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Old Norse Online

Lesson 2

Todd B. Krause and Jonathan Slocum

The Farmstead

Contrary to what the records of Continental Europe would have us believe, viking life consited more of farming than of going 'a-viking'. Even for those adventurers who did join the raiding parties, it was essentially a seasonal activity, with the off-season involving tending to matters at the homestead. Though the disparate lands and climates inhabited by the Scandinavians led to a diversity of home activities, there are a few general trends of the society as a whole. In all the reaches of their expanse, the Scandinavians tended animals, mostly for dairy products, but also for meat and hides. This practice was mixed with genuine agriculture, particularly the cultivation of grains. Where the land was more fertile in the southern regions, cultivation made up the greater portion of the farming endeavor; but as one proceeds farther north and the land becomes less tillable, the rearing of animals takes over as the farming mainstay. In the eastern regions, these farming practices were typically supplemented by hunting wild animals and birds. Fishing and the hunting of seals, walruses, and whales were part of the general Scandinavian arsenal, not only for sustinence, but also for purposes of trading hides, ivory, and oil.

There were a few common methods of constructing the houses and other farm buildings. By far the most prevalent, both for the convenience of the materials and the readiness of construction, was turf construction. Walls would be heaped up from the surrounding turf, and wood would only be used to form the roof. In those regions more dense with wooded areas, houses would be built from timber. One method involved using vertical planks set edge-to-edge; another method involved placing horizontal planks between vertical posts.

Scandinavian house design was quite consistent over the wide region of their expanse. The basic house consisted of one long room, anywhere from 40 to 100 feet long, and tapering at either end in a fashion similar to a ship's hull. Two rows of posts ran along the middle to support the weight of the roof. Along each long wall ran a floor of raised earth, held with smooth boards or stone. The central floor sat below these, the center occupied by one or more stone-lined hearths and a cooking pit. In the earliest days these structures seemed to house both humans and animals, but by the time of the Viking Age, the farm animals were relegated to separate structures either appended to the long house or set off at a distance. The long house itself was often sectioned by wooden walls enclosing small areas at either end for storage and sleeping quarters. Later houses separated the kitchen, some walled off an entrance area, and others separated sleeping quarters from the rooms of daytime activities. The later houses lost the characteristic curve of the long walls.

An entire farmstead, of course, consisted of more than just a single dwelling. The excavations at Jarlshof in the Shetlands have uncovered the development of a farmstead which seems to have occured in stages. The original long house seems to have been built first, only followed some 40 or 50 years later by other structures. A second long house was built, presumably for the next generation, divided into a dwelling space and a cowhouse. Near the orignal long house was a separate outhouse divided into sections. There was also a separate stable, with cobbled floor, and a smithy separate from these, containing an anvil, hearth, and lumps of iron slag. There was yet another separate structure, whose purpose is not altogether clear, but was perhaps a barn.

The farming year began when the snow melted. This exposed the grass for grazing the cattle, and marked the time for planting cereal crops. Primarily these consisted of barley and oats. The plough was usually drawn by oxen, and was made in two styles. One was a wheel-drawn plough which was very heavy, and another was a lighter plough merely held and guided by the farmer. This was also the time to replenish the fuel stores by digging peat and cutting wood.

The period from roughly May to June consisted of weaning the lambs, shearing the flocks, and finally driving the animals to upland pastures in the hills. In this upland area a farm typically had a separate living quarter where some of the household would live during the summer months. The cows would be milked and butter and cheese would be made.

Following this, a period of haymaking began in July and continued through August and into September. Grass was cut, rolled to dry, and stored in barns or protected with turf. This period overlapped with the harvest, which began in late August or early September. At the same time, livestock was gathered from the hills, and the owner would make an estimate based on the harvest as to how many animals could be kept alive for the winter. The rest were slaughtered and their meat dried. The winter months were devoted to work inside as much as possible. Often animals would be left outside in the cold as much as they could handle it, but the cows could not endure such conditions, and so were kept inside and hay brought to them. Women often took to indoor necessities such as weaving and needlework, using the wool cut earlier in the year.

Author Introduction

Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241) is generally viewed by historians as the educated Scandinavian par excellence, a leading figure in the social, political, and literary life of Iceland at the time. Snorri travelled on at least two occasions to the court of the Norwegian king Hákon Hákonarson and appears to have agreed to promote the interests of the king and his father-in-law Skúli in Iceland. Skúli rebelled, however, against the king and was eventually killed in 1240. Snorri too fell out of favor with the king; eventually he was killed in his own home on the orders of the Icelander Gizurr Þorvaldsson.

Snorri has a great literary corpus to his credit. His literary productivity is at times extended too far, as historians attempt to assign to his authorship this and that extant work of unknown provenance. But several works are fairly certainly ascribed to Snorri. Several of his poems are quoted in Sturlunga saga and Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar. Heimskringla, a collection of stories of legendary and historical kings of Norway, was likely compiled by Snorri. Some ascribe Egils saga to Snorri's talent, but there is no direct evidence for such a claim.

The Prose Edda is paramount among Snorri's literary contributions. The work is in three parts: the Prologue and Gylfaginning, containing accounts of the mythology of Scandinavia; the Skáldskaparmál ('poetic diction'), a treatise on the mechanics of poetic composition; and the Háttatál, a description of poetic verse-forms.

Lesson 2 Text

The following passage begins the Prologue of Snorri's Edda. Lest one be lulled into believing that Iceland was the last bastion of true polytheistic worship in medieval Europe, the passage below clearly illustrates that, by Snorri's time, Christianity had found firm footing on this isolated island. Certainly Scandinavians, and Icelanders in particular, had held on to earlier beliefs until a relatively late date. But the following passage makes clear that, at least in many educated circles, the remants of the older ways were being reinterpreted from a Christian viewpoint. In this way, Snorri's Prologue is strikingly modern in its stance and tone.

Almáttigr guð skapaði himin ok jǫrð ok alla þá hluti er þeim fylgja, ok síðarst menn tvá er ættir eru frá komnar, Adam ok Evu, ok fjǫlgaðisk þeira kynslóð ok dreifðisk um heim allan.

  • almáttigr -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <almáttigr> almighty -- almighty
  • guð -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <guð> god -- god # neuter in form, but with masc. concord
  • skapaði -- verb; 3rd singular past of <skapa (að)> create; make, shape; determine -- created
  • himin -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <himinn> heaven, sky -- heaven
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • jǫrð -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <jǫrð> earth, world; ground, soil -- earth
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • alla -- adjective; accusative plural masculine of <allr> all, whole; every -- all
  • þá -- demonstrative used as adjective; accusative plural masculine of <> that -- the
  • hluti -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <hlutr> part, piece, thing -- things
  • er -- relative particle; <er> who, which; when -- which
  • þeim -- demonstrative used as pronoun; dative plural neuter of <> that -- to them
  • fylgja -- verb; 3rd plural present of <fylgja (gð)> belong to, attend to, accompany, serve, appertain to -- belong
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • síðarst -- adverb; superlative of <síð> late -- finally
  • menn -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <maðr> man, person; husband; henchman -- people
  • tvá -- numeral; accusative plural masculine of <tveir> two -- two # note not neuter, though the referents' (Adam and Eve's) genders differ, by proximity to menn
  • er -- relative particle; <er> who, which; when -- whom
  • ættir -- noun, feminine; nominative plural of <ætt> direction, region; family, line; stock, tribe; ancestry -- races
  • eru -- verb; 3rd plural present of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- ...
  • frá -- preposition; <frá> from; concerning -- from
  • komnar -- past participle; nominative plural feminine of <koma> come, arrive; reach; obtain; occur -- descended
  • Adam -- proper noun, masculine; accusative singular of <Adam> Adam -- Adam
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • Evu -- proper noun, feminine; accusative singular of <Eva> Eve -- Eve
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • fjǫlgaðisk -- verb; 3rd plural past middle of <fjǫlgask (að)> multiply -- multiplied
  • þeira -- demonstrative used as pronoun; genitive plural neuter of <> that -- their
  • kynslóð -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <kynslóð> progeny, family line -- progeny
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • dreifðisk -- verb; 3rd plural past middle of <dreifa (ð)> scatter (dat.); besprinkle (acc.) -- dispersed
  • um -- preposition; <um> over, across; through, throughout; round, about; concerning -- across
  • heim -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <heimr> region; world -- land
  • allan -- adjective; accusative singular masculine of <allr> all, whole; every -- all the

En er fram liðu stundir, þá ójafnaðisk mannfólkit: váru sumir góðir ok rétt trúaðir, en myklu fleiri snerusk eptir girndum heimsins ok órœktu guðs boðorð, ok fyrir því drekti guð heiminum í sjávargangi ok ǫllum kvikvendum heimsins nema þeim er í ǫrkinni váru með Nóa.

