Old Norse, the language of the Vikings, is a North Germanic language once
spoken in Scandinavia, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, and in parts
of Russia, France and the British Isles. The modern language most closely
related to Old Norse is Icelandic, the written form of which has changed
little over the years, while the spoken form has undergone significant changes.
The earliest known inscriptions in Scandinavia date from the the 2nd century
AD and were written in Runes mainly on stone, or on personal artifacts such as
brooches and swords. The majority of these inscription have been found in
Denmark and Sweden, and they are written in a dialect much more archaic than
Old Norse itself.
Most Old Norse literature was written in Iceland and includes the Eddas,
poems about gods and mythic origins, or the heroes of an earlier age; Scaldic
poetry, which was concerned with extolling the virtues and telling tales of
the notable exploits of kings and other patrons; and the Sagas, stories of
historical figures or groups intended as entertainment.
Between 800 and 1050 AD a division began to appear between East Norse, which
developed into Swedish and Danish,
and West Norse, which developed into Norwegian,
Faroese, Icelandic and
Norn, an extinct language once spoken in Shetland, Orkney, and northern parts of
Old Norse pronunciation
Sample texts in Old Norse
Þórr heitir áss, ok er sterkr mjök ok oft reiðr.
Hann á hamar góðan. Þórr ferr oft til Jötunheima
ok vegr þar marga jötna með hamrinum. Þórr á
ok vagn er flýgr. Hann ekr vagninum um himininn. Þar er Þórr
ekr, er stormr.
A god is named Thor. He is very strong and often angry. He has a good hammer.
Thor often goes to Gianthome and slays many giants there with the hammer. Thor
also has a carriage that flies. He drives the carriage through the sky. Where Thor
drives there is storm.
Faðer uor som ast i himlüm, halgað warðe þit nama. Tilkomme
þit rikie. Skie þin uilie so som i himmalan so oh bo iordanne. Wort
dahliha broð gif os i dah. Oh forlat os uora skuldar so som oh ui
forlate þem os skuüldihi are. Oh inleð os ikkie i frestalsan utan frels
os ifra ondo. Tü rikiað ar þit oh mahtan oh harlihheten i ewihhet. Aman.
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