In the process
of compiling the grammar of Nynorn we have followed two main guidelines, as declared elsewhere:
(1) the existing Norn material is to be used to the
greatest extent, (2) remaining gaps are filled up
from Old Norse or other Nordic languages, where all borrowings are rehashed according to the phonetic rules of Shetland/Orkney Norn.
base the reconstruction on Shetland Norn from the
period of The Ballad of Hildina/the Lord's Prayer, i.e. when
the grammar still preserved the inflectional
system. Latter forms of Norn have not been
considered reliable to be used as a model
pattern: they seem to be much worn out
and probably uttered by people who were more
accustomed to use Scots than Norn (if they spoke
the latter at all).
Working out the
endings of Nynorn we have taken most of them from
the grammar of Shetland Norn. Those endings that differ or are not present in
Norn are explained explicitly. Reconstructing
the endings missing from Norn, we normally use their Old Norse
archetypes, given a 'Norn touch' when needed. This is not a big step away
from the truth, because the existing Norn endings are quite
reminiscent of their Old Norse archetypes (our readers are encouraged to check the grammar of Old
Norse for more detailed information on grammatical topics
that has to do with Nynorn).
various combinations of endings for our reconstruction we
have decided to drop some of them for the sake of integrity.
For instance, this applies to those endings whose status within the
inflectional system of Norn is not clear or which are considered
as a result of corruption, f.ex.,
-a, which is often used as the definite article in
masculine (ON -inn, see
Grammar of Shetland Norn, A.2.1.1.a), a plural
ending (Orkney Norn) or a common ending for most forms (like in
"Gryle" verse from Foula). The inclusion of such endings did not
worked well in earlier test versions of Nynorn grammar, making the
whole picture look a bit chaotic, so we have decided to make our
reconstruction more conservative and 'Old Norse-oriented'. Whether it is right or wrong, is subject to discussion, but meanwhile our experiment continues its run
(feel free to share your ideas on this matter and they will be
reserved for the Great Revision).
Of course, when dealing with the real Norn such a loose treatment of the material would be inappropriate, but we have full rein for it in our experimental
project, so there will always be some space for
reasonable imagination, where it is backed up with logical
conclusions and typological evidences.
Remember Hebrew - you might probably not be aware
that we do not know for sure what the vowels of
many Old Hebrew words were, because in the
writing they were not marked (f.ex., the name of God in the Old Testament can be read
either as Yahweh or Yehowah). The vocalisation of
the contemporary Hebrew (the revived one)
originates from different medieval traditions of
reading Old Hebrew textes and uses their combination
(read more on the revival of Hebrew here). This
is a living example of a theoretical
reconstruction that has been
brought to life and continues existing as a real
we proceed to the actual paradigms let us make
some general points, which concern a number of
ON ir/ur endings. In Norn they have mixed
into -er (ON -ar often did too), so we use the same approach in Nynorn.
This system has a close parallel, as in many
Faroese dialects the old endings -ir and -ur
are also indistinguishable (where either -ir
or -ur is chosen; this topic is covered in
detail by Björn Hagstrom in his
"Ändelsevokalerna i färöskan").
2. ON i/e and u/o endings. In Old
Norse i/e and u/o were phonetic
variations of the same vowels (phonemes) in unstressed position. In this case the following policy has been
chosen: i,u is used before the final ð and in the final position
(except -rne in definite noun declension
and comparative degree of adjectives and adverbs -(e)re),
e,o in front of a consonant: hesti
< hesti, lambið < lambit (Icel. and Far. lambið), but hestenon < hestinum;
hvitu < hvítu, but hviton <
hvítum. Marius Haegstad postulates the
reverse distribution for the language of Hildina, however, the system we have chosen seems
to be closer to Jakobsen's data presented in his
The ON dative ending -um is spelled as -on.
