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The language of The Ballad of Hildina

Detailed view

1. History
2. Import of the ballad
3. Phonology
4. Grammar
5. List of grammatical forms
A. Substantives
B. Adjectives
C. Adverbs
D. Pronouns
E. Verbs
F. Prepositions
G. Conjunctions
H. Particles

1. History

The Ballad of Hildina, the longest text in Norn that has survived until our days, was recorded in 1774 in Foula by a young Scottish clergyman George Low, who, serving at that time in Orkney, made a voyage to Shetland. The ballad was narrated to Low by William Henry, an old farmer from Guttorm in Foula. Low included the poem under the title "The Earl of Orkney and the King of Norway's Daughter: a Ballad" into his book "A Tour through the Islands of Orkney and Schetland", manuscript to which he completed in 1777. The book saw the light of day only a century later, in 1879, when it was published in Kirkwall. Before that, the song had already been in print, featuring in "History of Orkney Islands" by Dr. Barry (1805, London) and in "Samlinger til det norske Folks Sprog og Historie, 6te band 1ste hefte" (1838, Christiania).

In 1900 the Norwegian scholar Marius Hægstad, well-known for his researches on Scandinavian dialectology, published the ballad in his "Hildinakvadet med utgreiding um det norske maal paa Shetland i eldre tid". This volume featured a profound analysis of the song and its language. Hægstad presented his own corrected version of George Low's text, attempting to bring the language of the ballad closer to its original (both versions are available at our website).

2. The import of the ballad.

The Ballad of Hildina has its roots in Scandinavian and Germanic folklore and is believed to have been composed in Orkney, as its contents clearly witnesses. However, the alleged Orcadian original of the song is not preserved - its only available version comes from Shetland.

The import of the ballad is summarised by George Low himself who commented in detail on this matter (without doubt, retelling the narrator's explanations):

The following song is the most entire I could find, but the disorder of some of the stanzas will show that it is not wholly so. The subject is a strife between a King of Norway and an Earl of Orkney, on account of the hasty marriage of the Earl with the King's daughter in her father's absence. Here it is worthy to be observed that most of the fragments they have are old historical Ballads and Romances, this kind of poetry being more greedily swallowed and retentively preserved by memory than any others, and most fitted to the genius of the Northerns. In this Ballad I cannot answer for the orthography. I wrote it as an old man pronounced it; nor could he assist me in this particular. This man (William Henry, a farmer in Guttorm, in Foula) has the most knowledge of any I found; he spoke of three kinds of poetry used in Norn, and repeated or sung by the old men; the Ballad (or Romance, I suppose); the Vysie or Vyse, now commonly sung to dancers; and the simple Song. By the account he gave of the matter, the first seems to have been valued here chiefly for its subject, and was commonly repeated in winter by the fireside; the second seems to have been used in publick meetings, now only sung to the dance; and the third at both. Let it be remarked that the following ballad may be either written in two long line or four short line stanzas.

A literal translation of the above I could not procure, but the substance is this:- "An Earl of Orkney, in some of his rambles on the coast of Norway, saw and fell in love with the King's daughter of the country. As their passion happened to be reciprocal, he carried her off in her father's absence, who was engaged in war with some of his distant neighbours. On his return, he followed the fugitives to Orkney, accompanied by his army, to revenge on the Earl the rape of his daughter. On his arrival there, Hildina (which was her name), first spied him, and advised her now husband to go and attempt to pacify the King. He did so, and by his appearance and promise brought the King so over as to be satisfied with the match. This, however, was of no long standing, for as soon as the Earl's back was turned a courtier, called Hiluge, took great pains to change the King's mind, for it seems Hiluge had formerly hoped to succeed with the daughter himself. His project took, and the matter came to blows; the Earl is killed by Hiluge, who cut off his head and threw it at his lady, which, she says, vexed her even more than his death, that he should add cruelty to revenge. Upon the Earl's death, Hildina is forced to follow her father to Norway, and in a little time Hiluge makes his demand to have her in marriage of her father; he consents, and takes every method to persuade Hildina, who, with great reluctance, agrees upon condition that she is allowed to fill the wine at her wedding. This is easily permitted, and Hildina infuses a drug which soon throws the company into a dead sleep, and after ordering her father to be removed, set the house on fire. The flame soon rouses Hiluge, who piteously cries for mercy, but the taunts he had bestowed at the death of the Earl of Orkney are now bitterly returned, and he is left to perish in the flames."