  • en -- conjunction; <en> but, and; than -- but
  • er -- relative particle; <er> who, which; when -- as
  • fram -- adverb; <fram> forward, on; away; out -- by
  • liðu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <líða> move, go; pass, progress -- went
  • stundir -- noun, feminine; nominative plural of <stund> period of time; hour; time -- time
  • þá -- adverb; <þá> then -- ...
  • ójafnaðisk -- verb; 3rd singular past middle of <ójafnask (að)> become unequal, diverse -- diversified
  • mannfólkit -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <mannfolk> mankind; people + definite article; nominative singular neuter of <inn> the -- the people
  • váru -- verb; 3rd plural past of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- were
  • sumir -- adjective used as substantive; nominative plural masculine of <sumr> some -- some
  • góðir -- adjective; nominative plural masculine of <góðr> good -- good
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • rétt -- adverb; <rétt> right, rightly -- very
  • trúaðir -- past participle; nominative plural masculine of <trúa (ð)> believe, trust, have faith in -- faithful
  • en -- conjunction; <en> but, and; than -- but
  • myklu -- adjective; dative singular neuter of <mikill> great, large, big; severe -- far
  • fleiri -- comparative adjective; nominative plural masculine of <fleiri> more; further, other -- more
  • snerusk -- verb; 3rd plural past middle of <snúa> plait, tie, twist; turn -- took
  • eptir -- preposition; <eptir> after, behind; for, to obtain; along; according to; in succession to -- to
  • girndum -- noun, feminine; dative plural of <girnd> desire -- the pleasures
  • heimsins -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <heimr> region; world + definite article; genitive singular masculine of <inn> the -- of the land
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • órœktu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <órœkja (kt)> neglect, fail to heed -- spurned
  • guðs -- noun, neuter; genitive singular of <guð> god -- god's # neuter in form, but with masc. concord
  • boðorð -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <boðorð> commandment -- command
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • fyrir -- preposition; <fyrir> before, in front of; against; because of, for -- -fore
  • því -- demonstrative used as pronoun; dative singular neuter of <> that -- there-
  • drekti -- verb; 3rd singular past of <drekkja (kt)> drown (dat.) -- submerged
  • guð -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <guð> god -- god # neuter in form, but with masc. concord
  • heiminum -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <heimr> region; world + definite article; dative singular masculine of <inn> the -- the land
  • í -- preposition; <í> in, within; among; during; into, onto -- in
  • sjávargangi -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <sævargangr> surge of sea; flood -- flood
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- as well as
  • ǫllum -- adjective; dative plural neuter of <allr> all, whole; every -- all the
  • kvikvendum -- adjective used as substantive; dative plural neuter of <kvikvendi> living being, creature; animals -- creatures
  • heimsins -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <heimr> region; world + definite article; genitive singular masculine of <inn> the -- of the land
  • nema -- conjunction; <nema> unless; except -- save
  • þeim -- demonstrative used as pronoun; dative plural neuter of <> that -- those
  • er -- relative particle; <er> who, which; when -- which
  • í -- preposition; <í> in, within; among; during; into, onto -- in
  • ǫrkinni -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <ǫrk> ark + definite article; dative singular feminine of <inn> the -- the ark
  • váru -- verb; 3rd plural past of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- were
  • með -- preposition; <með> with; by means of; among; along -- with
  • Nóa -- proper noun, masculine; dative singular of <Nói> Noah -- Noah

Eptir Nóa flóð lifðu átta menn þeir er heiminn bygðu ok kómu frá þeim ættir, ok varð enn sem fyrr at þá er fjǫlmentisk ok bygðisk verǫldin þá var þat allr fjǫlði mannfólksins er elskaði ágirni fja/r ok metnaðar en afrœktusk guðs hlýðni, ok svá mikit gerðisk af því at þeir vildu eigi nefna guð.

  • eptir -- preposition; <eptir> after, behind; for, to obtain; along; according to; in succession to -- after
  • Nóa -- proper noun, masculine; genitive singular of <Nói> Noah -- Noah's
  • flóð -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <flóð> flood -- flood
  • lifðu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <lifa (ð)> live -- lived
  • átta -- numeral; <átta> eight -- eight
  • menn -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <maðr> man, person; husband; henchman -- men
  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <> that -- ...
  • er -- relative particle; <er> who, which; when -- who
  • heiminn -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <heimr> region; world + definite article; accusative singular masculine of <inn> the -- the land
  • bygðu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <byggja (gð)> dwell, settle; build, inhabit -- settled
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • kómu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <koma> come, arrive; reach; obtain; occur -- descended
  • frá -- preposition; <frá> from; concerning -- from
  • þeim -- demonstrative used as pronoun; dative plural masculine of <> that -- them
  • ættir -- noun, feminine; nominative plural of <ætt> direction, region; family, line; stock, tribe; ancestry -- races
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • varð -- verb; 3rd singular past of <verða> happen, come to pass; befall; chance to be; become -- it happened
  • enn -- adverb; <enn> still; also; yet; further; again; moreover; even -- just
  • sem -- relative particle; <sem> as; as if, that; while; when; where -- as
  • fyrr -- adverb; <fyrir> before, in front of; against; because of, for -- before
  • at -- conjunction; <at> that -- that
  • þá -- adverb; <þá> then -- ...
  • er -- relative particle; <er> who, which; when -- when
  • fjǫlmentisk -- verb; 3rd singular past middle of <fjǫlmennask (t)> become peopled, full of people -- was populated
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • bygðisk -- verb; 3rd singular past middle of <byggja (gð)> dwell, settle; build, inhabit -- settled
  • verǫldin -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <verǫld> world + definite article; nominative singular feminine of <inn> the -- the world
  • þá -- adverb; <þá> then -- ...
  • var -- verb; 3rd singular past of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- occurred (that)
  • þat -- demonstrative used as pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <> that -- it
  • allr -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <allr> all, whole; every -- the
  • fjǫlði -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <fjǫlði> multitude -- majority
  • mannfólksins -- noun, neuter; genitive singular of <mannfolk> mankind; people + definite article; genitive singular neuter of <inn> the -- of the population
  • er -- relative particle; <er> who, which; when -- ...
  • elskaði -- verb; 3rd singular past of <elska (að)> love -- preferred
  • ágirni -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <ágirni> greed -- hunger
  • fja/r -- noun, neuter; genitive singular of <> cattle; sheep; money; possessions -- for wealth
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • metnaðar -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <metnaðr> glory -- glory
  • en -- conjunction; <en> but, and; than -- and
  • afrœktusk -- verb; 3rd plural past middle of <afrœkjask (kt)> neglect -- set aside
  • guðs -- noun, neuter; genitive singular of <guð> god -- god's
  • hlýðni -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <hlýðni> obedience -- obedience
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • svá -- adverb; <svá> so, thus, in this way; also; as, as if -- so
  • mikit -- adverb; accusative singular neuter of <mikill> great, large, big; severe -- far
  • gerðisk -- verb; 3rd singular past reflexive of <gera (ð)> do, perform; act; make, build; finish -- went
  • af -- preposition; <af> out of, from; with; concerning; because of -- ...
  • því -- demonstrative used as pronoun; dative singular neuter of <> that -- ...
  • at -- conjunction; <at> that -- that
  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <hann> this one -- they
  • vildu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <vilja> will, wish, be willing; intend -- desired
  • eigi -- adverb; <eigi> not -- no longer
  • nefna -- verb; infinitive of <nefna (d)> name, call; mention -- to speak the name of
  • guð -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <guð> god -- god

En hverr mundi þá segja sonum þeira frá guðs stórmerkjum? Svá kom at þeir týndu guðs nafni ok víðast um verǫldina fansk eigi sá maðr er deili kunni á skapara sínum.

