Old Norse suffix -r

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by St_Francis, Feb 6, 2013.

  1. St_Francis New Member

    South West England
    English English
    Old Norse uses a suffix -r in nouns and names which isn't found in the other Germanic languages.
    Just one example is with the name Sigurd which in Old Norse is Sigurðr with an -r.
    What is this -r? And how was it used?
  2. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    The realisation of Proto-Germanic /z/ (which was at the end of a lot of masculine nouns) became /r/ in these words in Old Norse (the exact process of what happened is still debated, but the fact it happened is pretty much universally accepted in my experience). Sigurðr is a combination of sigur (victory) + vörðr (guard), which already contained the -r ending . When it was borrowed as Sigurd, like so, so many other words with this final -r which must have seemed a bit odd in a consonant cluster to English speakers (and also did to later speakers, who broke this cluster up by adding a [ʏ] in between), it was removed in the borrowed form. You’re thinking the wrong way around if you think an -r was added to a word that had a final -d ending elsewhere. It's the reverse, it was removed. That's the simplified story, anyway. :cool:

    When you see a masculine -r nominative ending in Old Norse (or Icelandic, for that matter), it's a safe/probable bet it was /z/ earlier on.

    gastiz -> gestr -> gestur
    walþuz -> völlr -> völlur
    segaz -> sigr -> sigur

    A quirk of Germanic is that a third of its vocabulary cannot be traced back to Proto-Indo-European, and it appears the origin of the words ward/guard/warden/vörðr was one of these words, in which case it's a safe bet that in Old Norse this -r was added in analogy with the rest of the system - reanalysed to match the rest of the words in that class. So, while this specific -r doesn't appear to trace back to a /z/, that's only because we can't match it up with an earlier word that did have it, but its appearance in this case comes about as a direct result of the other /z/ -> /r/ cases. It's been quite a while since I read about all this so I hope I haven't mixed anything up.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2013
  3. NorwegianNYC

    NorwegianNYC Senior Member

    New York, NY, USA
    There is also a strong suspicion it might have been a sort of schwa-sound, and not a real thrilled -r- (not unlike the New York pronunciation of "pizza" as "pizzar")
  4. St_Francis New Member

    South West England
    English English
    Thank you Alxmrphi and NorwegainNYC,
    I see that the transliteration from Runic to Latin script had made the subject more confusing as the /z/ to /r/ in the runic script uses the Algiz rune while the /r/ proper uses the Raido rune ᚱ .

  5. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Hi St_Francis,

    I'm not sure I get what you mean. In something like the Gallehus inscription the runes are representative of the sound, so Algiz and Raido don't represent the same thing, i.e. ek Hlewagastiz[Algiz] Holtijaz hor[Raido]na... and so on. As far as I'm aware, after the change, there was only one sound and this was represented by Raido consistently.
  6. NorwegianNYC

    NorwegianNYC Senior Member

    New York, NY, USA
    Hi Alx,

    Not claiming I know the original intentions at hand, but I believe this is related to the suffix -r in Norse, which originally was Proto-Germanic -z, then became Proto-Norse -R (there is some uncertainty, but it is probably a voiced palato-alveolar fricative)("zh"), and finally it was rendered as -r. The runic names are not important. The z > zh > r was rendered and pronounced differently throughout early stages of Norse. In the later stages, it was probably little more than a weak schwa or "grunt" (and not a proper -r) in words such as the proper name Sigurðr
  7. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Hi NorwegianNYC,

    Are you saying that the final -r of Sigurðr and other words had become a schwa-like sound even in the pronunciation of Old Icelandic speakers? If that's true, why does modern-day Icelandic have a clear "r" sound at the end of this and similar words? According to Wiktionary, Sigurður is pronounced [sɪːɣʏrðʏr] in Modern Icelandic.
  8. Gisulf New Member

    Italiano - Italy
    Hi, "R" (capital letter) or "r"?

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