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Relationships between Norse Languages

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by Alxmrphi, Apr 15, 2007.

  1. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Hello,

    I was wondering if anyone could tell me / point me in the direction to some details about the relationship between the relationship, in a grammar structure view, of the norse languages (Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Norweigan, Icelandic) is there much of a difference from a grammar POV? (Point of view)

    Is it like the relationship between French/Spanish/Italian, different words for most things but the grammar relationship fairly similar etc.

    I am just interested in how closely (or losely if it be the case) these languages are linked.

    Thanks for any input!
     
  2. Whodunit

    Whodunit Senior Member

    กรุงเทพมหานคร
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    What do you understand by "grammar?" Their syntax is quite similar, in most cases even identical. However, as far as I know, some tenses are formed a bit differently in each Norse language. You can compare them in this list or ask for a translation of a given sentence (in English) in as many Norse languages (would you like to have it Faroese as well?) as possible and an analysis of the sentence.

    BUT: What you might understand by "Norse languages" is linguistically not correct. You included "Finnish," from which I infer that you regard it as if it was derived from the same root as Swedish, Dutch, German, and Danish. It's not. Finnish and Hungarian are related and share almost no similarity to other languages, except to Estonian to some extent. Swedish, Danish, Icelandic, Faroese, German, English, Afrikaans etc. are Germanic languages that have a quite similar syntax (let's exclude English). French, Spanish, Latin, Raetoromanic, Italian etc. are Romance languages whose syntax is quite the same as well (let's exclude Latin here). Nevertheless, they form their tenses very differently. It would be hard to understand "[yo] tenga" for a Frenchman (je tienne), for example.
     
  3. jonquiliser

    jonquiliser Senior Member

    Headquarters
    Svediż tal-Finlandja
    Hello,

    Finnish, as Whodunit mentioned, does not form part of this group and has an entirely different history (although some similarities with Swedish, mainly in vocabulary but also limitedly in syntax, due to geographical proximity for many centuries).

    I am not sure of what you mean with your question, and I can't give any exhaustive answer, because I am not that familiar with the other Scandinavian languages. I understand Norweigan not perfectly but nearly, and written Danish the same. Icelandic is already a little farther, but is very close to the older common language, as it is very archaic - as is Faroese, if I remember right (and some dialects of Swedish, at least). So I'd take it that yes, grammar is very similar at least between Swe, Dk and N. Word order is for example, I think, pretty much the same, in contrast to German, and some extent Dutch. Verbs are only conjugated in temporal tenses (not personal) - am I right that Icelandic does still conjugate verbs according to person? Same with grammatical cases, Swedish only uses the genitive, and in some fixed expressions there are still dative and ackusative forms, but they are no longer productive. I would think it's the same with Dk and N, although I must say I'm guessing. In German these cases are still productive, in Dutch only some are, Icelandic I believe still uses these forms. Swedish only has two grammatical genders, the neutral and the uteral - the latter being a "mixture" of what has previously consisted of distinct masculine and feminine forms. Again, German has three genders, Dutch two (in the same manner as Swedish), English none. For the rest of the languages I can only guess - and I'd think the pattern is the same; Swe/Dk/N having taken one path, Icelandic still having the three original cases of Old Norse.

    I don't know if this is what you were after, but I hope it can give something of a picture. :)

    Edit: it seems "Norse" is a perfectly correct adjective to describe North Germanic languages; I had believed it was only used for the older common ancestral line of these languages.
     
  4. jonquiliser

    jonquiliser Senior Member

    Headquarters
    Svediż tal-Finlandja
  5. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Ah well I learnt something, about Finnish not being related to them, I just assumed because, to an ignorant eye they might "look" similar (let's say very ignorant eye) and because of their geographical location they would be, with such long strips of land connecting them I would have thought there must have been similarities.

    As for the grammar thing:
    This is where I see a similarity, the pronouns are different but the verbs are very similar, just look at the conjugation of "tener" (tengo/tienes/tiene/tenemos) etc, it looks very similar to the French, and the idea of "I have hunger" is applicable to all three languages, wheras in English it is "I am hungry" - it is these kind of relationships I was talking about.

    I looked for a similar page jonquiliser but I didn't find one, I'm glad you found one that has the details I am interested in! Thanks.
     
  6. federicoft Senior Member

    Italian
    I read somewhere that Norwegian is like Danish grammar spoken with a Swedish accent (or maybe the contrary? :confused:). Is that true?
     