  • en -- conjunction; <en> but, and; than -- but
  • hverr -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <hverr> who, which, what; each, every -- who
  • mundi -- verb; 3rd singular past of <munu> will, be about to; will be; must; might -- could
  • þá -- adverb; <þá> then -- then
  • segja -- verb; infinitive of <segja (sagða)> say, speak; tell, tell of; relate -- tell
  • sonum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <sonr> son -- sons
  • þeira -- demonstrative used as pronoun; genitive plural masculine of <hann> this one -- their
  • frá -- preposition; <frá> from; concerning -- about
  • guðs -- noun, neuter; genitive singular of <guð> god -- god's
  • stórmerkjum -- noun, neuter; dative plural of <stórmerki> notable thing; mystery, sacrament -- great works
  • svá -- adverb; <svá> so, thus, in this way; also; as, as if -- so
  • kom -- verb; 3rd singular past of <koma> come, arrive; reach; obtain; occur -- it came about
  • at -- conjunction; <at> that -- that
  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <hann> this one -- they
  • týndu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <týna (d)> lose; forget (dat.) -- forgot
  • guðs -- noun, neuter; genitive singular of <guð> god -- god's
  • nafni -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <nafn> name -- name
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • víðast -- adverb; superlative of <víða> widely, in many places; extensively -- in most places
  • um -- preposition; <um> over, across; through, throughout; round, about; concerning -- around
  • verǫldina -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <verǫld> world + definite article; accusative singular feminine of <inn> the -- the world
  • fansk -- verb; 3rd singular past middle of <finna> find, meet; discover; notice; invent -- could... be found
  • eigi -- adverb; <eigi> not -- not
  • -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <> that -- a
  • maðr -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <maðr> man, person; husband; henchman -- man
  • er -- relative particle; <er> who, which; when -- who
  • deili -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <deili> (pl.) details -- the details
  • kunni -- verb; 3rd singular past of <kunna> know, know how to; be able -- knew
  • á -- preposition; <á> on, upon; at, in; to, towards; by means of; during; in the manner of -- of
  • skapara -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <skapari> creator -- creator
  • sínum -- possessive adjective; dative singular masculine of <sínn> own, one's own -- his

En eigi at síðr veitti guð þeim jarðligar giptir, fé ok sælu, er þeir skyldu við vera í heiminum. Miðlaði hann ok spekina svá at þeir skilðu alla jarðliga hluti ok allar greinir þær er sjá mátti loptsins ok jarðarinnar.

  • en -- conjunction; <en> but, and; than -- but
  • eigi at síðr -- conjunction; <eigi_at_síðr> nontheless -- nonetheless
  • veitti -- verb; 3rd singular past of <veita (tt)> grant, give; help; pay, yield; (recip.) back one another -- gave
  • guð -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <guð> god -- god # neuter in form, but with masc. concord
  • þeim -- demonstrative used as pronoun; dative plural masculine of <> that -- them
  • jarðligar -- adjective; accusative plural feminine of <jarðligr> earthly; worldly -- earthly
  • giptir -- noun, feminine; accusative plural of <gipt> gift -- gifts
  • -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <> cattle; sheep; money; possessions -- property
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • sælu -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <sæla> happiness; prosperity -- prosperity
  • er -- relative particle; <er> who, which; when -- which
  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <hann> this one -- they
  • skyldu -- verb; 3rd plural past subjunctive of <skulu> shall, must, ought -- should
  • við -- adverb; <við> reaching to, against, with; towards, at; in exchange for; by; (together) with, close to; because of -- ...
  • vera -- verb; infinitive of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- possess
  • í -- preposition; <í> in, within; among; during; into, onto -- on
  • heiminum -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <heimr> region; world + definite article; dative singular masculine of <inn> the -- the land
  • miðlaði -- verb; 3rd singular past of <miðla (að)> share out, distribute -- distributed
  • hann -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hann> this one -- he
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- also
  • spekina -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <speki> wisdom; branch of learning, body of knowledge + definite article; accusative singular feminine of <inn> the -- wisdom
  • svá -- adverb; <svá> so, thus, in this way; also; as, as if -- so
  • at -- conjunction; <at> that -- that
  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <hann> this one -- they
  • skilðu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <skilja (ð, d)> divide, separate; disband; understand, perceive -- distinguished
  • alla -- adjective; accusative plural masculine of <allr> all, whole; every -- all the
  • jarðliga -- adjective; accusative plural masculine of <jarðligr> earthly; worldly -- earthly
  • hluti -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <hlutr> part, piece, thing -- things
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • allar -- adjective; accusative plural feminine of <allr> all, whole; every -- all the
  • greinir -- noun, feminine; accusative plural of <grein> branch, division; particular, detail -- details
  • þær -- demonstrative used as pronoun; accusative plural feminine of <> that -- which
  • er -- relative particle; <er> who, which; when -- ...
  • sjá -- verb; infinitive of <sjá> see, perceive; find; understand; look -- discern
  • mátti -- verb; 3rd plural past of <mega> be able to, can; may -- one could
  • loptsins -- noun, neuter; genitive singular of <lopt> air, sky; upper room + definite article; genitive singular neuter of <inn> the -- of the air # read alternatively as adverbial genitive 'in the air'
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • jarðarinnar -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <jǫrð> earth, world; ground, soil + definite article; genitive singular feminine of <inn> the -- the earth # read alternatively as adverbial genitive 'on the earth'

Þat hugsuðu þeir ok undruðusk hverju þat mundi gegna at jǫrðin ok dýrin ok fuglarnir hǫfðu saman eðli í sumum hlutum ok var þó ólíkt at hætti.

