Here’s another dare for you.
Have a go at speaking like a Viking. Go on! I dare you!
Hey, I’m not saying you have to do it in front of anybody 🙂
Might be more fun if you do though. Why not dare someone you’re with to do it too?
You’ll find the dare at the bottom of this post. It’s not hard. You can do it.
I have tried not to be boring, I promise. Gonna give me a chance? Good on ya! Read on, kind soul.
First up, a little background on the language of the Vikings. You may already know this. But in case you don’t know everything, here’s a bit of info for you:
Language of the Vikings
In 830 when Signy’s story begins, one main Scandinavian language was spoken throughout the Viking world. This common tongue is sometimes called Danish tongue in Middle-European and English Medieval sources. Today we call it Old Norse.
Based on findings of runic inscriptions, researchers have found an east-west divide forming during the Viking Age. Around the year 900 there are examples of Danish rune stones where some of the old diftongs have been replaced by single vowels:
stein -> sten
Anyone who pays attention to spoken language knows that regions have dialects. I think it is only natural to assume that this was also true in the Viking Age. This is why Signy can tell that Gunnar and his men are not from her area.
The modern-day Scandinavian languages Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish are still so similar that we can understand each other. A few words differ, but on the whole we can communicate without problems. Written it is even easier.
(If you don’t know this about me already, I am bilingual: Danish and English).
If your native language has Germanic roots, you will be able to recognise and understand at least some Old Norse when written with normal lettering.
Hear Old Norse spoken
In this short video, the language coach on the tv series Vikings talks about Old Norse and how they handled language on the show:
If you find Old Norse fascinating and want to learn and not least hear examples of it spoken, a good place to start online could be Dr. Jackson Crawford’s YouTube channel. He teaches Scandinavian Studies at University of Colorado Boulder (formerly UC Berkeley and UCLA).
It does strike me as somewhat amusing to be taught Old Norse be a very American man, but dude knows his stuff despite the stetson look 🙂
He is a great language teacher and uses all the best tricks of the trade to make things clear.
How to pronounce Old Norse
Here is a good video where he teaches you how to pronounce Old Norse:
So are you ready for the dare now?
Here we go: Count to at least 12 in Old Norse.
Just the basic set in the beginning. Don’t worry about the grammatical details that follow unless you want to go full nerd. If so, more power to you.
If you like Dr Crawford’s work, you might consider showing him some support on Patreon.