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

From:Oskar Gudlaugsson <hr_oskar@...>
Date:Saturday, June 17, 2000, 4:44
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. :) >Still, clusters like skzk still give me pause.
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). Many difficult clusters appear in modern English as well, such as [NTs] in 'strengths'. 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). Nordic orthographic conventions differ considerably from the Romance, which have characterized English orthography (pre-Norman English orthography did have some influence on Nordic scribes, c.f. introduction of the English characters 'þ' and 'ð' ('thorn' and 'eth') into Old Norse - though 'ð' was completely redundant and should never have been there). 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). 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). 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. 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?). 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, and very little on rhyme (which was introduced from Europe in medieval times). Also, AFAIR, Old Norse was a pitch accent language, like Latin. But don't take me at my word there (not the kind of info my school system has concerned itself with). Hope I've managed to maintain interest, Kvedjur, Oskar :) ________________________________________________________________________ Get Your Private, Free E-mail from MSN Hotmail at