  • þat -- demonstrative used as pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <> that -- this
  • hugsuðu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <hugsa (að)> consider, think over; determine -- contemplated
  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <hann> this one -- they
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • undruðusk -- verb; 3rd plural past middle of <undrask (að)> wonder, be astonished (at) -- wondered
  • hverju -- interrogative pronoun; dative singular neuter of <hverr> who, which, what; each, every -- what
  • þat -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <> that -- it
  • mundi -- verb; 3rd singular past of <munu> will, be about to; will be; must; might -- might
  • gegna -- verb; infinitive of <gegna (d)> (dat.) be suitable for; mean, bode -- mean
  • at -- conjunction; <at> that -- that
  • jǫrðin -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <jǫrð> earth, world; ground, soil + definite article; nominative singular feminine of <inn> the -- the earth
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • dýrin -- noun, neuter; nominative plural of <dýr> (wild) animal + definite article; nominative plural neuter of <inn> the -- the animals
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • fuglarnir -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <fugl> bird + definite article; nominative plural neuter of <inn> the -- the birds
  • hǫfðu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <hafa (ð)> have, keep; hold; accept -- had
  • saman -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <samr> same + definite article; accusative singular neuter of <inn> the -- the same
  • eðli -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <eðli> nature, characteristic(s) -- nature
  • í -- preposition; <í> in, within; among; during; into, onto -- in
  • sumum -- adjective; dative plural masculine of <sumr> some -- certain
  • hlutum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <hlutr> part, piece, thing -- respects
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • var -- verb; 3rd singular past of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- there was
  • þó -- adverb; <þó> yet, and yet; however, nevertheless -- nevertheless
  • ólíkt -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <ólíkr> unlike, unlike to, different from -- dissimilarity
  • at -- preposition; <at> to, towards, against; at, in; from; according to; regarding; concerning; after -- in
  • hætti -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <háttr> kind, type; (pl.) activity, habits, behavior -- type

Þat var eitt eðli at jǫrðin var grafin í hám fjalltindum ok spratt þar vatn upp ok þurfti þar eigi lengra at grafa til vaz en í djúpum dǫlum. Svá eru ok dýr ok fuglar, at jafnlangt er til blóðs í hǫfði ok fótum.

  • þat -- demonstrative used as pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <> that -- ...
  • var -- verb; 3rd singular past of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- was
  • eitt -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <einn> one; a certain, particular -- one
  • eðli -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <eðli> nature, characteristic(s) -- characteristic
  • at -- conjunction; <at> that -- that
  • jǫrðin -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <jǫrð> earth, world; ground, soil + definite article; nominative singular feminine of <inn> the -- the earth
  • var -- verb; 3rd singular past of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- was
  • grafin -- past participle; nominative singular feminine of <grafa> dig; engrave, inlay -- piled up
  • í -- preposition; <í> in, within; among; during; into, onto -- in
  • hám -- adjective; dative plural masculine of <hár> tall, high; loud -- high
  • fjalltindum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <fjalltindr> mountain top -- mountaintops
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • spratt -- verb; 3rd singular past of <spretta> spring -- sprang
  • þar -- adverb; <þar> there, in that place -- there
  • vatn -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <vatn> water; lake; waterway; river -- water
  • upp -- adverb; <upp> up -- forth
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • þurfti -- verb; 3rd singular past of <þurfa (þarf, þurfta)> need; (impers.) be necessary -- there was... need
  • þar -- adverb; <þar> there, in that place -- ...
  • eigi -- adverb; <eigi> not -- no
  • lengra -- adverb; comparative of <lengi> long; far; for a long time -- further
  • at -- preposition; <at> to, towards, against; at, in; from; according to; regarding; concerning; after -- to
  • grafa -- verb; infinitive of <grafa> dig; engrave, inlay -- dig
  • til -- preposition; <til> in; of, concerning; on; as, for, to obtain; until, to, up to the time -- for
  • vaz -- noun, neuter; genitive singular of <vatn> water; lake; waterway; river -- water
  • en -- conjunction; <en> but, and; than -- than
  • í -- preposition; <í> in, within; among; during; into, onto -- in
  • djúpum -- adjective; dative plural masculine of <djúpr> deep -- deep
  • dǫlum -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <dalr> dale, dell, valley -- valleys
  • svá -- adverb; <svá> so, thus, in this way; also; as, as if -- such
  • eru -- verb; 3rd plural present of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- are
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • dýr -- noun, neuter; nominative plural of <dýr> (wild) animal -- the animals
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • fuglar -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <fugl> bird -- birds
  • at -- conjunction; <at> that -- so that
  • jafnlangt -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <jafnlangr> of equal length -- equally far
  • er -- verb; 3rd singular present of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- it is
  • til -- preposition; <til> in; of, concerning; on; as, for, to obtain; until, to, up to the time -- for
  • blóðs -- noun, neuter; genitive singular of <blóð> blood -- blood
  • í -- preposition; <í> in, within; among; during; into, onto -- to
  • hǫfði -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <hǫfuð> head -- the head
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- or
  • fótum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <fótr> foot; leg -- feet

Ǫnnur náttúra er sú jarðar at á hverju ári vex á jǫrðunni gras ok blóm ok á sama ári fellr þat allt ok fǫlnar. Svá eru ok dýr ok fuglar, at þeim vex hár ok fjaðrar ok fellr af á hverju ári.

  • ǫnnur -- adjective; nominative singular feminine of <annarr> other, another; second, next; one (of two) -- another
  • náttúra -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <náttúra> nature, characteristic quality, property -- feature
  • er -- verb; 3rd singular present of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- is
  • -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative singular feminine of <> that -- ...
  • jarðar -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <jǫrð> earth, world; ground, soil -- of the earth
  • at -- conjunction; <at> that -- that
  • á -- preposition; <á> on, upon; at, in; to, towards; by means of; during; in the manner of -- ...
  • hverju -- adjective; dative singular neuter of <hverr> who, which, what; each, every -- each
  • ári -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <ár> year; (good) season -- year
  • vex -- verb; 3rd singular present of <vaxa> wax, grow, increase -- grows
  • á -- preposition; <á> on, upon; at, in; to, towards; by means of; during; in the manner of -- on
  • jǫrðunni -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <jǫrð> earth, world; ground, soil + definite article; dative singular feminine of <inn> the -- the earth
  • gras -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <gras> grass, pasture; vegetation -- greenery
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • blóm -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <blóm> flower -- flowers
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • á -- preposition; <á> on, upon; at, in; to, towards; by means of; during; in the manner of -- in
  • sama -- adjective; weak dative singular neuter of <samr> same -- the same
  • ári -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <ár> year; (good) season -- year
  • fellr -- verb; 3rd singular present of <falla> fall, fall down; flow; be slain -- falls
  • þat -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <> that -- it
  • allt -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <allr> all, whole; every -- all
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • fǫlnar -- verb; 3rd singular present of <fǫlna (að)> grow pale; fade -- fades
  • svá -- adverb; <svá> so, thus, in this way; also; as, as if -- such
  • eru -- verb; 3rd plural present of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- are
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • dýr -- noun, neuter; nominative plural of <dýr> (wild) animal -- the animals
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • fuglar -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <fugl> bird -- birds
  • at -- conjunction; <at> that -- so that
  • þeim -- demonstrative used as pronoun; dative plural neuter of <> that -- upon them
  • vex -- verb; 3rd singular present of <vaxa> wax, grow, increase -- grow
  • hár -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <hár> hair -- hair
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • fjaðrar -- noun, feminine; nominative plural of <fjǫðr> feather -- feathers
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • fellr -- verb; 3rd singular present of <falla> fall, fall down; flow; be slain -- fall
  • af -- adverb; <af> out of, from; with; concerning; because of -- off
  • á -- preposition; <á> on, upon; at, in; to, towards; by means of; during; in the manner of -- ...
  • hverju -- adjective; dative singular neuter of <hverr> who, which, what; each, every -- each
  • ári -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <ár> year; (good) season -- year

Þat er hin þriðja náttúra jarðar þá er hon er opnuð ok grafin þá grœr gras á þeiri moldu er efst er á jǫrðunni. Bjǫrg ok steina þýddu þeir á móti tǫnnum ok beinum kvikvenda.