The start of the ballad and its main characters are believed to be related to the story of Héðinn and Høgni from "The Battle of Heodenings", alternatively "Saga of Hild":

Hjaðningavíg (the "battle of the Heodenings"), the legend of Heðinn and Högni or the Saga of Hild is a Scandinavian legend from Norse mythology about a never-ending battle which is documented in Sörla þáttr, Ragnarsdrápa, Gesta Danorum, Skíðaríma and in Skáldskaparmál from Snorri's Edda (Prose Edda). It is also held to appear on the image stone at Stora Hammar on Gotland. Moreover, it is alluded to in the Old English poems Deor and Widsið, and in the Old Norse Háttalykill inn forni (an Old Norse poem, attributed to Rögnvaldr Kali Kolsson, the Earl of Orkney and Hallr Þórarinsson in the Orkneyinga Saga).
Like the names Heðinn (O.E. Heoden) and Högni (O.E. Hagena), the legend is believed to have continental Germanic origins.

In the Skáldskaparmál and in Ragnarsdrápa, it is related that once when Högni was away, his daughter Hildr was kidnapped by a prince named Heðinn, the son of Hjarrandi (O.E. Heorrenda). When Högni came back, he immediately started to search for her. In the older poem Ragnarsdrápa, Högni finally found her and the island where Heðinn waited with his army. This island is explained as the island of Hoy in the Orkneys by Snorri Sturluson in Skáldskaparmál.
Hildr welcomed her father and offered him peace and a necklace on behalf of Heðinn. However, Högni had already unsheathed his sword Dáinsleif, which gave wounds that never healed and like Tyrfing always killed a man once it had been unsheathed. A battle ensued and they fought all day and many died. In the evening Heðinn and Högni returned to their camps, but Hildr stayed on the battle-field. She resurrected them with incantations and the fallen soldiers started to fight anew, and this went on until Ragnarök.

As the narration develops, the similarity to the mentioned legend dissolves giving way to other influences, mainly from the plot of the Elder Edda song "Guðrúnarkviða II": a woman (Guðrún) is being urged to marry a man (Atli) who has killed her lover (Sigurðr). Atli then starts suffering terrifying dreams about Guðrún killing himself.

3. Phonology.

3.1. Orthography issues.

The study of the phonetic system of the Ballad of Hildina (further referred to as "Hildina") is hampered by its orthography, which, as Low points out himself, was fairly random, looking like a mix of Scots, Dutch and possibly French writing rules. The randomness of the orthography can be best shown with the following examples:

keimir, kimer < kemr
kemi, cumi < komi
frinde, friendè < frændi
dor, ger < þér (ger possibly due to the influence from the preceding consonant: yach ger < ek þér; however, cf. gem < þeim from the Lord's Prayer)
for, firre, firin, fare < fyrir
inga < enga, but angan < engan
[j]: jok < eyk, but yath a port < gataport
yera < gerir; but gerde < gerði
kin, kidn, kedn- < kinn
liva,lava < lifa (cf. Shet la'verni < ON líferni with the shift of the stress on the 2nd syllable, also vrildan < verǫldin)
mien < menn, mein(i), mjǫðinn.

Apart from Low's ignorance of Norn, the inconsistency of the ballad's orthography could well be due to the utterance of its narrator William Henry. At least some of such "inconsistencies" are obviously not arbitrary and could be only done by one knowing Norn (f.ex.
whar vs. quar < ON hvar 'where', see below 3.2.2.).

The sound quality of various letters or their combinations is not clear, as in a number of cases they noticeably differ from their Old Norse archetypes, sometimes in a rather weird way. Whether these are arbitrary orthographical mistakes by Low, misspellings by Henry or are we dealing with the actual decreptitude of Norn, is still subject to discussion. For example, in "Hildina" we occasionally encounter graphical diphtongs, although in the majority of cases the common-Norn monophtongisation rule is obeyed, cf.
lever < hleypir, ru < rauðu, hemi < heima. The old long vowels are normally not diphtongised either: ro < ráð, heve < hæfi, i muthi < í móti etc. Nevertheless, there are cases where such digraphs (combinations of two letters) are used for one original sound. Let us consider as an example ei, as in reithin < rótum. What sound did it stand for? Here it should be said that the direct development of ON ó into [ei] is typologically hardly probable. Either it was a slip of pen or we should take it for granted and try to explain it by the following series of changes: ON ó > [ø] > [e] (delabialisation) > [ei]. However, there is one other occurrence of this digraph, where it is highly probable that it stands for a monophtong: eidnar < hennar. It is highly unlikely that the short vowel could have developped into a diphtong (let alone acquired length) in a closed syllable before dn, which, as we point out in General 4.5, appeared in Norn after short vowels. These examples make us suppose that ei designated a monophtong, either coinciding with [e] or having a sligthly different quality. (Using an analogical approach we can suppose that ou in the spellings gouga < góða, slouge < slóða stood for the monophtong [u]). Yet another example of a digraph being used for monophtong is eo which most probably designated [ø]: meo < móðr, bleo < blœða (compare the development of ON ó and œ in Phonetics of Shetland Norn).

