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Lesson One


1. Alphabet. Common reading rules.

The Nynorn alphabet consists of 24 letters:

Aa Bb Dd (Ð)ð Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll
Mm Nn Oo Pp Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Yy Øø Åå

The letter ð never occurs at the beginning of the word, so its capital counterpart Ð is mentioned only for completeness sake.

The following letters are pronounced as their English/Scots counterparts:

b,f,g,h,k,m,p,v, d,l,n,s,t

r is a trilled rhotic sound as in Scots, Gaelic or Spanish
ng is uttered as ng + g
hv reads as [hw] except Foula and Westside where it is uttered as [kv]

j reads as English y in young
hj reads as j (English y)
sj reads as English sh;
tj reads as English ch.

One consonant letter, ð, reads as zero sound (like in Faroese), except 2 positions: and , where you can pronounce it either like [r, g] or [rd, gd] respectively.

The letter g in the adjective ending -ig is silent, i.e. the ending reads as [i].

The vowel letters are pronounced according to rules, common for most European languages:

a reads as a in French and German (or Arabic Allah akbar)
o reads as o in English song
u reads as oo in English spoon
i reads as a mix of i and ee in English bit, steel
e reads as e in English bed
ø reads as Shetlandic ui in guid, German ö or French eu (very close to English ur in hurt)

å reads as o
y reads as i

NB! The pronunciation of a,o,u,å + ll,nn,tt,pp,kk may have dialectal variations which are to be covered in the following lessons.

The letters ð,y,å refer to Old Norse sounds which have merged with other sounds or become silent during the history of Norn.

The stress in Nynorn normally falls onto the first syllable, except in borrowings from other languages where other syllables can be stressed.

The vowels in the stressed syllable are long, unless followed by a long consonant (marked with two consonant letters) or a group of consonants. Examples:

long vowels: hus 'house', taka 'to take', dag 'day', voga 'week'
short vowels: hest 'horse', drengi 'boy', efter 'after', kerling 'old woman'
long consonants: miss 'loss', hvessa 'to sharpen', sommer 'summer'

Exercise 1.1.
Read the following words:

bera 'to carry', joga 'eye', udal 'allodial', hval 'whale', tjug 'thigh', hånga 'to hang', bjårga 'to save', hjog 'hill', sjalder 'oyster-catcher', miss 'loss', njavi 'fist', nyr 'kidney', bjørg 'rocky hill', jøl 'Christmas', ting 'court; district', sjå 'to see', hvessa 'to sharpen'.

Sometimes it can be handy to use the dialectal orthography: thus, hval, hvessa should be written in Foula/Westside Nynorn as kval, kvessa.

2. Strong substantives. Plural

As in German and Scandinavian languages, all substantives in Nynorn are divided into two main classes, strong (S) and weak (W). It has nothing to do with force or weakness, this naming is purely conventional and refers to two main declension types. As a rule, the strong nouns, with a few exceptions, end in a consonant (hest, kerling, hus), while the weak ones always end in a vowel (drengi, voga, joga).

Another characteristic common to all substantives is gender. As in Faroese, Icelandic and German, there are three genders in Nynorn: masculine (M), feminine (F) and neuter (N). The gender of a substantive is to be checked in the dictionary.

First we introduce the strong substantives and how they form their plural form. Masculine and feminine nouns add either -ar or -er, while the neuter nouns stay unchanged. The plural ending in each particular case is as given in the dictionary. The majority of masculine nouns has -ar in plural, while -er seems to be more typical for feminine nouns.

1. hest 'horse' - hestar 'horses';
2. gest 'guest' - gester 'gests'
1. kerling 'old woman' - kerlingar 'old women';
2. ferd 'journey' - ferder 'journeys'
kast 'chance' - kast 'chances'

Exercise 1.2.

Change the following words to plural (the class of the word is given in the parantheses - e.g., FS2 stands for feminine strong, type 'ferd'):
dag 'day'(MS1), toft 'thwart; ruin'(FS2), fjord 'fjord'(MS2), hus 'house'(NS), rug 'heap'(FS1), fisk 'fish'(MS1), sild 'herring'(FS2), rum 'space; room'(NS), stað 'place'(MS2), mess 'mass'(FS1)


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  Contents Lesson Two



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