  • þat -- demonstrative used as pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <> that -- ...
  • er -- verb; 3rd singular present of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- is
  • hin -- demonstrative used as adjective; nominative singular feminine of <hinn> this one; that; the -- the
  • þriðja -- adjective; weak nominative singular feminine of <þriði> third -- third
  • náttúra -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <náttúra> nature, characteristic quality, property -- characteristic
  • jarðar -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <jǫrð> earth, world; ground, soil -- of the earth
  • þá -- adverb; <þá> then -- ...
  • er -- relative particle; <er> who, which; when -- when
  • hon -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative singular feminine of <hann> this one -- she
  • er -- verb; 3rd singular present of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- is
  • opnuð -- past participle; nominative singular feminine of <opna (að)> (cut) open -- opened
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • grafin -- past participle; nominative singular feminine of <grafa> dig; engrave, inlay -- dug up
  • þá -- adverb; <þá> then -- then
  • grœr -- verb; 3rd singular present of <gróa> grow -- grows
  • gras -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <gras> grass, pasture; vegetation -- the grass
  • á -- preposition; <á> on, upon; at, in; to, towards; by means of; during; in the manner of -- in
  • þeiri -- demonstrative used as adjective; dative singular feminine of <> that -- the
  • moldu -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <mold> soil, earth (as substance) -- soil
  • er -- relative particle; <er> who, which; when -- which
  • efst -- superlative adjective; nominative singular feminine of <efstr> uppermost, highest -- topmost
  • er -- verb; 3rd singular present of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- is
  • á -- preposition; <á> on, upon; at, in; to, towards; by means of; during; in the manner of -- on
  • jǫrðunni -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <jǫrð> earth, world; ground, soil + definite article; dative singular feminine of <inn> the -- the earth
  • bjǫrg -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <bjarg> rock; mountain -- the rocks
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • steina -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <steinn> stone, rock -- stones
  • þýddu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <þýða (dd)> make equivalent, interpret as -- likened
  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <hann> this one -- they
  • á móti -- preposition; <á> on, upon; at, in; to, towards; by means of; during; in the manner of + noun; dative singular neuter of <mót> meeting -- to
  • tǫnnum -- noun, feminine; dative plural of <tǫnn> tooth -- the teeth
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • beinum -- noun, neuter; dative plural of <bein> bone; ivory -- bones
  • kvikvenda -- adjective used as substantive; genitive plural neuter of <kvikvendi> living being, creature; animals -- of living creatures

Af þessu skilðu þeir svá at jǫrðin væri kyk ok hefði líf með nokkurum hætti, ok þat vissu þeir at hon var furðuliga gǫmul at aldartali ok máttug í eðli.

  • af -- preposition; <af> out of, from; with; concerning; because of -- from
  • þessu -- demonstrative used as pronoun; dative singular feminine of <sjá> this -- this
  • skilðu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <skilja (ð, d)> divide, separate; disband; understand, perceive -- reasoned
  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <hann> this one -- they
  • svá -- adverb; <svá> so, thus, in this way; also; as, as if -- ...
  • at -- conjunction; <at> that -- that
  • jǫrðin -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <jǫrð> earth, world; ground, soil + definite article; nominative singular feminine of <inn> the -- the earth
  • væri -- verb; 3rd singular past subjunctive of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- could be
  • kyk -- adjective; nominative singular feminine of <kykr> alive, animate -- living
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • hefði -- verb; 3rd singular past subjunctive of <hafa (ð)> have, keep; hold; accept -- have
  • líf -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <líf> life -- life
  • með -- preposition; <með> with; by means of; among; along -- of
  • nokkurum -- adjective; dative singular masculine of <nakkvarr, nǫkkurr> a, a certain; any -- a certain
  • hætti -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <háttr> kind, type; (pl.) activity, habits, behavior -- sort
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • þat -- demonstrative used as pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <> that -- this
  • vissu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <vita (ssi)> know, be aware of; understand; know how (to); know of; find out -- understood
  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <hann> this one -- they
  • at -- conjunction; <at> that -- that
  • hon -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative singular feminine of <hann> this one -- it
  • var -- verb; 3rd singular past of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- was
  • furðuliga -- adverb; <furðuliga> terribly -- exceedingly
  • gǫmul -- adjective; nominative singular feminine of <gamall> old -- old
  • at -- preposition; <at> to, towards, against; at, in; from; according to; regarding; concerning; after -- in
  • aldartali -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <aldartal> count of time, age -- years
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • máttug -- adjective; nominative singular feminine of <máttugr> mighty -- rich
  • í -- preposition; <í> in, within; among; during; into, onto -- in
  • eðli -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <eðli> nature, characteristic(s) -- character

Hon fœddi ǫll kvikvendi ok hon eignaðisk allt þat er dó. Fyrir þá sǫk gáfu þeir henni nafn ok tǫlðu ættir sínar til hennar.

  • hon -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative singular feminine of <hann> this one -- she
  • fœddi -- verb; 3rd singular past of <fœða (dd)> feed; nurse; rear, bring up -- fed
  • ǫll -- adjective; accusative plural neuter of <allr> all, whole; every -- all the
  • kvikvendi -- adjective used as substantive; accusative plural neuter of <kvikvendi> living being, creature; animals -- living creatures
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • hon -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative singular feminine of <hann> this one -- ...
  • eignaðisk -- verb; 3rd singular past middle of <eigna (að)> take possession of -- took to herself
  • allt -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <allr> all, whole; every -- all
  • þat -- demonstrative used as pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <> that -- that
  • er -- relative particle; <er> who, which; when -- ...
  • -- verb; 3rd singular past of <deyja> die, pass away -- died
  • fyrir -- preposition; <fyrir> before, in front of; against; because of, for -- for
  • þá -- demonstrative used as adjective; accusative singular feminine of <> that -- that
  • sǫk -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <sǫk> cause, reason; lawsuit, dispute; sake -- reason
  • gáfu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <gefa> give; give in marriage; (impers.) be obtainable -- gave
  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <hann> this one -- they
  • henni -- demonstrative used as pronoun; dative singular feminine of <hann> this one -- her
  • nafn -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <nafn> name -- a name
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • tǫlðu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <telja (talða)> reckon, count; trace; number, enumerate; recount; declare -- traced
  • ættir -- noun, feminine; accusative plural of <ætt> direction, region; family, line; stock, tribe; ancestry -- ancestry
  • sínar -- possessive adjective; accusative plural feminine of <sínn> own, one's own -- their
  • til -- preposition; <til> in; of, concerning; on; as, for, to obtain; until, to, up to the time -- to
  • hennar -- demonstrative used as pronoun; genitive singular feminine of <hann> this one -- her

Lesson Text

Almáttigr guð skapaði himin ok jǫrð ok alla þá hluti er þeim fylgja, ok síðarst menn tvá er ættir eru frá komnar, Adam ok Evu, ok fjǫlgaðisk þeira kynslóð ok dreifðisk um heim allan. En er fram liðu stundir, þá ójafnaðisk mannfólkit: váru sumir góðir ok rétt trúaðir, en myklu fleiri snerusk eptir girndum heimsins ok órœktu guðs boðorð, ok fyrir því drekti guð heiminum í sjávargangi ok ǫllum kvikvendum heimsins nema þeim er í ǫrkinni váru með Nóa. Eptir Nóa flóð lifðu átta menn þeir er heiminn bygðu ok kómu frá þeim ættir, ok varð enn sem fyrr at þá er fjǫlmentisk ok bygðisk verǫldin þá var þat allr fjǫlði mannfólksins er elskaði ágirni fja/r ok metnaðar en afrœktusk guðs hlýðni, ok svá mikit gerðisk af því at þeir vildu eigi nefna guð. En hverr mundi þá segja sonum þeira frá guðs stórmerkjum? Svá kom at þeir týndu guðs nafni ok víðast um verǫldina fansk eigi sá maðr er deili kunni á skapara sínum. En eigi at síðr veitti guð þeim jarðligar giptir, fé ok sælu, er þeir skyldu við vera í heiminum. Miðlaði hann ok spekina svá at þeir skilðu alla jarðliga hluti ok allar greinir þær er sjá mátti loptsins ok jarðarinnar. Þat hugsuðu þeir ok undruðusk hverju þat mundi gegna at jǫrðin ok dýrin ok fuglarnir hǫfðu saman eðli í sumum hlutum ok var þó ólíkt at hætti. Þat var eitt eðli at jǫrðin var grafin í hám fjalltindum ok spratt þar vatn upp ok þurfti þar eigi lengra at grafa til vaz en í djúpum dǫlum. Svá eru ok dýr ok fuglar, at jafnlangt er til blóðs í hǫfði ok fótum. Ǫnnur náttúra er sú jarðar at á hverju ári vex á jǫrðunni gras ok blóm ok á sama ári fellr þat allt ok fǫlnar. Svá eru ok dýr ok fuglar, at þeim vex hár ok fjaðrar ok fellr af á hverju ári. Þat er hin þriðja náttúra jarðar þá er hon er opnuð ok grafin þá grœr gras á þeiri moldu er efst er á jǫrðunni. Bjǫrg ok steina þýddu þeir á móti tǫnnum ok beinum kvikvenda. Af þessu skilðu þeir svá at jǫrðin væri kyk ok hefði líf með nokkurum hætti, ok þat vissu þeir at hon var furðuliga gǫmul at aldartali ok máttug í eðli. Hon fœddi ǫll kvikvendi ok hon eignaðisk allt þat er dó. Fyrir þá sǫk gáfu þeir henni nafn ok tǫlðu ættir sínar til hennar.

