Hi Anastasia,

Without a doubt the most useful modern language for learning Old Norse
is Icelandic. Icelandic has changed very little since the Middle Ages
compared to related Germanic languages. In fact, it can be thought of
as, in many ways, essentially the same language as the dialect of Old
Norse spoken in medieval Iceland (i.e. Old Icelandic, which was very
similar to Old Norwegian in the early medieval period). Icelandic
preserves the complex morphology of Old Norse with just a few minor
changes, whereas Norwegian, Danish and Swedish have greatly simplified
the inflectional structure. Modern Icelandic orthography differs
slightly from the normalised spelling used in Old Norse text books,
but not hugely, and once you know a few basic rules it's easy to
convert between them. With a knowledge of Modern Icelandic, you will
already be able to read a lot of Old Norse. Perhaps the main
difference between Modern Icelandic and Old Icelandic is that a lot of
new words have been coined since the Middle Ages to deal with modern
concepts, although the basic vocabulary has stayed pretty much the
same. Another difference is that the pronunciation of the vowels has
changed quite a bit since the Middle Ages, although most of the old
distinctions between vowels have survived. But this isn't such a big
hurdle, since the spelling system is still closely based on that used
by Old Norse writers, and the modern pronunciation is generally used
by academics for reading Old Norse.

If you don't have the oportunity to take a course in Icelandic, any of
the mainland North Germanic languages would be a help: Norwegian (in
either of its two national standard varieties), Danish and Swedish.
They all have a basic shared vocabulary inherited from Old Norse,
albeit with a lot of later loanwords from German. They also retain
many grammatical features of Old Norse, although the morphology has
been much reduced. Faroese stands somewhere between Icelandic and its
mainland relatives; it still has a complex morphology like Icelandic,
but has undergone more changes that have taken it a bit further from
Old Norse.

If none of the above are available, your best bet might be German.
While German is a West Germanic languages, like English, it still has
a lot of archaic grammatical complexity in common with Old Norse
(which have been lost in English). Its morphology is more complex than
the national languages of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, but simpler than

Good luck, and good fun, and whatever you choose!

Lama Nom

--- In norse_course@yahoogroups.com, stasia salvucci
<amadahy_frost@...> wrote:
> Hi everyone,
> I know I haven't written in the group but I've been
> reading the emails for some time, and was wondering if
> someone could tell me which modern language would be
> most useful in starting to learn Old Norse? I plan to
> take a few language classes this summer and wanted to
> start learning Norse at a snail-slow pace, thank you!
> -Anastasia