Shetland Norn has mostly -en or -an,
and the only instance where we have -on is
honon < ON honum '(to) him'. It
has been decided to use the ending -on
instead of -en/-an both for phonological
reasons and in order to avoid its mixing together
with accusative singular masculine ending of
adjectives -an and the article -en:
hviton vs. hvitan < ON hvítum/hvítan,
heston vs. hesten < ON hestum/hestinn.
faced a number of problems with certain definite forms, first of all
singular of feminine (strong) and the dative plural
(of any gender, not found in the existing Norn material).
The problem of the ending for dative plural is
closely related to that of dative singular of
masculine (ON -unum and -inum/-anum respectively). The language of Hildina has one form
for Dat.sg. bardagana < ON bardaganum (weak masculine
declension). Such a form would look the same as
accusative/genitive plural in Nynorn, so it is not what we need.
However, there can be a solution, which we can look up in the
pronominal forms hana/honon'him'
< ON honum. These forms show us that the
endings -ana and -onon were
interchangeable (where -ana most likely
represented the unstressed form). This is why we
have decided to construct the ending -anon.
For the strong declension -enon is chosen
and in the case of plural we go for -onon.
The last point can be argued and we reserve the right to admit -enon instead of -onon
for this form, which saves us from creating one
more artificial ending. Such a
system exists in a number of Faroese dialects which do not differ between -inum (sg.) and -unum (pl.),
see Hagström, "Ändelsevokalerna i färöskan", p. 160. However, bearing in mind that Old Norse and most other Scandinavian dialects with
a surviving dative case strictly distinguish between dative singular and plural in the definite declension, a separate ending for
dative plural like -onon looks to be more preferable.
Genitive singular feminine (strong). Shetland
Norn seems to have the indefinite ending -a/ar and
definite -na. To construct the Nynorn form
we have tried several options, most of them
either coincided with other endings or
were too far from the real Norn. In the end
the following compromise was found: indef. -ar
< ON -ar, def. -anar
< ON -arinnar, f.ex. Nynorn årnar
- Norn orna < ON árinnar. The final -r
in -anar is brought in because, as we have
found out in the Hildina chapter, this sound
is often omitted
in Norn in the final position, especially when
the next word begins at a consonant. This makes
it reasonable to restore the original -r when
we specially need it.
is also worth mentioning that our reconstruction
of the ending fits perfectly into the whole
feminine definite paradigm. As mentioned below
(A.2.2), like in Norn, there is no distinction
made between the strong and weak definite endings
in Nynorn. This goes well with most endings
except genitive of singular, where the strong and
weak endings considerably differed in Old Norse.
But in our reconstruction the strong
genitive singular ending becomes almost the
same as in the weak declension (except the first
vowel), so the problem is happily solved:
Nom. grinden, stoljken < ON grindin,
Acc. grindena, stoljkena < ON grindina,
Gen. grindanar, stoljkenar
< ON grindarinnar, stúlkunnar
have decided to distinguish between the vocalic
and consonantal declension in the strong feminine
declension as is the case in Shetland Norn
The language of the Ballad of Hildina and
Grammar of Shetland Norn,
vocalic declension includes nouns ending at vowels and -ð (silent)
and preserves the old Old Norse dative singular
ending -ni < -inni. The
consonantal declension has -en coinciding
hallen < ON hǫllinni,
but leðni < ON leiðinni,
ånni < ON ánni
feature borrowed from Norn is that the ending of
definite weak female nouns is in accusative,
dative and genitive the same as in the case of
the strong ones, i.e. its vocal is e
instead of the o of the indefinite paradigm:
accusative indefinite dimsku, but definite
dimskena < *dimskuna, dative
definite dimsken < *dimskunni.
These are exclusive features of Norn unknown in
Old Norse, Icelandic or Faroese.
Strong, consonantal (mør, pl. mørar
- Strong 1)
As shown in
Grammar of Shetland Norn, A.2.1.1.c, Norn data show two variants of the neuter nominative/accusative definite article: ON -it and -i, which refers to its later version, cf. Icelandic -ið [ið] and Faroese -ið [i]. We have declined to use the later version too. The rest of the endings is trivial and
identical to the masculine declension (except dative singular).