Translation

Almighty God created heaven and earth and all the things which belong to them, and finally two people from whom races descended, Adam and Eve, and their progeny multiplied and dispersed across all the land. But as time went by, the people diversified: some were good and very faithful, but far more took to the pleasures of the land and spurned God's command, and therefore God submerged the land in a flood, as well as all the creatures of the land, save those which were with Noah in the ark. After Noah's flood, eight men lived who settled the land and races descended from them, and just as before it happened that when the world was populated and settled, it occurred that the majority of the population preferred hunger for wealth and glory and set aside obedience to God, and this went so far that they no longer desired to speak the name of God. But who then could tell their children about God's great works? So it came about that they forgot God's name and in most places around the world a man could not be found who knew the details of his creator. But nonetheless God gave them earthly gifts, property and prosperity, which they should possess on the land. He also distributed wisdom so that they distinguished all the earthly things and all the details of the air and the earth which one could discern. They contemplated this and wondered what it might mean that the earth and the animals and the birds had the same nature in certain respects and nevertheless there was dissimilarity in type. One characteristic was that the earth was piled up in high mountaintops and there water sprang forth and there was no need to dig further for water than in deep valleys. And such are the animals and birds, so that it is equally far for the blood to the head or feet. Another feature of the earth is that each year greenery grows on the earth, and flowers, and in the same year it all falls and fades. And such are the animals and birds, so that hair and feathers grow upon them and fall off each year. The third characteristic of the earth is when it is opened and dug up, then the grass grows in the soil which is topmost on the earth. They likened the rocks and stones to the teeth and bones of living creatures. From this they reasoned that the earth could be living and have life of a certain sort, and they understood this, that she was exceedingly old in years and rich in character. She fed all the living creatures and took to herself all that died. For that reason they gave her a name and traced their ancestry to her.

Grammar

6. Further Sound Rules

The major sound rules of Old Norse are treated in Lesson 1. In an attempt at greater completeness, a few of the more dominant sound rules are discussed below.

6.1. Syncope and Contraction

Syncope refers to the situation in which short, unaccented vowels were dropped, e.g. himin + i > himni. Short vowels bearing secondary accent are weakened.

Contraction occurrs when an unaccented vowel comes to stand directly after an accented vowel. They contract if both are back vowels (except úa, óa, and sometimes úu), or if both front vowels. Hence from *fáa. A back vowel followed by a front vowel remains, e.g. búinn. A front vowel followed by a back vowel creates a diphthong, e.g. *féar > fjar (G sg. of ); *knéum > knjám or knjóm (D pl. of kné).

6.2. Breaking

Breaking, or fracture, is a process by which a simple vowel becomes a diphthong in certain environments. In ON, the only vowel subject to breaking was the underlying *e in Proto-Norse (PN). The mechanism of fracture in ON continues to be debated. Heuristically, we may say that *e > ja; hence ON gjalda beside OE geldan; ON jafn beside OE efen. Such fracture is typical in verbs of the strong third conjugation, but not in verbs of the fourth or fifth conjugations, e.g. PN *getan > ON geta. When the following syllable contains u (which may or may not have disappeared by the time of ON), then there is the further evolution *e > ja > ; e.g. PN *meku > ON mjǫk. Fracture does not occur at all if *e is preceded by v, l, or r, e.g. verða, leðr. In a few masculine nouns, all forms exhibit fracture except the dative singular and nominative plural, where the original PN *e remains as ON i: skjǫldr 'shield' has A Sg. skjǫld, G sg. skjaldar, A pl. skjǫldu, G pl. skjalda, D pl. skjǫldum; but D sg. skildi (perhaps from *skeldiu), N pl. skildir (perhaps from *skeldiur). All such nouns have in the N sg.

6.3. Raising

Original *e may be raised, or fronted, to i in the j-augmented present stem of certain class five strong verbs, e.g. *beðjan > biðja. The shift *e > i happens elsewhere, and seems to date to a period different from that in which i-umlaut affected the back vowels. It is often a matter of some dispute as to whether a given form is the result of this process or the process of i-umlaut discussed in Lesson 1.

6.4. Lengthening and Shortening

A stressed vowel in final position is long, e.g. þú. This occurs even when loss of a final consonant leaves a stressed vowel in final position, e.g. *vag > 'slew', past tense of vega 'to slay'.

Long vowels are often shortened before consonant clusters. This occurs particularly before double consonants. Compare neuter gott with masculine góðr; minn with feminine mín. The diphthong ei is shortened to e, hence ekki from eitt + gi.

6.5. Retention of Semi-Vowels

Original j dropped at the beginning of words. Hence ON ungr beside OE geong. Initial j in ON is of different origin (see above on Breaking). Medial j dropped before the front vowels i, y, ø, œ, and sometimes e. Medial j remains before other vowels, if it follows a short syllable, or following a g or k: e.g. veljum (1st pl.) vs. velið (2nd pl.).

Original w (v in Icelandic orthography) dropped initially when preceding l or r, hence ON líta beside OE wlitan. w dropped before round vowels u, y, o, ø, œ, but not ǫ. Thus urðu and orðinn, past tense and participle of verða; also ON œpa beside OE wēpan. w droppen after ó and ú, hence ON glóa beside OE glowan. w disappeared before consonants and at the end of words, cf. sær, with G sg. sævar; ǫr, with G sg. ǫrvar. Medial w remains when following a short syllable, or following g or k: bǫð, with G sg. bǫðvar.

7. Strong Declension
7.1. i-Stems

Several nouns have stems with an i-suffix. In some nouns, such as gestr, this caused i-umlaut which carried through the entire paradigm (contrast Goth. gasts). In other nouns, such as staðr, this situation did not obtain. The nouns staðr 'place', gestr 'guest', and bekkr 'bench' illustrate the masculine forms.

    Masculine        
             
Stem   stað-i-   gest-i-   bekk-i-
             
N Sg.   staðr   gestr   bekkr
A   stað   gest   bekk
G   staðar   gests   bekks, bekkjar
D   stað   gest(i)   bekk
             
N Pl.   staðir   gestir   bekkir
A   staði   gesti   bekki
G   staða   gesta   bekkja
D   stǫðum   gestum   bekkjum
             

On the appearance of the j in certain forms, see Section 6.5 above.

