have participated in have been Icelandic, so I'm making an educated guess that is also what you mean here.

    Anyway, the 'n-infix' is an old genitive plural ending that has been wiped out completely in the masculine class of words, and only exists in a minority of neuter words, which I think are all weak (and the number of weak neuter words you can literally count on your fingers and toes, i.e. eyra/lunga/hjarta etc.). It's gone in the strong feminine words but the weak feminine class is where you see the majority of them. To get a complete list is quite tricky. I tried looking it up in a corpus but there are quite a few erroneous results that naturally show up in the search (and which don't contain any examples of common words which do have this feature), but I suppose it's better than nothing.

    This is the list which came back after the search:
    So, this is by no means exhaustive and the search parameters were non-definite article feminine nouns in the genitive plural form ending in -na so if "n" or some other combinations of words result in "-na" as a genitive plural ending, then these will be included. Some really common words that have this feature are saga / stúlka / (s)telpa and kirkja and neither of these came up in this search, but it's better than nothing. I'll go through and highlight some ones I know are true. The automatic tagging has thrown in a few adjectives it thinks are feminine nouns. So, not a great answer to your question but until a list is made/found, this is what we have to go off so far. You occasionally see it with vík (bay) but it's only a variant. It's sort of been regularised out but it exists in place compounds like Víknafjöll up on the north coast of Iceland. Compound place names often preserve different stages of the language in an interesting way like this. You can see "fell" (older form of fjall) in places like Snæfellsness and in other places like Víknafjöll you can tell they were given their names at certain points in history (i.e. date them as having been named before or after sound changes and spelling changes occurred in the written documents that were dated) so that's also another interesting point.

    If you ever want to check a specific word, enter its dictionary form in this site and look to see the genitive plural form of the word and if it has that -n- ending.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2013
  3. Obeorn

    Obeorn Junior Member

    American English
    Yes, Icelandic. Sorry!

    Thank you for the response.
     
  4. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Actually, I just remembered a masculine word it does occur in: the word gumi.
    It was mainly poetic style to say 'man' in Old Norse but it was in Old English and it's cognate with groom in English.
    Old English had brydguma and Icelandic still has brúðgumi (and we now just say bridegroom).

    I do, however, believe in the compound you don't see this -n- infix, but in the singular word you can do (examples).
    That's just more for general knowledge about the topic, I don't mean to go to far into specifics as if this is any important point :p.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2013
  5. Segorian Senior Member

    Icelandic & Swedish
    This is a bit misleading. It is true that fell is an older word form than fjall, but it has not fallen out of use. Nowadays, fell generally designates a hill or low mountain, very often one with no prominent peaks. Recent example: "Gráhnjúkur er lágt fell fram undan og sunnan í honum er stuðlaberg sem vert er að skoða í bakaleiðinni." (Dagblaðið Vísir, 29 June 2001, p. 24).
     
  6. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Já, það er rétt sem þú segir, en ég er ekki sammála að það sé misvísandi. Hvergi var tekið fram að nýja formið er búið að leysa hið eldra af hólmi. :)
     
  7. Segorian Senior Member

    Icelandic & Swedish
    I may have misunderstood what you wrote. ;) You seemed to me to be saying that a place name such as Snæfellsnes indicated that the naming had occurred at or before a particular stage of the language, while I contend that this is a name that could have come about at any time in the past one-thousand years.
     
  8. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Ah, I totally see what you mean now. Yes, I agree it wouldn't be the case if you see fell, you must associate to be a name designated to a mountain in the pre-klofning era. My post actually does sort of imply that (so I can agree it is misleading in that sense) but the case is that Snæfell is described pretty much unanimously as a fjall, so this specific case shows that you can see fossilised linguistic changes in place names (just as you can in a lot of countries). But it's not the case that it's a one-to-one association, but here was a specific case of it.
     
  9. Segorian Senior Member

    Icelandic & Swedish
    Yes, that is interesting. It is safe to say, I believe, that both in Old and Modern Icelandic one would be more likely to call a mountain such as Snæfell a fjall than a fell, while at the same time being more likely to give it a name of the type [x]-fell than of the type [x]-fjall. Compare the following passages:

    "
    Þórólfur kallaði Þórsnes milli Vigrafjarðar og Hofsvogs. Í því nesi stendur eitt fjall. Á því fjalli hafði Þórólfur svo mikinn átrúnað að þangað skyldi engi maður óþveginn líta og engu skyldi tortíma í fjallinu, hvorki fé né mönnum, nema sjálft gengi í brott. Það fjall kallaði hann Helgafell og trúði að hann mundi þangað fara þá er hann dæi og allir á nesinu hans frændur." (From Eyrbyggja saga)

    "
    Um nafn eldfjallsins í Eyjum

    Þorbjörn í Kirkjubæ átti tal við oddvita [Örnefnanefndar] og færði fram rök fyrir því, að fjallið yrði nefnt Kirkjubæjarfell. Það eina, sem nefndarmanninum fannst að því, var að nafnið væri of langt. Og þar við sat. Fjallið var nefnt Eldfell." (Morgunblaðið 28 August 1973, p. 28)

     
  10. MtnGirl Junior Member

    East Coast, USA
    US English
    Speaking of a place name such as Snæfellsnes, would you say that means "Snowy Mountain Cap" (using fell for "mountain") or "Snowy Hill" (using the fjall that Segorian mentioned)?
     
  11. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Given the oldness of the name, I'd lean to the view it meant mountain, before there was a distinction between fell and fjall like there is today. Similar names are found in the UK and they are most definitely mountains, so it could be my familiarity with them is leading me to associate them to be the same thing (though it's quite likely, IMHO, that the links provide good evidence for the reading of mountain rather than hill). The highest mountain in England is Scafell. But then again in the Lake District there are many hills that have the name Fell as the second component which aren't mountains. I guess it could be up for debate.

    One thing I am wondering about though is where you got cap from? Did you mean cape?
    Nes in Icelandic has a few translations, and one of them is cape, deriving from the fact it's right out on the peninsula, an outward facing piece of land going out from the mainland.
    Snæfell is the name of the mountain, and Snæfellsnes is the Snæfell peninsula. There is often a lot of confusion when it comes to tourists talking about place names in Iceland, adding in redundant parts because they aren't aware of the component meanings of the words. You often hear people talk about the "Eyjafjallajökull Glacier" - even though -jökull is the word for glacier anyway. I guess from the amount of people talking about the Snæfellsnes Peninsula (again: redundancy) people might interpret the volcano to be called Snæfellsnes rather than just Snæfell.

    So, if you read about a tourist's blog or something where they went to Iceland and they try throwing in a few etymological details, take it with a pinch of salt.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2014
  12. MtnGirl Junior Member

    East Coast, USA
    US English
    I realize that I must have inadvertently left out the 'e' in cape when I wrote it down, leading me to return to my notes, thinking I meant mountain cape. I didn't realize there was so much redundancy, as with the
    you mention. So I'm going to say Snowy Mountain Peninsula makes much more sense. Thank you for your explanation.
     
  13. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    Reykjavík
    English - UK
    There actually is an English word ness that means the same thing as Icelandic nes. It is not really used except in place names, though (Loch Ness, Skegness).
     
  14. MtnGirl Junior Member

    East Coast, USA
    US English
    good point. And since I can't think of any place in America that uses ness, perhaps it's more of a UK thing (just a thought).
     
  15. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Yeah, it's an old morpheme that went out of productive use well before the colonisation of America.
    I knew the connection was the same with Loch Ness, but I'm hitting myself for never having connected it to the ness in Skegness!
    Ah, Inverness! Barrow-in-Furness!
     

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