Thanks LN I'll print that up right away
Date: 16/08/2007 17:14:22
Subject: [norse_course] Re: 'v', 'u' and 'w'
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Patti (Wilson)"
in O/E -
That's right: the English verb 'wax' "to become" in the fixed
expression 'to wax wrath' (from Old English 'weaxan' "to grow") is
cognate with Old Norse 'vaxa' "to grow"; English 'w' corresponds to
Icelandic 'v' in cognate words. Icelandic preserves the old meaning
of the verb, but when it comes to the pronunciation of the initial
letter, English is, for once, more conservative. Back in the 12th
century, Old Norse 'v' probably had a similar pronunciation to English
'w'. The author of the 12th c. First Grammatical Treatise (Fyrsta
Málfræðiritgerðin) wrote of the reformed alphabet he was advocating:
En þat er gott at vita, sem fyrr var getit, er svá kveðr at hverjum
raddarstaf í hverju máli, sem hann heitir í stafrófi, nema þá er hann
hafnar sínu eðli, ok hann má heldr þá samhljóðandi heita en raddarstafr.
"Now it is well to know, as was said above, that every vowel is
pronounced in every context just as it is named in the alphabet,
excepting when it gives up its own nature and must then rather be
called a consonant than a vowel." (translation by Einar Haugen).
Þat verðr þá er hann er stafaðr við annan raddarstaf, sem hér eru
nökkur doemi nú: austr [...], uín.
"This happens when it is joined with another vowel, as in the
following examples: austr 'east' [...], uín 'wine'".
Note: Einar Haugen uses the traditional normalised Old Norse
orthography for his edition, except for the examples which are given
in the First Grammarian's own spelling system; thus 'uín' instead of
And for a long time in European alphabets based on Latin writing,
including English, and Icelandic (as we saw in the Sheep Letter), even
long after Ic. /v/ had ceased to be a semivowel. The Elder Futhark
had separate signs for [w] and [u], but the Younger Futhark didn't.
The nature of the language was such that there wasn't much room for
ambiguity as to whether to read the letter as vowel [u] or consonant
[w], except maybe in compound words and with the preposition 'ú'
(='ó'). Within a syllable, [w] was lost before any rounded vowel
during the evolution to Old Norse (not including hooked-o), hence: ON
oepa "shout" : OE wépan "weep"; ON óx "grew" : OE 'wéox' "grew", etc.
But sometimes 'v' was restored later by analogy with inflectional (or
alternative) forms that still had the 'v'. When we're reading poetry,
look out for archaic forms like: 'ón' for normalised ON 'ván' "hope",
or 'órr' for 'várr' "our".
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