The plural nominative/accusative ending had in Norn two variants: -ene and -en/in (see
Grammar of Shetland Norn, A.2.2.1.b). The
former coincides with the Old Norse ending and is still
present in Icelandic. The latter type is represented in Faroese
and Danish. We use the Old Norse variant. Apart from the fact that the number of occurrences of -en/in is noticeably higher, we would also like to point at the Norn word sotskin n.pl. 'brother(s) and sister(s)', also mentioned in
several other Nordic languages the latter part of the word coincides with the respective neutral plural ending of the article, cf. Icel. systkin vs. börn-in 'the children', but Far. systkini vs. børn-ini, Dan. søskende [syskǝnǝ] - børn-ene. Using the word sotskin as a marker, we have chosen to use the article -en in neutral plural instead of -ene.
B.1. Strong declension
The strong declension is used with indefinite
svart hest '(a) black horse', guder båtar 'good
As in the case of masculine
nouns, we have decided to omit the old ending -er
( < ON -r) that is still present in a
few Norn adjectives (naber,uvolter).
The only place where we had to use a direct
borrowing from Old Norse is the genitive plural
ending -ra. Norn has only one form in this case and
number - gamla, which is
not very illustrative about the ending due to assimilation: gamla < ON gamalla
< *gamalra. The same decision to use
the archaic ending -ra is often taken by Faroese
Lockwood "Introduction into Modern Faroese", p. 46, ; Føroysk
orðabók (1998), p. 1438, cf. also Meginfelag
føroyskra studenta 'Association of Faroese students'), despite the fact that the
ending has disappeared from Faroese for good
as well as the genitive case itself except in
several types of set expressions.
The feminine dative singular ending -ari
is the same as in Faroese (cf. ON -ri) and
is inspired by the forms arar and whìtrane, see our
analysis of the Ballad of Hildina.
gul 'yellow', gud
B.1.1. Sonorant and
polisyllabic stems that end in l,n decline in the following way (grøn 'green',
The main distinction is the form of genitive plural, where r is assimiliated by l or n of the stem. Polysyllabic stems lose the vowel of the second syllable if the ending begins at a vowel (this type is widespread among strong past participles, see
E.1.3.). Notice that when m and l meet in several forms
of gamel, b is inserted inbetween.
weak declension is used with definite nouns and
possessive attributes consisting of possessive
pronouns or genitive nouns:
svarti hesten 'the black horse', gudu båtarne
'the good boats'
min svarti hest 'my black horse', svarti hest
drengsens '(the) black horse of the boy'
The only change from the Old Norse
paradigm is the ending -a
instead -u in accusative, dative
and genitive of feminine singular, which fully
corresponds to many existing instances from
Grammar of Shetland Norn, B.2.3.). The plural
ending remains -u as in Old Norse, cf. the
form dimmodali (ibidem).
The main weakness of this system is that it
does not distinguish between the weak and strong
forms of accusative singular feminine.
of all cases and genders has the same form:
Superlative: gulast (from gul), best (from
gud) Admits both strong and weak declension.
However, due to the nature of the superlative
meaning, which assumes the singleness, and hence
definiteness, the weak superlative forms are used
more often than not.
The verb declensions
of Nynorn repeat
in most respects those of Old Norse and Faroese. Like in
the latter, no distinctions between persons is done in plural (cf.
vi forgiva < vit forgefa, di gava< þit gefa);
optative (the old subjunctive) has only one indeclined present form. The only
place where Nynorn differs from Faroese and follows Old Norse is
the 1. person of singular in the strong present declension (cf.
Hildina winn < ON
ek vinn) - it has zero ending and i-umlaut (cf. ON
ek tek, Nynorn eg tek vs. Far. eg taki).
