Everything You Never Wanted To Know About Old Norse
The Vikings not only broke the mold of the adventuring seafarers of the Medieval European North, but they also inherited and uniquely preserved aspects of a shared Germanic culture. The language they spoke, Old Norse, exhibits a similar tendency: vehicle of some of the most technical and innovative poetic styles of the day, yet repository of a fantastic heritage linked to other Germanic languages and beyond. In this talk we discuss how we can use the history of this Scandinavian culture to understand the language, and how we can use the language to understand history.
Cultures all across Medieval Europe record the dreadful impact of raiders upon unsuspecting commoners and clergy and kings. Less lauded is the impact these same Scandinavians had on the languages of the cultures they encountered. We will investigate the influence of Old Norse upon languages across the seas, like Old Russian and Old English. Were Old English and Old Norse mutually intelligible, like some ancient texts really suggest?
Just as important, this ancient Scandinavian culture and shared language did not come from nowhere. How do we understand the interrelatedness of cultures and their languages? Using the tools of historical linguistics, we will delve deeper into history to investigate less common questions: what features does Old Norse have in common with Hittite? Is the Old Norse word for “salmon” really the same as the Tocharian word? As we venture across space and time with the Vikings and their language, join us and find out.