Terje S. Torgilstveit
Middle Norwegian and Middle Icelandic
Some similarities and some differences
Þriðjudaginn 20. maí 2014 kl. 16.30
The period roughly from the Black Death until one generation after the Reformation has traditionally been described as rather unstable and it has been labelled as a “middle” period in both Icelandic and Norwegian language history. In this lecture, I will compare some of the major changes in Middle Norwegian with the development in Middle Icelandic and look at some similarities and some differences. At the end of the Middle Norwegian period, the language had lost most of the Old Norse system of inflectional morphology, while Icelandic largely retained it (though some leveling occurred). In addition, the impact of Low German had partially transformed the lexicon in Norwegian. The changes from Old to Modern Icelandic were mainly phonological and some of the minor phonological innovations in Icelandic are shared with western Norwegian dialects. The modern spoken Faroese and Icelandic have gone through a quantity shift. The Mainland Nordic languages have also had quantity shifts, but Icelandic shows that such a shift does not necessarily cause the reduction of vowels in endings. In the written Icelandic of the 15th and 16th century there are examples of Norwegian or Danish forms, Low German words and deviant inflected forms. These occurrences could lead us to believe that Icelandic was at the time developing in the same direction as the Mainland Nordic languages, but this did not happen; the language change was halted and most of these forms gradually disappeared from the Icelandic language. Lastly I will ask the question Why did Icelandic and Norwegian develop in different ways?
Terje S. Torgilstveit is a PhD candidate at the University of Agder. He has previously published on various topics, such as tense and Aktionsart in Old Norse and on Lombardic sound change. He is currently working on a morphological analysis of Middle Norwegian texts and a description of some language changes.