  7. jonquiliser

    jonquiliser Senior Member

    Headquarters
    Svediż tal-Finlandja
    federicoft, I think Norwegians wouldn't be happy hearing you say that :p. But it illustrates the case of mutual comprehensibility: Danish and Norwegian (especially Bokmål - remember that Norway has two official norms) are quite similar, moreso than Swedish and Danish. On the other hand, in terms of pronounciation Swedish and Norwegian are more similar, and the speakers of these languages tend to understand each other better in oral conversation.

    Another thing I came to think of: diphtongs. Icelandic has retained many of the diphtongs of Old Norse, in Norwegian they are still quite prevalent, whereas in ("standard") Swedish they have faded away a little. However, many Swedish dialects still use those diphtongs.

    Icelandic I don't really understand much of, but I recognise words and structures. But as the meaning has shifted, the same (root) word may have differing meanings in Icelandic and Swedish.
     
  8. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    What are the "question words" in these languages, I think that because they have to be so common in a language we can see if they are similar or not, I only know Icelandic:

    What -> Hvað
    Where -> Hvar
    Who -> Hver
    When -> Hvenær

    What are they in Norwegian/Sweedish/Danish ?
     
  9. jonquiliser

    jonquiliser Senior Member

    Headquarters
    Svediż tal-Finlandja
    What -> Hvað -> vad
    Where -> Hvar -> var
    Who -> Hver -> vem
    When -> Hvenær -> när (it's curious that English has the first part in common with Icelandic and Old Norse, whereas Swedish has the second)

    An earlier ortographic norm of Swedish retained the (unpronounced) h in question words, "hvad", but it has since been dropped.

    Here are a few sample sentences that compare Norwegian Nynorsk & Bokmål, Danish, Old Norse, Swedish and Icelandic: phrases
     
  10. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    When - Hven(n)ær - när

    I think this is what you mean, right?
    The only way I can make sense of this is if the Icelandic æ is the same as the Swedish ä. Is that right?
     
  11. jonquiliser

    jonquiliser Senior Member

    Headquarters
    Svediż tal-Finlandja
    Yes, exactly. I'm pretty convinced it's the same phoneme; in Icelandic, Norwegian and Danish ortography spelt "æ" and in Swedish "ä".
     
  12. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
  13. Lugubert Senior Member

    Göteborg
    Swedish
    I don't need to add much to what's said on Scandinavian, especially after the link to the mutual intelligibility thread. I live on the west coast of Sweden, and I find DA-NO-SV (the EU abbreviations) more like dialects of one Scandinavian language. The Swedish "dialects" on the island of Gotland when sufficiently pure is sometimes more difficult, not to speak of one "Swedish" dialect in the provice of Dalarna, almost totally unintelligible to other Swedes. I should add that the first time I heard Icelandic, in a Copenhagen café, it took me several minutes until I even understood which language I heard. Then I could make out a few pronouns, but not much more.

    Another thought:
    I rather suspected somebody would fall into the (un?)intended trap. The original "tenga" is, like "tienne", in the subjunctive...
     
  14. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    But with no surrounding verbs calling for the subjunctive surely in an example it is wrong? It's like saying, oh we have verbs in English, such as "I were".

    I read one of the links about Nowegian, and I can't understand how a country can communicate among itself with so many variations of language.
     
  15. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    The "example" was just a loose phrase.
     
  16. jonquiliser

    jonquiliser Senior Member

    Headquarters
    Svediż tal-Finlandja
    Hehe, isn't that what most countries/communities of speakers of a language do? :) The standard forms of a language are always more or less constructions, usually out of some particular regional variation of the language, and in some cases based on a variety of them (as in the case of nynorsk). As a quote in one of the links to Wiki has it, "a language is a dialect with an army and a navy". :D
     
  17. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Well, certainly not in English, yeah we have our slang words but our language is pretty much consistant throughout Britain, in Italian I know there are regional differences between the North and the South, and most regions have their own dialect (though all understand "Standard Italian"), but as for a big difference like this, I find it unusual.

    It might be unusual for a non-native speaker of English to comprehend a national that all speaks the exact same language.

    With the Norwegian example quoted, and the statistics from the cited link, what would the national radio and TV language be, a mixture?
     
  18. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Concerning English, there is the curious case of Scots. Then there are all those accents from Scotland and Ireland, which foreigners often find hard to understand. Though the hardest one for me is Jamaican English.
     
  19. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Yeah but that's just a different accent isn't it? If we were writing letters to each other it'd be almost the same, not as different as is custom for other people, though I find Irish people incredibly hard to understand.

