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Beauty of Old Norse (was Re New to the list)

From:BP Jonsson <bpj@...>
Date:Saturday, June 17, 2000, 9:05
>Patrick Dunn wrote: > > >*grins* I once told Dr. Deskis, my Old English prof, that Old Norse was > >the ugliest language I ever saw. She said, "well, if you didn't read it > >with a midwestern accent, it wouldn't be so ugly!" She was right. :)
Can you send me a sample of that? ;-)
> >Still, clusters like skzk still give me pause.
But MSS spellings show that these underlying clusters were much subject to assimilation and simplification just as in the modern Scandinavian languages. Thus {skzk} was probably realized as [s:k] in normal-speed speech. There is this much maligned Swedish word _västkustskt_ -- the strong neuter singular of the adjective "west-coastish". As born and bred on the said coast I would never pronounce it other than ["vEs:k8s:(k)t]. There are some general rules that apply all the way from Snæfellsnes to Viborg, at least where genuine dialect is spoken: the middle one of a three-consonant sequence is dropped, except if the middle C is an /s/, in which case the first C is dropped, thus /"vEstk8stskt/ -> ["vEs:k8s:kt] and in normal casual speech even ["vEsk8st] -- homophonous to _västkust_ "west coast" --, leaving it to context to disambiguate. Oskar svaraði:
>I would never even attempt to say Germanic phonotactics were anything but >"tolerant" (i.e. of clusters), and therefore perhaps a bit "crude" (don't >like the prescriptiveness in that word).
Indeed. Still the final clusters of Germanic is nothing compared to Georgian initial clusters -- tho rumor has it _Tblisi_ is pronounced [?blisi], which is more manageable at least to me!
>Many difficult clusters appear in >modern English as well, such as [NTs] in 'strengths'.
Where the /Ts/ is normally realized as a dental [s]: [srE~s+]; what people think they say, what they say when reading a word-list and what they say in normally-paced speech are three different things!
>And, as your teacher >so eloquently taught you, never judge a language's "beauty" by its >orthography (though the beauty of the orthography can be readily judged, of >course).
Yep. The Englisc had a beautifully sonorous language *and* a beautiful orthography, but then they let those Normans muck with it... [kh@t_?]
> Anyhow, we can't say if Old Norse was particularly beautiful or not. I >suspect it had a similar sound to it as continental Scandinavian of today >(Swedish and Norwegian).
My Icelandic teacher claimed that Snorri Sturluson probably would have had an easier time understanding modern Swedish than modern Icelandic, because while mIc. has preserved the grammar it has changed the phonology radically, while Swedish is essentially the other way around. Suffice it to say that after hearing Älvdalsmål and Gutnish I doubt the accuracy of those claims. The actual old pronunciation was somewhere in-between, I think, as those dialects still are.
>Icelandic sounds very different from the >Scandinavian languages, and very different from the old language as well (it >sounds like no European language you've heard before - lots of fricatives, >just about any consonant can be unvoiced + very melodic intonation).
I think you haven't heard Gaelic ;-) I was startled to hear how similar a feel it has to modern Icelandic. Surely no accident!
>Though >I can't reliably judge, I believe modern Icelandic sounds considerably >better than the old form (and better than the Scandinavian langs as well). >Many Scandinavians have at least agreed with me in that Icelandic is the >most beautiful Nordic language.
Auðvitað! Which doesn't mean that I'm all for my unbeautiful native idiom (Bohuslänska.) But I am biassed by the fact that I resent the lingusitic imperialism of Uppsala Swedish and Copenhagen Danish!
>One more thing: to Icelanders themselves, as well as some foreigners, the >beauty of Icelandic lies much more in its prosodic features than its "actual >sounds" (what are "non-prosodics" called again?).
Segment(al)s. (What would that be in Icelandic? Bítlingar? ;-)
>I would also be inclined >to think that this would very much apply to Old Norse as well. Old Norse/Old >Icelandic poetry is very heavily based on rhythm and intonation,
As was Old English poetry as well.
>and very >little on rhyme (which was introduced from Europe in medieval times). Also, >AFAIR, Old Norse was a pitch accent language,
Most likely, tho not inevitable. The two pitch accents didn't become distinctive until words like akr, sokn, sigl became disyllabic in the mainland languages. Probably ON had a dynamic stress on the first syllable and a pitch rise on the last syllable of every word. When these words became disyllabic there arose a distinction between those disyllabic words with the pitch rise on the first syllable and those of the old final-syllable pitch-rise type. In my experience northern Icelandic still has that non-distinctive pitch rise, tho not as markedly as the dialects of southern Norway and southern Sweden.
>Hope I've managed to maintain interest, > >Kvedjur, >Oskar :)
Kveðjur á þér líka! The former resident expert on Icelandic ;-) /BP B.Philip Jonsson ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~__ A h-ammen pennuid i phith! \ \ __ ____ ____ _____________ ____ __ __ __ / / \ \/___ \\__ \ /___ _____/\ \\__ \\ \ \ \\ \ / / / / / / / \ / /Melroch\ \_/ // / / // / / / / /___/ /_ / /\ \ / /Melarocco\_ // /__/ // /__/ / /_________//_/ \_\/ /Eowine__ / / \___/\_\\___/\_\ Gwaedhvenn Angelmiel\ \_____/ / a/ /_adar Merthol naun ~~~~~~~~~Cuinondil~~~\_______/~~~\__/~~~Noolendur~~~~~~ || Lenda lenda pellalenda pellatellenda cuivie aiya! || "A coincidence, as we say in Middle-Earth" (JRR Tolkien)