The nouns nauð(r) 'distress', þǫkk 'thanks', and hǫll 'hall' illustrate the declension of feminine i-stems.

    Feminine        
             
Stems   nauð-i-   þakk-i-   hall-i-
             
N Sg.   nauð(r)   þǫkk   hǫll
A   nauð   þǫkk   hǫll
G   nauðar   þakkar   hallar
D   nauð   þǫkk   hǫll(u)
             
N Pl.   nauðir   þakkir   hallir
A   nauðir   þakkir   hallir
G   nauða   þakka   halla
D   nauðum   þǫkkum   hǫllum
             

These forms are actually a confluence of the feminine ō-stems and the i-stems. nauðr may be traced back to an original i-stem (cf. Goth. nauþs, N pl. nauþeis), but other words like þǫkk and hǫll were original ō-stems which adopted the N pl. of the i-stems.

7.2. u-Stems

The u-stem nouns were all masculine. Some of these underwent fracture in the root vowel in all forms but the D sg. and N pl. These latter forms, however, were subject to i-umlaut. Elsewhere, the remaining root vowel underwent u-umlaut where possible. The words skjǫldr 'shield', vǫllr 'ground', and fǫgnuðr 'entertainment' illustrate the forms.

    Masculine        
             
Stem   skeld-u-   vall-u-   fagnað-u-
             
N Sg.   skjǫldr   vǫllr   fǫgnuðr
A   skjǫld   vǫll   fǫgnuð
G   skjaldar   vallar   fagnaðar
D   skildi   velli   fagnaði
             
N Pl.   skildir   vellir   fagnaðir
A   skjǫldu   vǫllu   fǫgnuðu
G   skjalda   valla   fagnaða
D   skjǫldum   vǫllum   fǫgnuðum
             

Note the absence of i-umlaut in the D sg. and N pl. of fǫgnuðr, since this process rarely applied to syllables which did not carry the primary accent.

8. Personal Pronouns

Old Norse verbal inflection is robust enough that, strictly speaking, use of subject pronouns is unnecessary. The subject pronouns are often added for emphasis. The first and second person pronouns distinguish not only singular and plural, but also dual ('we two', 'us two', 'you two', etc.).

8.1. First and Second Person Pronouns

The forms of the first and second person pronouns are as follows.

    1st Pers.   2nd Pers.
         
N Sg.   ek   þú
A   mik   þik
G   mín   þín
D   mér   þér
         
N Du.   vit   it, þit
A   okkr   ykkr
G   okkar   ykkar
D   okkr   ykkr
         
N Pl.   vér   ér, þér
A   oss   yðr
G   vár   yðar
D   oss   yðr
         

The nominative forms are often suffixed to the verb, e.g. mæli-k 'I speak', má-k-at 'I cannot' (-at 'not', frequent in poetry). Similarly heyrðu and skaltu < skalt þú. Such occurrences with the dual and plural forms of the second person pronoun led to re-analysis on the part of the speakers: skuluð ér > skuluðér was subsequently interpreted as skulu þér. Hence the alternate forms þit and þér, and the frequent use of the 3rd person plural in place of the 2nd person.

The oblique cases are often used reflexively. The D sg. mér is often suffixed to the verb as -m, e.g. biðjum 'I ask for myself', and the A sg. mik as -mk. When added to the 3rd singular of a verb, the plural form of the verb is used instead. The suffix -mk often doubles as a form for the dative as well, hence þóttumk for þótti mér 'it seemed to me'.

8.2. Third Person Pronouns

The third person pronoun is actually a suppletive system. The masculine and feminine singular forms are built from the demonstrative hann 'this one, he'; the neuter singular and the plural of all genders are built from the þ-forms found in the demonstrative (masc.), (fem.), þat (neut.). The paradigm for the third person pronoun is given below.

    Masculine   Feminine   Neuter
             
N Sg.   hann   hon   þat
A   hann   hana   þat
G   hans   hennar   þess
D   honum   henni   því, þí
             
N Pl.   þeir   þær   þau
A   þá   þær   þau
G   þeir(r)a   þeir(r)a   þeir(r)a
D   þeim   þeim   þeim
             

This system parallels that found in modern English, with the singular forms him, her, etc., but plural forms they, them. These pronouns are not used reflexively. Instead, the following pronoun is used.

    Reflexive
     
N   -
A   sik
G   sín
D   sér
     

These forms are used regardless of the gender or number of the referent. Thus sik might equally represent 'himself', 'herself', 'itself', 'themselves'; similarly for the other forms.

The form sik was often used enclitically following a verb, reduced to -sk. This form was then generalized as the marker of the middle voice.

9. Weak Conjugation

The weak verbs stand in contradistinction to the strong verbs. Unlike strong verbs, weak verbs are not characterized by vocalic alternation within the stem. This is not to say that there is no vocalic alternation; rather the vocalic alternation is a very predictable result of the applied weak verbal endings. The past forms exhibit a dental suffix -ð (in certain enviroments -d or -t), to which are appended the endings -- verbal to arrive at the finite verb forms, or nominal to yield the past participle. The same is found in English walk, with past tense walked. The d suffix is found in both the past tense ('I called my friend') and the past participle ('called on to answer, he tried to divert the question').

9.1. Weak Verb Classes

There are three classes of weak verbs. We may list the same principal parts as with the strong verbs. The verbs krefja 'demand', kalla 'call', and vaka 'wake' illustrate the classes.

Class   Infinitive   (3 Sg. Pres.)   3 Sg. Past   3 Pl. Past   (3 Sg. Past Subj.)   Past Ptcple
                         
I   krefja 'demand'   krefr   krafði   krǫfðu   krefði   krafðr
II   kalla 'call'   kallar   kallaði   kǫlluðu   kallaði   kallaðr
III   vaka 'wake'   vakir   vakþi   vǫkþu   vekþi   vakat (nt.)

The 3rd pers. sg. of the present is often used as an indicator of class. At times this conflicts with historical considerations, so that some authors may assign a given verb to different classes depending on the characterization chosen. For instance, some authors assign heyra 'hear' to the first class based on historical grounds, while others assign it to the third class based on the present form. Its principal parts are given below.

Class   Infinitive   (3 Sg. Pres.)   3 Sg. Past   3 Pl. Past   (3 Sg. Past Subj.)   Past Ptcple
                         
I or III   heyra 'hear'   heyrir   heyrði   heyrðu   heyrði   heyrðr
9.2. Active Paradigm

The active endings of the weak verb paradigms are as follows.

Weak Verbs   Indicative   Subjunctive   Imperative
Present            
1 Sg.   - / -a / -i   -a    
2   -r / -ar/ -ir   -ir   -
3   -r / -ar/ -ir   -i    
             
1 Pl.   -um   -im   -um
2   -   -   -
3   -a   -i    
             
Past            
1 Sg.   -ða   -ða    
2   -ðir   -ðir    
3   -ði   -ði    
             
1 Pl.   -ðum   -ðim    
2   -ðuð   -ðið    
3   -ðu   -ði    

The endings are in essence the same as those for the strong verbs, except in the past singular. The singular of the Present Indicative retains a linking vowel depending on the class of the verb (or, more specifically, on historical grounds -- cf. mention of heyra above). The -ð- in the Past forms is a suffix intervening between root and ending, and is included only to call attention to this difference from the past tense of the strong verbs (i.e. the -ð- only appears once in the verb). This -ð- may be realized as -d- or -t- in certain phonetic environments.

The conjugation of the first class verb berja 'beat' illustrates the endings.