Nevertheless, the language of "Hildina" was not quite free of diphtongs, although their phonological prehistory differed from the cases described above. Let us consider the letter
y. Its usage in "Hildina" is very reminiscent of English orthography. In most cases it should obviously read [j]: yath a port, villya. However, in one type of example it is more likely to be spelled as [ai] or [ei], for instance, in the word fy 'father' (do NOT spell it as [fü], like a Scandinavian would tend to do, cf. a contemporary performance of "Hildina" by a Swedish folk singer). The diphtongised spelling must descend directly from the Old Norse archetype faðir, cf. the parallel form feyrin sien < fǫðr sinn. In this case the diphtong [ai/ei] comes from -aði- after the intermediate consonant ð fell out, so originally it consisted of two syllables.

And that is still not the end of the story, as there is yet another group of diphtongs in "Hildina". While in the previous paragraphs we were discussing descending diphtongs (where the stress falls onto the former part, like
ei), there are also occurrences of rising ones ie,uo,ue (stress on the latter part): mien < menn, mjǫðinn; tworene < tárin(i), wo < á, fwelsko < fǫlska, fuo < fá. Hardly do these occurrences stand for monophtongs. Instead of this we can treat these spellings as instances of breaking, which was very widespread in Norn (cf. Foula bjadni < barn(it), see also General 2.1.2.). The uniqueness of the language of "Hildina" shows in the fact that in addition to the regular j-breaking we also encounter w-breaking (of labialised back vowels), strange to the rest of Norn.

Things seem to be much simpler where consonants are concerned, the usage of such letters reveals no surprises except in a few cases. As we pointed out above, Low is not quite consistent in the usage of a sign for
[j], and follows either the English/French (y) or Dutch/German/Scandinavian (j) tradition. Another interesting example is the usage of th. In one case it could be presumably treated as [ð]: vath (also vad) < við. If this is true, this will be one of the fewest examples of the occurrence of [ð] in Shetland Norn (see General 2.1.9.). The other cases are more complicated: yath a port < gataport, -buthe < -bœtr, reithin < rótum, grothè < gráti, muthi < móti, thì < -tu, lothir < lætr, lathi < lézt, wath < (þó) at. On the one hand, the spirantisation of the old t into ð in these particular instances is not very probable, cf. cases where this did not happen -fetign < -fætingr, gede < getit. On the other hand, the language of "Hildina" shows a close example of spirantisation, where p,b have transformed into [v,w]: lever < hleypir, uadn < barn. Whether t could analogically turn into [ð] or h in -th- was silent and meaningless, like in English, is still unclear. No other examples of occurrences of the sound [ð] in Foula are known.

3.2. Sound system.

The phonetics of the ballad is well in line with what we know about Norn and its Foula/Westside dialect (see General and Phonetics of Shetland Norn). Below you find an overview of main sound changes from Old Norse to Hildina's Norn (notice that we use there Low's orthographical notation, not phonetic transcription).