    Also Jamaican as well, there is actually no way to tell if a Jamaican is saying "Beer can" or "Bacon" - (it's a widely-known English joke)
     
  20. Whodunit

    Whodunit Senior Member

    กรุงเทพมหานคร
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    The question words are quite interesting among the Germanic language family. In German, we call them "W-Wörter" (W words), because all the question words begin with a "w:"

    What -> Hvað Was
    Where -> Hvar Wo
    Who -> Hver Wer
    When -> Hvenær Wann
    How -> Hvernig Wie

    Another comparison between our languages could be the personal pronouns:

    I -> ich
    you -> du (akin to Old English 'thou')
    he -> er (from IE *e-)
    she -> sie
    it -> es (t>s sound shift!)
    we -> wir
    you (pl.) -> ihr (like 'er')
    they -> sie (akin to the German definite feminine article 'die,' I think)

    For "How," they say "hur" in Swedish.
     
  21. Whodunit

    Whodunit Senior Member

    กรุงเทพมหานคร
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    And even if I had said that "I were" does not correspond to Swedish "jag vore," it would have been just an example. Context is not necessary here. However, I must apologize for having confused you. :)

    That's possible in German, too. We can understand each other throughout Germany (to some extent, of course), from North to South, from West to East, but it would be extremely hard to understand them in their written form. Addiotionally, there are words that have different meanings in another region, and some that don't even exist in my region, for example. We can understand each other quite well, though. :)

    I totally agree. Alex, would you understand Ebonics? Or the English in the Highlands? What about Australian slang or Mexican Spanglish? They are all some kind of English; they could as well be spoken in one country, but they are scattered all over the world. I think I'd have some problems with Nigerian German (I've never heard it yet) and it's very hard to follow a conversation in Swiss German.

    The same happens in the Norse languages. I wouldn't understand spoken Swedish (I can read and understand some of it), let alone Icelandic or Faroese, but I can recognize similarities between them and my language.
     
  22. federicoft Senior Member

    Italian

    Well, actually that's not so strange. In fact most Italian dialects are not mutually intellegible with Standard Italian. There's a far higher degree of intellegibility between SI and, say, Spanish than SI and Piedmontese or Sardinian.
     
  23. jonquiliser

    jonquiliser Senior Member

    Headquarters
    Svediż tal-Finlandja
    My point was merely that a "standard language", be it English or whichever else, is not a fixed entity, there before all its speakers, but is rather a convention/construction, with its fundaments in some regional variation. In a way, all spoken variations of languages are just that. Languages are the political consequences of a continuum of dialects, not their predecessors.

    That said, you are right that languages that have not been "normalised" (don't have an official, widely accepted and well-known norm) pose certain difficulties for communication at times. Galicia is one good example, which in contrast to Norway isn't a nation-state, but at present an autonomous region, and for a long time in history an oppressed part of a relatively large kingdom. Norway could decide about linguistic matters after the separation from Denmark. Galician, which also has several distinct sets of rules, is largely influenced by Spanish in many sense, not least its official ortography which is nearly entirely Castilian. "Reintegrationists" have created other sets of rules, reflecting the affinity of Galician with Portuguese, its historical, nearest sister language; at one time the two languages were one. Surely the language would gain strength had it a common standard of wide acceptance. And especially for non-native learners (and natives! The norms change every now and then ;) :eek:) it would be easier to learn if there were some "correct" answers about how things should be said! :p But I still think it is important to note that "correct" in this sense should be seen more as "conventional" than "cult" - and the contrary is most often the case :(.

    And, finally, Swedish is "one language" - yet I probably understand some Norwegians better than speakers of certain Swedish dialects. And vice versa. Which only reinforces the point that "languages" are in many senses arbitrary conceptions. :)
     
  24. Aleco Senior Member

    Råde, Norway
    Norwegian
    Engl ----- Old Norse -- Icelandic -- Swedish - Norwegian(Bm) ----- Norwegian(Nn) - Danish - Faroese
    What ----- hvat ------- hvað ----- vad -------- hva --------------- kva ------- hvad ---- hvat
    Where ---- hvar ------- hvar ----- var -------- hvor -------------- kvar ------- hvor ----- hvar
    Who ----- hverr ------- hver ----- vem ------- hvem ------------- kven ------- hvem --- hvør
    Why --- hví fyrir ----- afhverju -- varför ----- hvorfor ----------- kvifor ------ hvorfor -- ????

    When ---- hvé nær --- hvenær ---- när --------når --------------- når -------- hvornår -- ????
    How (tall, much) --------------------------------------------------kor -------------------------
    How ----???????----- hvarleiðis --- hur ------ hvordan -- korleis/hoss/koss -- ???? ---- hvussu
     
  25. Vejrudsigt

    Vejrudsigt Junior Member

    United States; English
    It's also "hvordan" in Danish.
     
  26. Whodunit

    Whodunit Senior Member

    กรุงเทพมหานคร
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
     

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