Weak Verbs   Indicative   Subjunctive   Imperative
Present            
1 Sg.   ber   berja    
2   berr   berir   ber
3   berr   beri    
             
1 Pl.   berjum   berim   berjum
2   berið   berið   berið
3   berja   beri    
             
Past            
1 Sg.   barða   berða    
2   barðir   berðir    
3   barði   berði    
             
1 Pl.   bǫrðum   berðim    
2   bǫrðuð   berðið    
3   bǫrðu   berði    
             
Infinitive   berja        
             
Pres. Ptc.   berjandi        
             
Past Ptc.   bar(i)ðr        

These forms are derivable from a minimal set of three principal parts, fewer than are necessary for the strong verbs. Specifically, these are the following principal parts:

  • infinitive: berja;
  • 3 (or 1) sg. past indic.: barði (barða);
  • past participle: bariðr (neuter sg. barit).

The procedure for arriving at the verb forms is as follows:

  • present indic., subjunct., imperat. forms: take the infinitive stem berj-, add endings (use verb class to distinguish -r / -ar / -ir).
  • past indic. forms: take second principal part barði, apply u-umlaut when appropriate, add endings.
  • past subjunct. forms: take second principal part barði, apply rule all disyllabic past subjunctive forms with original back root vowels show i-umlaut, add endings.
  • present participle: take infinitive stem berj-, add endings.
  • past participle: take third principal part stem bar(i)ð-, add endings.

Labelling the principal part stems as (1), (2), (3), this gives the following schematic representation.

Weak Verbs   Indicative   Subjunctive   Imperative
Present            
1 Sg.   (1) + - / -a / -i   (1) + -a    
2   (1) + -r / -ar/ -ir   (1) + -ir   (1) + -
3   (1) + -r / -ar/ -ir   (1) + -i    
             
1 Pl.   (1) + (u-mut.) + -um   (1) + -im   (1) + (u-mut.) + -um
2   (1) + -   (1) + -   (1) + -
3   (1) + -a   (1) + -i    
             
Past            
1 Sg.   (2) + -ða   (2) + (i-mut.) + -ða    
2   (2) + -ðir   (2) + (i-mut.) + -ðir    
3   (2) + -ði   (2) + (i-mut.) + -ði    
             
1 Pl.   (2) + (u-mut.) + -ðum   (2) + (i-mut.) + -ðim    
2   (2) + (u-mut.) + -ðuð   (2) + (i-mut.) + -ðið    
3   (2) + (u-mut.) + -ðu   (2) + (i-mut.) + -ði    
             
Infinitive   (1) + -a        
             
Pres. Ptc.   (1) + -andi        
             
Past Ptc.   (3) + -ðr        
9.3. Middle Paradigm

The middle voice of the weak verbs is formed exactly as above, with the active endings replaced by the middle endings, involving the -sk suffix. The forms are given below for ease of reference.

Weak Verbs   Indicative   Subjunctive   Imperative
Present            
1 Sg.   -umk   -umk    
2   -sk / -ask / -isk   -isk   -sk / -ask
3   -sk / -ask / -isk   -isk    
             
1 Pl.   -umsk   -imsk   -umsk
2   -izk   -izk   -izk
3   -ask   -isk    
             
Past            
1 Sg.   -ðumk   -ðumk    
2   -ðisk   -ðisk    
3   -ðisk   -ðisk    
             
1 Pl.   -ðumsk   -ðimsk    
2   -ðuzk   -ðizk    
3   -ðusk   -ðisk    

As above, the conjugation of the first class verb berja 'beat' illustrates the endings.

Weak Verbs   Indicative   Subjunctive   Imperative
Present            
1 Sg.   berjumk   berjumk    
2   bersk   berisk   bersk
3   bersk   berisk    
             
1 Pl.   berjumsk   berimsk   berjumsk
2   berizk   berizk   berizk
3   berjask   berisk    
             
Past            
1 Sg.   bǫrðumk   berðumk    
2   barðisk   berðisk    
3   barðisk   berðisk    
             
1 Pl.   bǫrðumsk   berðimsk    
2   bǫrðuzk   berðizk    
3   bǫrðusk   berðisk    
             
Infinitive   berjask        
             
Pres. Ptc.   berjandisk        
             
Past Ptc.   bar(i)zk        

This gives the following schematic representation.

Weak Verbs   Indicative   Subjunctive   Imperative
Present            
1 Sg.   (1) + (u-mut.) + -umk   (1) + (u-mut.) + -umk    
2   (1) + -sk / -ask/ -isk   (1) + -isk   (1) + -sk / -ask
3   (1) + -sk / -ask/ -isk   (1) + -isk    
             
1 Pl.   (1) + (u-mut.) + -umsk   (1) + -imsk   (1) + (u-mut.) + -umsk
2   (1) + -izk   (1) + -izk   (1) + -
3   (1) + -ask   (1) + -isk    
             
Past            
1 Sg.   (2) + (u-mut.) + -ðumk   (2) + (u-mut.) + -ðumk    
2   (2) + -ðisk   (2) + (i-mut.) + -ðisk    
3   (2) + -ðisk   (2) + (i-mut.) + -ðisk    
             
1 Pl.   (2) + (u-mut.) + -ðumsk   (2) + (i-mut.) + -ðimsk    
2   (2) + (u-mut.) + -ðuzk   (2) + (i-mut.) + -ðizk    
3   (2) + (u-mut.) + -ðusk   (2) + (i-mut.) + -ðisk    
             
Infinitive   (1) + -ask        
             
Pres. Ptc.   (1) + -andisk        
             
Past Ptc.   (3) + -zk        

As mentioned with the strong verbs, the present participle middle is declined like the active, with -sk added after the declensional endings. The past participle is formed analogously, but is only found in the neuter.

10. Particles

Old Norse makes significant use of small words or function words to display coordination or subordination, or to shift nuance. The coordinating conjunctions ok 'and' and en 'but' typically join two parallel constructions. Less common are eða 'or' and 'nor'. Sometimes two words are used to link constructions, such as bæði... ok 'both... and'; annattveggja... eða 'either... or'; hvárki... 'neither... nor'.

One of the most common particles is er, which is used as an all-purpose relative (not to be confused with er, 3rd sg. pres. of vera 'be'). er most often follows a demonstrative, making it into the corresponding relative: þá 'then', beside þá er 'when'; 'he, that one', beside sá er '(the one) who'. More will be said concerning this particle in a later lesson.

Old Norse makes amazing use of prepositions to add nuance to verb phrases. For example, sœkja 'seek' vs. sœkja at 'attack'. One must understand that, while a preposition so added may govern its own object, it often does not. The preposition may be used in an absolute sense, while the verb itself governs an object. When the preposition is able in principle to govern nouns in the same case as the verb, the distinction may be difficult to make; certain situations, however, do make it clear that a verb may govern its object, while the preposition serves only to modify nuance. For example: sóttu at í annat sinn 'they attacked another time'. In this instance the preposition at is used absolutely, serving only to modify the verb's meaning. Another example: Gunnarr... skaut til þeira, ok kom á Eilíf Ǫnundarson, ok fekk hann af sár mikit 'Gunnar shot at them, and [the arrow] came at Eilif Onundarson, and he received a great wound.' In the last clause, fekk governs the accusative sár mikit; the latter phrase cannot be governed by af, which only takes the dative. Sometimes another particle may imply an object for the preposition, as in the following: hann finnr, at þar var stungit í sverði Sigmundar 'he notices that there it was thrust in with the sword of Sigmund'. The adverb þar points to the location to which í refers. The word sverði is an instrumental dative, and not governed by í itself.

The Old Norse use of prepositions is very close to modern English usage. For example, one can 'work a problem', or one can 'work out a problem'. In the latter, 'work' governs the object, not 'out' (we may rephrase as 'work a problem out'). What is more, one can 'work out at the gym', where now the preposition 'out' changes entirely the meaning of the verb, so that 'work out' is synonymous with 'exercise'.