3.2.1. Vowels Short vowels. The vowel
a stays mostly unchanged, except cases mentioned below in item 1. High vowels i,u tend to descend: u > o, i > e, although changes in the opposite directions occur spontaneously too:
1. -a > -a, -e: gouga < góða, kera < kæra, earna < gjarna; herre < herra, sonè < sona (but sonnales < sonalauss), velburne < velborna (compare the mixing of -a and -i in Shetland Norn: Shetland Grammar, A.
-jar > -er (in endings): skeger < skeggjar, sover < syfjar
2. u > u,o,i,e: burt < burt, onde < under, billon < biðlund, godle < gulli, min < mun, spirde < spurði, Konign < konungrinn, Drotnign < drottningrinn, dern < durum
-u > -a,e: fasta < fǫstu, sanne < sǫnnu, chaldona < tjaldinu, forlskonna < fárskǫnnu, duka < drykkju (this is probably an analogical change, cf. the mixing of -a and -u in Shetland Norn: Shetland Grammar A. and B.2.3.)
3. o > o,u,i: Orknian < Orkneyjum, Drotnign < drottningrinn, Konign < konungrinn, sonnaless < sonalauss, hon < hon, borè < borit, but velburne < velborna, glasburyon < glasborginni, mild < mold, whirdì,quirto < hvort
4. i > i,e: kin, kidn, kedn- < kinn, mege < mikit, gre <, ita < þetta; but linge < lengi, tinka < þenkja, skinka < skenkja; gre < grið
-i > -è,e, more seldom i: grothè < gráti, borè < borit, friendè < frændi, frinde < frændi, pluge < plógi, o landi < af/ór landi (see also Hægstad "Hildinakvadet", p. 56-57)
-in(n) > in,n: Iarlin < jarlinn, eulinngin < ǫlingrinn, vadlin < vǫllinn, bugin < búkinn, estin < hestinn, fadlin < fallinn, commin < kominn; Drotnign < drottningrinn, Konign, Koningn < konungrinn, feurfetign < fjórfœtinginn (see also Hægstad "Hildinakvadet", p. 56-57)
5. e > e,ei,i,a,o: bera < bera, skeger < skeggjar, ere < herra, yera < gerir, gerde < gerði, gev(e) < gefr, genger < gengr, tega < tekr, lega < leggja, edne(r),eidnar < hennar, keimir > kemr, heindè < hengdr, stiender < stendr, rìdna < rennr, linge,lingè < lengi, tinka < þenkja, skinka < skenkja, vara < vera, gak < gekk, vaar < verð, whaar < hvern, garedin < gerðinni, wordig < verðigr, moga < megi, angan,engin,inga? < engan
e > ya (breaking, only in a few unstressed words): yach,yagh < ek, yaar < er
6. ǫ > o,a,u,eu,we,ie,i: londen < lǫndum, forlskona < fárskǫnnu, skam < skǫmm, and < hǫnd, hadlin < hǫllinni, huge < hǫfði, eulinngin < ǫðlingrinn, fwelsko < fǫlska, mien < mjǫðinn, vrildan < verǫldin
7. ø > u(a): dukrar < døkkvar, dahuge < dauðahøggit; askier,askar < øski,øskir/*øskar 'wiches' (obviously influenced by English ask, the meaning of which it has in stanza 26)
8. y > i(e),o: min,mien < *myn < mun, minde,mindè < mundi, myndi, dern < *diren < dyru(nu)m, sover < syfjar, otsta < yzta, *utsta (lack of umlaut? - see also Long vowels:
1. á > o,wo: mo < má, smo < smár, sot < sátt, grothè < gráti, yo < ljá, fuo,fwo < fá
2. ó > u,ou: fur < fór, ufrien < ófrænda, mandum < manndóm, tuchta < þótti, gloug < glóð but daute < dóttr (dœtr?), meo < móðr
jó > ui,eu [ø?]: guida < gjóta, feurfetign < fjórfœtingr
3. ú > u,au,o,i: mugè múga, fruna,fruan,fraun < frúin,frúna, ot < út, bridlevsin < brúðhlaupsins, Maunis < Magnús
4. é > e(o),ie,i: dor,ger < þér, mier, mir < mér, hien < héðan
5. í > i(e,a,u): whitrané < hvítrandi, minu < mínum, sìna < sína, tretti < þrjátíu, i,e,u < í, san &sínum
6. æ > e,i,ie: gever < gæfir, keresta < kærasta, friendè < frændi, frinda < frænda but rost < hræðast, kloyna < klæðin(i)
7. œ > o: gro < grœða, daute < dóttr (or dœtr by anology from nætr of nátt,nótt 'night'?). Diphtongs:

1. ei > e (ie), o: yom < heim, hemi < heima, mere, mìre < meiri, yilsa < heilsa, liene < leiðinni, fiegan < feigan
2. au > e: bridlevsin < brúðhlaupsins
3. ey > yo,eu: yoch < eyk, meun < meyna, lever < hleypir Regular vowel alternations (umlauts or mutations).
Like elsewhere in Norn, u-umlaut is often lacking:
scam < skǫmm; vath fasta bande < með fǫstu bandi, vadlin < vǫllinn, hadlin < hǫllinni, feyrin < fǫðrinn, wa and < á hǫnd. Examples of the surviving ǫ are o in voller < vǫll(r), londen < lǫndum, forlskona < fárskǫnnu, and possibly eu [ø] in eulinngin < ǫðlingrinn (Hægstad "Hildinakvadet", p. 40).

I-umlaut is more widespread. As pointed out by Jakob Jakobsen and Hugh Marwick, some words, i-mutated in Old Norse, fail i-umlaut in Norn
(whaar < hvern (< *hwaRan), otsta < yzta, osta < *hásta < hæsta, duka < drykkju, sover < syfjar), while several unumlauted words appear mutated (mild < *myld < mold (*muld), whirdi,quirto < hvort, min < mun, spirde < spurði). There are clear traces of i-umlaut in singular present indicative of strong verbs: tega < tekr, kemi, keimir, kimer < kemr (koma), genger < gengr (ganga), stiendi,stien < stendr (standa). It is striking that i-umlaut affects only verbs with -a- (except before -r-) and -o-, otherwise it is inactive: lothir < lætr (láta), slo < slær(ð) (slá), buga < býrð (búa). The vitality of i-umlaut is confirmed by some interesting analogy cases: du geve, di gava < þú gefr, it gefa. The change gefa > gava is obviously caused by analogy from verbs like tekr/taka (cf. also vera > vara, gekk > gak.).

