Similarities between Old English (Anglo-Saxon) and modern Icelandic (with German and Norwegian added for comparison

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A page from a skin manuscript of Landnáma in the Árni Magnússon Institute in Reykjavík, Iceland


The Icelandic Wikipedia has a page on Old English / Anglo-Saxon (called Fornenska in Icelandic) that includes a number of words compared to modern Icelandic that show how much more similar the two languages used to be. This is just a small list but a book has also been published on how the two languages were probably mutually comprehensible. I still haven't gotten around to buying that book.

Here are the words the Icelandic Wikipedia gives with Norwegian and German added for comparison:

Enska
(English)
Fornenska
(Old English)
Íslenska
(Icelandic)
Norwegian
German
age ealdor alduralder
Alter
appearance onsyn ásýndutseende
Anschein
art list listlist (kunst)
Kunst, List
bow boga bogibue
Bogen
commander heretoga herforingibefalhavende
Befehlshaber
embrace fæðmian faðmaomfavne
umarmen
entry ongong inngangurinngang
Eingang
happiness sæl sælalykke
Glück
know cunnan kunnakjenne
kennen
neck hals hálshals
Hals
peace frið friðurfred
Freide
whale hwæl hvalurhval
Wale / Walfisch

5 comments:

Unknown said...

One thought:

know - cunnan - kunna - kjenne - kennen

Don't you think the word "Could (can)" could be the correct Modern English word? Then the Norwegian would turn out similar as well:

Can - cunnan - kunna - kunne -kennen

데이빛 / Mithridates said...

Hey, looks like you're right about that:

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=can&searchmode=none

can (v.)

O.E. 1st & 3rd pers. sing. pres. indic. of cunnan "know, have power to, be able," (also "to have carnal knowledge"), from P.Gmc. *kunnan "to be mentally able, to have learned" (cf. O.N. kenna "to know, make known," O.Fris. kanna "to recognize, admit," Ger. kennen "to know," Goth. kannjan "to make known"), from PIE base *gno- (see know).

Anonymous said...

Fascinating blog entry as usual Mithridates, I'm browsing the old archives!

Could you give a link to that book on amazon please, I would love to read it!

Thanks!

데이빛 / Mithridates said...

Sure, it's right here:

http://www.amazon.com/Comparative-Syntax-Old-English-Icelandic/dp/3039102702

That reminds me that I still haven't gotten around to buying it. Maybe you (whoever you are) could write up a short review after you read it?

Anonymous said...

Can - cunnan - kunna - kunne -kennen

In Scots its still "ken."

  © Blogger templates Newspaper by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP