Icelandic/Old Norse: merger of 1/3sg. preterite forms

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Gavril, Feb 3, 2012.

  1. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    In Old Norse, the weak preterite had distinct forms for the 1sg. and 3sg.:

    ek sagða "I said" vs. hann sagði "he said"

    In modern Icelandic, the same verb form is used for both persons (ég/hann sagði).

    At what point are these two forms thought to have merged? Could the merger have been due to analogy with the strong preterite, in which I think the 1/3sg. have historically been the same (as in, for ex., ON ek/hann naut "I/he enjoyed", ek/hann dreif "I/he drove")?
  2. Merkurius Senior Member

    Well most changes (even though they were only few) took place around 1500 when so called Siðaskiptin happened in Iceland. I would say these changes happened around 1200-1500. I recommend reading (at least trying to read) the following article. Even though it doesn't completely answer your question.

    Translation: Around 1100 and 1200 the s became r (e.g. vas -> var and es -> er). Around 1300 the syllables were added in words, f.x. in front of -r in the ending of a word, and djé in front of n and -l took place around 1400-1500. However before 1300 önghljóðuðust mörg lokhljóð.

    And we should not forget Stóra brottfallið where frumnorræna (Old Norse) became norræna (Norse).
  3. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I think you're right here. It was due to analogy of the first and third person preterites being identical in strong verbs and given the final ending between the weak endings was aða/aði - this is what allowed them to be easily merged together. But having said that, there seems to have been more of a tendency for first and third person items to merge together in many more aspects, so this might not be the whole story. Present verb forms also merged, like in the verb to be: ek em -> ég er where 'em' is obviously cognate with 'am' in English. Also the traditional first person middle form -mk assimilated to the third person -sk around the same time. So, it seems to be a wider issue of things merging between the first and third persons, and this happened in the 13th century I've read, sometimes people say the 14th century but between 1200-1400 is a good guess.


    Frumnorræna - Proto Norse (#)
    Norræna - (Old) Norse (#)

    I've mixed these up as well in the past. I think many people do. Stóra brottfallið is described here on the Wiki page as being part of the Proto-Norse -> Old Norse change:

    Last edited: Oct 29, 2012
  4. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Are you sure? Following the links on the pages you quoted, it seems rather that there is no firmly established separation of the terms Frumnorræna and Norræna.
  5. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    In that case then I add the following sources to back up my point.

    Nordic languages old and new
    Other sites state the difference: #1

    Here it's stated that the stóra brottfallið was specifically in the frummnorræna period (bottom of page three).
    This page also includes discussion talking about fornnorræna and what Icelandic and Faroese keep of it (as they are descendents of it) and talks about the end of the Proto-Nordic stage in the 8th century (~200 years before sailors left for Iceland).
    In this paper it states the same (but calls fornnorræna 'forníslenska', which is quite common) but still clearly makes a difference between that and frumnorræna.

    So, there is a standard ('firmly established') definition of these terms, but that isn't reflected in the Wikipedia page. People might use it incorrectly (like I have done in the past, even on here), but a look around clearly points to an established temporal and feature-based division. If you say frumnorræna - you can't refer to anything after 800AD. As Merkurius said, there are various things that happened to separate it, and this syncope was one of the distinguishing factors ('HlewagastiR').
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2012
  6. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I am not entirely convinced. Your quote reads "NORRÆNA (frá u.þ.b. [=from about] 1000)". This suggest that the separation denoted by the word pair Frumnorræna vs. Norræna means Proto-Norse/(Early) Old Norse vs. Old Nowegian/Old Icelandic. It seems that the breakup of the ON dialect continuum in the 11th century rather than the completion of the PN sound shifts in the 7th century separates the development stages and that the word pairs Frumnorræna vs. Norræna and Proto-Norse vs. Old Norse do not correspond exactly which creates the fuzziness.
  7. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    So what exactly are you suggesting? There's no doubt whatsoever what period frumnorræna refers to, so I take it the issue is with the definition of norræna only. I don't see why there is any fuzziness though. Norræna is basically (West) Old Norse. Those sound changes are exactly what separates the two categories. Where is the doubt? It's laid out clearly in the wiki article in my first post here.
  8. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I suggest that frumnorræna means both, Proto-Norse and Early Old Norse, and the the completion of the Pn sound shifts are treated as an intra-frumnorræna development rather than as a separation point between development stages. The Old Norse period as it is customarily defined starts around 800 and not around 1000 and your statement frumnorræna = Proto-Norse is inaccurate because the concepts overlap but do not match.
  9. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Ah okay, I see what you mean.
    The year 800 point is where frumnorræna becomes fornnorska though.

    Frumnorræna(fornnorræna) (pre-800) -> Fornnorska (800- ~1000) -> Norræna (a.k.a. vesturnorræna) -> Forníslenska (1200-)

    As it then goes on to say, "vesturnorræna" is often just called norræna, which is what I said before about being (West) Old Norse. Ah, I've just noticed something. I typed fornnorræna instead of fornnorska before. The PN sound changes do separate frum/fornnorræna and fornnorska, which then goes on to become "norræna".

    Which is what I meant by saying that there is actually a clear separation of the two terms.
  10. Merkurius Senior Member

    I think that you can never pinpoint to a year (or even precise century) when a particular change happens in a language. That's why I put in a large range of years.

    Refering to the debate about frumnorræna vs. Norræna I would like to add this:
    English version: ''The oldest version of North Germanic languages is called frumnorræna, which was spoken in the Nordic countries from 200 to ca. 800 a.d. (Article regarding The Origins of the Icelandic Language).

    What fornnorræna is concerned I would like to add this one:
    English version: Germanic languages were divided early on in north-, west- and eastgermanic languages. What is concidered the early stage of northgermanic languages is called frumnorræna. They later on were divided to westnordic languages (Icelandic, Faroese, Norwegian) and eastnordic languages (Danish, Swedish). Fornnorræna is the language which was spoken in Iceland and Norway from 900 to about 1350.
    This is an article about ''Which of the five Nordic languages most resemblence frumnorræna?

    Frumnorræna: Was spoken 200-800 ad. (According to the Icelandic dictionary: 1. Proto-Norse -- the Germanic language of Scandinavia up until about 700)
    Fornnorræna: Was spoken 900-1350 ad. (According to the Icelandic dictionary: 1. Old Norse -- the extinct Germanic language of medieval Scandinavia and Iceland from about to 700 to 1350)
    The era we are talking about is 1200-1400 ad. so it would be Fornnorræna.

    Extra info: frum- = the first, something that was in the beginning. forn-= old, something that is quite old.

Share This Page