3.2.2. Consonants. Old Norse consonants stay mostly unchanged except the following cases:
1. p,b > v,w (occasionally): uadn < barn, vadne < barni, lever < hleypir, bridlevsin < brúðhlaupsins
2. h > h,0 (zero): han,an,en,in < hann, hans,ans < hans, hon, on, an < hon, honon, ana < honum, ednar,edner < hennar, ere < herra, elde < heldr, and < hǫnd, estin < hestinn, otsta < yzta, osta < *hásta < hæsta
3. kt,tt (< *ht) > cht: tuchta < þótti, docht < þótt; tachtè < þakt
4. þ > t,d,y,0(zero): tinka < þenkja, tuchta < þótti, tachtè < þakt, tretti < þrjátíu, da < þat, du < þú, doch,dogh < þig, di,day < þit, din < þín,þinn, yayer < þegar, eso < þesi, ita < þetta, an < þann, wath < þó at (the "zero" cases seem to be analogical to the omission of h-, that þ could well have preliminarily turned into, cf. Far. hetta < þetta, hósdagur < þórsdagur, s. also M.Barnes, "A Note on Faroese /θ/ > /h/", Scripta Islandica, 1985, also in M.Barnes "Faroese language Studies"(2001))
5. ð > 0(zero), j (before front vowels, like in Faroese), d (after r, like in Faroese): ro < ráð(a,i), stumer < stjúpmóðir, meo < móðr, billon < biðlund, dahuge < dauðahøggit, go < guð, ru < rauðu, gro < grøða, gre < grið, mien < mjǫðin, lian < leiðina, sian < síðan, bian < biðr hann, kast(a) ans < kastaði hans, feyr < faðir, fy < fǫr, kloyna < klæðin(i), spirde < spurði, wordig < verðigr
ð > g: gouga < góða, stug < stóð, sluge < slóða, gloug < glóð, huge < hǫfði, buga < *búgr < býr(ð), cf. Far. búgva
6. sj > sh,ch,s: shall < sjalfr, chelsino < sjálfs síns, swo < sjá
7. -um > -on,-an,-en,-in,-n,-u: honon < honum, Orknian < Orkneyjum, londen < lǫndum, reithin < rótum, dern < dur(un)um, minu < mínum;
8. nn > dn(nn), rn > dn: eidni < henni, kadn < kann, widn < vinn, ridna < rennr,rinnr; kidn,kedn,kinn < kinn; uadn < barn
nd > nd,nn: band < band, landi < landi, friendè < frændi, stiendi < stendr, onde < undir, vannaro < vandaráði, billon < biðlund, avon < afandi, whitranè < hvítrandi
9. ll > dl, rl > rl: spidla < spillir, godle < gulli, fadlin < fallinn; iarlin < jarlinn
10. g(j),lj > j/y: buryon < borginni, yath-a-port (< *gjataport) < gataport, earna < gjarna, yera < gerir; but gerde < gerði; yo < ljá
10. -fn > -mn: namn < nafn
11. hv- > wh,qu: whitranè < hvítrandi, whaar < hvern, whar,quar < hvar, whirdì,quirto < hvort

The development of ON
hv- is worth commenting upon in greater detail. The language of Foula belonged to the Westside dialect (the main underlying feature being the presence of dl,dn < ll,nn). Everywhere in Westside ON hv gave [kw]. Jacobsen, listing phonetical differences between dialects in Shetland, does not mention Foula among places with the kw-pronunciation, although most of the examples from his dictionary do confirm it: kwara < hverjum, hvart < hvert, kwasi < *hvasa, kwekk < *hvekkr, Kwida < hvíta. However, in "Hildina", as just shown above, there are cases, where ON hv is represented with wh, which we can interpret as [hw] (or [w]?). There are also instances which clearly illustrate [kw]: quirto < hvort 'whether' (along with whirdi), quar < ON hvar 'where' (along with whaar). The presence of both [kw] and [hw] can eventually mean that the replacement of the original [hw] with [kw] within the Foula/Westside dialectal area still was not finished in the 18th century, at least in Foula, which was the longest to keep its archaic traits due to its peripherical status. The disappearance of the older [hw] in favour of [kw], that Jakobsen faced at end of the 19th century, could also be accelerated by an eventual immigration to the island from Westside - as Michael Barnes mentions, Foula was re-populated from other parts of Shetland after plague took away a large part of its original inhabitants in the 18th century ("The Norn Language of Orkney and Shetland, p. 18").

(For more detailed coverage of sound changes in "Hildina"'s phonetics, refer to "Hildinakvadet" by Marius Hægstad, pp. 33-75.)

3.2.3. Word juncture.

"Hildina" is one of those Norn specimens, where we can clearly watch in action word juncture phenomena. For example,
-r is often omitted if the next word begins at a consonant: tega di < tekr þú, gevè Drotnign < gefr drottningrinn, onde kinn < undir kinn, but kimer in < kemr enn, keimir eullingin < kemr ǫðlingrinn.

Analogically, final vowels get occasionally omitted before a word beginning at a vowel:
meyn our < meyna ór.

