Old Norwegian is a term used to designate the exclusively Norwegian variant of Old Western Norse , spoken and written in Norway during the Middle Ages .
The term “Old Norse” refers to the language spoken in the area that encompasses the entire wider area of Scandinavia , which in addition to Norway included Denmark , Iceland , Sweden , Greenland and other islands in the North Sea .
Among the various variants of the Old Norse, the Old Icelandic was the one that most resembled the Old Norse.
The plagues that decimated the population of Europe in the Middle Ages arrived in Norway in 1349 ( Black Death ), killing approximately half of the country’s population; this may be part of the reason why the language development process was more accentuated in this period. The language spoken in the country from 1350 to about 1550 is known as Middle Norwegian; the language itself had undergone several changes. The grammar has been simplified, including the removal of system cases and the declination personal verbs. There was a vowel reduction, in certain dialects, which reduced, in parts of Norway, many of the final vowels to a common “e”.
The phonemic repertoire has also undergone significant changes. The dental fricatives , represented by the letters þ and ð , disappeared from the Norwegian, generally mixing with their plosive equivalents , represented by t and d , respectively.
Peculiarities [ edit | edit source code ]
One of the main characteristics that distinguished ancient Norwegian and ancient Icelandic early in their development is that h in consonant combinations hl- , hn- and hr- was lost in the first in the 11th century , while it was preserved in the second. Thus, the words hlíð , ” hillside “, hníga , ” reverence “, and hringr , ” ring “, in Old Icelandic, became lið , níga and ringr , in Old Norwegian.
Another significant difference is that the Icelandic seems to have preserved certain nasal vowels until the 12th century , while the ancient Norwegian had stopped using them much earlier.