(active): drivandi, takandi Past (passive): driven (neu. drivið),
teken (neu. tekið)
The neuter form of past participle is used in perfect (this participle form is called 'supine'):
eg hevi drivið/tekið
participles do not change. Past participles decline like normal
In type 1 the
stem of the past tense is formed through adding -d or -t to the root: gera > gerd-. Like in
Faroese, the tense has only 2 endings: singular
-i and plural -u., cf. Norn sagde < ON
sagði, soketu < sóttu, sóktu. (The plural ending -e,
as in rude < *róðu, vogede <
is considered in this connection as corrupted or representing a
later version of Norn than the one we base our reconstruction
The past tense of type 2 (kalla) caused us a bit of a problem. The only example of its past is a
form from the Ballad of Hildina: kast-ans < kastaði hans (no past
plural is registered).
his would suggest creating the same past in Nynorn: kalla. But then there would
have been no distinction between past and 1.
sg/1.-3. pl. of present which is kalla as well.
As a solution, we have decided to use the following artificial endings to
distinguish between singular and plural: -aði and -aðu
respectively (like in Faroese). The phonetic value of
these endings, namely, the spelling of ð, will be clarified
later during the Great Revision.
(active): gerandi, kallandi Past (passive): gerd (neu. gert),
kallað (neu. kallað)
The neuter form of past participle is used in perfect (this participle form is called 'supine'):
eg hevi gert/kallað.
In the case of kallað we
had to choose between the ending -t (archaic) and -ð (latter)
of the neuter form. Norn preserves both types: vandet < vandaðr/vandat, sópet < sópaðr/sópat, hoitted < háttaðr/háttat, but uppidoga <
uppidagaðr/uppidagað. It is quite possible though, that the -et/-ed in these participles has stayed due to the influence from numerous adjectives ending in -et <
-óttr, so we have decided to go for the 'silent' forms and use
-ð- (as is the case in modern Faroese
participles do not change. The past participles decline like usual
The mode has a reflexive, reciprocal or passive meaning. It has only one ending: -st, which is added to the end of the respective form. Herewith the following phonetic changes occur:
- the final r,t,d,ð are omitted: hann gerer > hann gerest, gert > gerst; kallað > kallaðst;
- the strong present ending -er (ON -r) is omitted altogether:
du teker > du tekst
a) at taka: present: eg/du/hann tekst, vi/di/der takast past: eg/du/hann tukst, vi/di/der tukust optative: takest past participle: tekest
b) at gera:
present: eg/du/hann gerest, vi/di/der gerast past: eg/du/hann gerdest, vi/di/der gerdust optative: gerest past participle: gerst
c) at kalla:
present: eg/du/hann kallast, vi/di/der kallast past: eg/du/hann kallaðist, vi/di/der kallaðust optative: kallest past participle: kallast
The syntax is similar to that of Old Norse. The
word order is rather free besides one strict rule, which requires the conjugated
verb to be the second member of the sentence (the
first member can normally be a subject, object or adverbial modifier):
Drengen sjer stolkena. 'The boy sees the
Nu sjer drengen stolkena. 'Now the
boy sees the girl.'
Notice that a member of a sentence can consist of more than one grammatical word:
Vi furu til Lervikar i vår. 'We went to Lerwick
(in) this spring'
[I vår] furu vit til Lervikar. '[(In) This spring] we
went to Lerwick' (modifier - [i vår])
Eg så hvita hesten. 'I saw the white horse.'
[Hvita hesten] så eg ikke. '[The white horse] I did not
see.' (object - [hvita hesten])
Genitive attributes are preferably used in
postposition. In this case Nynorn joins Icelandic
and German, the only Germanic languages which
preserve the old four-case system and at the same time where the
genitive attribute is used in post-position.
Nouns with a genitive attribute or possessive pronoun
do not use the definite article.
hund drengsens 'the dog of the boy' hest
stoljkenar 'the horse of the girl'