4. Grammar.

The grammar of the language of "Hildina" still preserves the main framework of the Old Norse grammar and repeats the traits of the Shetland Norn grammar, as exposed in our overview (to which we refer as the background for all said below). On the other hand, the grammar rules are not always followed by the narrator, which could mean that he already did not have a perfect command of Norn and possibly had a mechanical memory of the ballad.

As an example of grammatical (non-arbitrary) mistakes we can mention the mixing of cases:

a) Nominative-Accusative. As elsewhere in Shetland the old Nominative masculine ending is lost, which probably makes Norn the only Scandinavian language which preserves the four-case system after the fall of the masculine ending (like in German):
eulinngin < ǫðlingrinn, konign, koningn < konungrinn. The only exception is vodler < vǫll, which, ironically, has the accusative meaning. Examples from feminine: fruen,frauna,fruna < Nom. frúin, Acc. frúna, meun < Nom. meyin, Acc. meyna, i lian < Nom. leiðin, Acc. í leiðina. Cf. also the usage of doch < þig (Acc.) instead of du (Nom.) 'you' < þú.

b) Accusative-Dative.
o Orkneyjar < af Orkneyjum, Acc. Orknejar, dem 'them' < Acc. þá, Dat. þeim. Original dative verbs acquire accusative government: lever velburne mien < hleypir velbornum mǫnnum, Acc. velborna menn, Orkneyar ro < ráða Orkneyjum, Acc. Orkneyjar, spìdla mann < spillir manni, Acc. mann, vilda mien < valda meini, Acc. mein (this process has also advanced in Faroese: spilla mann, volda mein, loypa velbornar menn/velbornum monnum).

c) Accusative-Genitive.
to Orkneyar < til Orkneyja, fyrin din < fyrir þig (Acc.), Gen. þín.

The ending of is either -in (hadlin < hǫllini, garedin < gerðinni) or -ene (liene < leiðinni). This confirms our observaton that the ending in discussion reduced its final vowel except in one-syllable vocalic stems (cf. cases like lida vs. lir, Shetland Grammar, A. The respective ending in the adjective declension (which the article generally follows) has experienced a similar reduction: arar (< *aðrari) < annarri (cf. regular ON aðra; Far. annari, colloquial aðrari [εarari]).

In the definite declension it is striking that a number of nouns have the article even being defined with possessive pronouns, which are incompatible with the article in Scandinavian languages:
sina kloyna < sín klæði(ni), min heran < minn herra(nn), ans bugin < hans búk(inn). A close example, which is a bit more common, is the use of the article after demonstrative pronouns: eso vrildan < þessi verǫld(in). Unlike Danish and Swedish, the double use of the definite article and a demonstrative pronoun is not unknown in Norwegian (det huset < þat hús(it), denne boken < þessi bók(in)), Faroese (hetta barn < þetta barn(it), teir dreingirnir < þeir drengir(nir)) and, as an exception, also occurs in Icelandic (þessa dagana, þetta skiptið).

Verbal endings do not differ much from their Old Norse prototypes, although the mixing of endings due to the corruption of the language is very clear:
askier < œski, bian < biðr hann. We suspect that some of present 2 sg. forms descend from plural and if this assumption is true, it probably means that the plural present, like in Faroese, had the same ending -a for all persons: di yera < þú gerir, þit gerit, Far. tit gera, di lava < þú lofar, þit lofit, Far. tit lova (see also Shetland Grammar E.1.1.).

The past participles of weak verbs and supines (past partiples used in perfect forms) are encountered only in the weak form, even where the strong form would be expected
: heindè < hengdr, tachtè < þakt.

5. List of grammatical forms

In this overview we mention all forms registered in the text. They are classified by parts of speech, either standing independently or in a longer phrase (then underlined). For English translations see the vocabulary at the Hildinakvadet website, Vigfússon/Cleasby's Icelandic-English dictionary and Marius Hægstad's "Hildinakvadet" (in Norwegian).


A.1. Masculine

A.1.1. Undefinite.
- strong
erego < herra guð
meo < móðr
sìlkìsark ans smo < silkiserkr hans smár
Konign < konungr

- weak
erego < herra guð
frinde hans < frændi hans
friendè min < frændi minn
- strong
kednpust < kinnpúst
jok < eyk
in u vodler din < inn í vǫll þinn, Nom. vǫllr
man < mann 'man', Nom. maðr
fy din < fǫðr þinn
fy min < fǫðr minn
fysin < fǫðr sinn
i otsta yath a port < í yzta gataport

- weak
angan ufrien < engan ófrænda
mugè < múga
sluge < slóða
frinda sin < frænda sinn
an gouga herè min < þann góða herra minn
herre din < herra þinn
fwelsko < fǫlska
- strong
burt asta < burt af stað
fy minu < fǫðr mínum
i pluge < í plógi
ov mandum dora < af manndóm ykkar
vath stien < með steini

- weak
wo sino chelsino villya < á sínum sjálfs síns vilja
- weak
gever skeger < gæfir skeggjar
- strong
sìna mien < sína menn
velburne mien < velborna menn
- strong
sonè < sona
sonnaless < sonalauss

A.1.2. Definite
- strong
Iarlin < jarlinn
eulinngin < ðlingrinn
Drotnign < drottningrinn
Konign, Koningn < konungrinn
- strong
feurfetign < fer-fœtinginn
i vadlin < í vǫllinn
feyrin sien < fǫðrinn sinn
wo Iarlin < á jarlinn
fare kera fyrin minn < fyrir kæra fǫðrinn minn
mien < mjǫðinn
bugin < búkinn
estin < hestinn

- weak
min heran < minn herrann
- weak
a bardagana < á bardaganum
i bardagana < í bardaganum
- strong
Koningnsens < konungsins

A.2. Feminine

A.2.1. Undefinite
- strong
stu-mer < stjúpmóðir
- strong
onde kin, onde kidn < undir kinn
wo and < á hǫnd
to strand < til strandar
scam < skǫmm
billon < biðlund
sot < sátt

- weak
inga forlskona < enga fárskǫnnu
- strong
wo edner whitranè kidn < á hennar hvítari kinn
vath mild < með mold

- weak
u duka < í drykkju
- strong
i daute-buthe < í dóttr-bœtr (dœtr-bœtr?)
Orknear < Orkneyjar
i lutustor < í lopthúsdyr
ro Orkneyar < ráða!!!  Orkneyjum
i daute-buthe < í dóttr-bœtr
tretti merkè < þrjátíu merkr
o Orkneyjar < af Orkneyjum
reithin < rótum
i Orknian, i Orknean < i Orkneyjum
u dern san < ór durum sínum (Hægstad: durunum)
to Orkneyar < til Orkneyja

A.2.2. Definite
- strong
eso vrildan < þessi verǫldin
fruen, frauna, fruna, fraun < frúin
- strong
meun < meyna
i lian < í leiðina
fruan < frúna
- strong
or glasburyon < ór glasborginni
fro liene < frá leiðinni
u garedin arar < á gerðinni annarri
ur hadlin < ór hǫllinni
- strong
to strandane < til strandarinnar

A.3. Neuter

A.3.1. Undefinite
- strong
ro < ráð
ans namn < hans nafn

- weak
uo < auga (augu?)
- strong
wo osta tre < á hæsta tré
band < band
gild < gjald
ans huge < hans hǫfuð (Dat. hǫfði?)
i fong < í fang
live < leyvi
vin < vín
gloug < glóð
gre < grið
u gouga gre < það góða grið
i mit fung < í mitt fang
mien < mein (Dat. meini?)
- strong
vannaro < vandaráði
o landi < ór landi
vath ru godle < við rauðu gulli
vath godle o fasta bande < með gulli og fǫstu bandi
u grothè < ór gráti
vadne < barni
- strong
alty uadn < allt til barns
(ro < ráð)

- weak
uo < augu (auga?)
i londen < í lǫndum
to landa < til landa

A.3.2. Definite
- strong
(wo osta tre < á hæsta trét)
dahuge < dauðahǫggit
live < lífit
- strong
wo chaldona < á tjaldinu
- strong
til bridlevsin < til brúðhlaupsins
- strong
tworene < tárin
- strong
sina kloyna < sín klæðin


B.1. Strong declension
B.1.1. Masculine
sonnaless < sonalauss
wordig < verðigr
bal < baldr
fiegan < feigan
gever skegger < gæfir skeggjar
velburne mien < velborna menn

B.1.2. Feminine
wo edner whitranè kidn < á hennar hvítari kinn [hvít(a)ri]

B.1.3. Neuter
blit < blítt
mege < mikit
lide < lítit
fir sane < fyrir sǫnnu
vath ru godle < með rauðu gulli
vadh fasta bande < með fǫstu bandi

B.2. Weak declension

B.2.1. Masculine
kere friende min < kæri frændi minn
ere min heve < herra min hæfi
sante < sankti
an gouga herè min < þann góða herra minn
fare kera fyrin min < fyrir kæra fǫðrinn minn

B.2.2. Neuter
u gouga gre < þat góða grið

B.3. Comparative degree

mere, mìre < meiri

B.4. Superlative Degree

wo osta tre < á hœsta tré
i otsta yath a port < í yzta gataport


burt < burt
yom < heim
hemi < heima
darfro < þar frá
u < æ
sian, sien < síðan
nir < niðr
avon < afandi
earna, ear < gjarna
i muthi < í móti
so, se < svá
linge < lengi
nu < nú
allde < aldrig
fram < fram
idne i fro < inni í frá
ov < af
mire, mirè < meira
in < enn
ot < at
fest < fast
do, da < þá
in < inn


D.1. Personal pronouns

a,yach,yagh < ek
du < þú
-thì < -tu
doch,dogh < þú (þig)
di,day < þú (þit)
han,an,en,in < hann
hon, on, an < hon

moch < mig
doch, dogh < þú (þig)
fyrin din < fyrir þig (þín)

mier, mir < mér
dor, ger < þér
honon, ana < honum
hedne < henni
dim < þeim

to din < til þín
ednar, edner < hennar
ans < hans
dora < ykkar (yðvar)

D.2. Reflexive pronouns

shall < sjalf(r)

chelsino < sjálfs síns

D.3. Posessive pronouns

min < minn
din < þinn

mit < mitt
din < þinn
sien, sin < sinn
sina < sín
sìna mien < sína menn

minu < mínum (
sino < sínu (

chelsino < sjálfs síns

D.4. Demonstrative pronouns

da < þat
eso < þessi
ita < þetta

san < sådan (?)
an < þann

dese < þess
dar(fro) < þar(frá)
hien < héðan

D.5. Indefinite pronouns

whaar < hvern

arar < *aðari, annarri (

D.6. Negative pronouns

angan, engin[engine] < engan (
inga < enga (

D.7. Interrogative pronouns

whar, qvar < hvar


E.1. Indicative
E.1.1. Strong verbs
E.1.1.1. Presen
widn < vinn
tega < tekr
vaar < verðr
taga < tekr
slo < slær(ð)
du buga < þú býrð, cf. Far. búgva < búa
du geve, di gava < þú gefr (di gava is probably an original plural form)
stiendi < stendr
keimir < kemr
stien < stendr
an yaar < hann er
ridna < rennr
bian < biðr hann
gevè < gefr
kimer < kemr
u < er
stiender < stendr
tegar < tekr
genger < gengr
gev < gefr
liger < liggr
lothir < lætr
lever < hleypr
vexe < vex (óx?)
di gava < þit gefit (?), cf. Far. tit geva

E.1.1.2. Past
fur < fór
lathì < lézt þú
vara, vaar < var
gak < gekk
com < kom
stug < stóð
swo < sá
fac < fekk
vaks < óx (Far. vaks)
bar < bar
sat < sat
var < var
furu < fóru

E.1.2. Weak verbs
E.1.2.1. Presen
yach askier < ek œski (partially influenced by Eng. ask)
di yera < þú gerir
spidla < spillir
di lava < þú lofar
heve < hefir
klapa < klappar
swara < svarar
kadnar < kallar/kannar
lever < hleypir
dukrar < døkkvar
askar < œskir
sover < syfjar
heve < hefir
di yera < þér gerit (?)
di lava < þér lofit (?)

E.1.2.2. Past
dogh casta < þú kastaðir
spirde < spurði
cast ans < kastaði hans
gerde < gerði
laghdè < lagði
du tuchta (pers.) < þér þótti (impers.)

E.1.3. Preterite-present verbs
E.1.3.1. Presen
skall < skal
mo < má
vult < vilt
di skall (plur?) < þú skalt
ear di <  *eigar þú (átt þú)
du ska < þú skalt
skall dogh < skalt þú
min < mun
kan < kann
scal < skal
mien < mun
kadn < kann
mo < má

E.1.3.2. Past
vild-a < vilda ek
skildè < skyldi
mindè, minde < myndi
visti < vissi (Far. visti)

E.2. Subjunctive
kemi < komi
cumi < komi (pres)/kœmi (past)?
comme < komi
moga < megi
gev < gefi

E.3. Imperative

far di < far þú
geve,gev < gef
tinka < þenkja

E.4. Infinitive

fwo < fá
taga < taka
vara < vera
vilda < valda
ro < ráða
ria < ríða
yilsa < heilsa
gave < gefa
yo < ljá
liva < lifa
fare < fara
lega < leggja
gonga < ganga
lava < lifa
gro < grœða
bera < bera
verka < verka
dogha < dáa
skinka < skenkja
guida < gjóta
swo < sjá
bleo < blœða

E.5. Present (active) participle

avon < afandi

E.6. Past/perfect (passive) participle

gede < getit
heindè < hengdr
han u cummin < hann er kominn
velburne < velborna (
fadlin < fallinn
borè < borit
var commin < var kominn
on heve tachtè < hon hefir þakt

E.7. Middle voice

rost < hræðast
sadnast < sannast


o, a, ov < af
for, firre, firin, fare < fyrir
or, our, u, ur < ór
til, to < til
fro < frá
e, i, u, ei < í
wo, u, a < á
onde < under
vath, vad < við, með
ot < at


u < og
un- < en
or < eðr (Eng. or?)
whirdì,quirto < hvort
yamna < jafnan
whar < hvar
sin, san < sem
elde < heldr
so < svá
wath < at
ty < til
till do < til þá
min < meðan
wath < þó at
docht < þótt
u < eð
quar sin  < hvar sem


ho, ou, u < at (inf.)
etsa < einnug



















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