Heill Terje.

--- In norse_course@yahoogroups.com, "Terje Ellefsen"
<radiorabia@...> wrote:
> I'd just like to know how to pronounce the old norse letter á,
which in norwegian these days is either a or å. As I understand it,
the icelandic version is pronounced 'ao'. But is old norse á
long 'a' or some sort of 'å'?
> Terje

Old Norse Á was a long A (â), the long version of A (a).
It was likely pronounce like a long A in English 'father'.
This Á had two varieties, one nasal and the other non-nasal.
The word 'á'(on, Norwegian på) is an example of a nasal.
When followed by a lost -U, Á mutated to a hooked Ó (tail below).
When followed by a lost -U, A mutated to a hooked O (tail below).
In each case, the difference was one of length.
Hooked O and Ó were probably fairly close to long and short Å.
Here is an example of what happened in later West Norse:
West Norse speakers during the Viking Age would have said one 'mál'
(long A), but two 'mól'(hooked Ó/tail below); later, all West Norse
leveled long hooked Ó to Á (but not short hooked O to A) - at this
stage we have long A(â) in both singular and plural; later still,
Icelandic pronunciation shifts this Á closer to AU, while Norwegian
shifts it closer to Å - thus, there was a time when both the plural
and singular where pronounced differently from either the plural or
the singular in either of the modern languages.

The short answer to your question is this: If you are shooting for
the old-time pronunciation, select long A (â) and stick to it. The
long answer is this: If you want to be technically correct to the
12th century or earlier and better than old spelling, learn when to
pronounce it as a nasal ('through the nose') and when not to. Long A
(â) was not inherited from Proto-Norse, nor did it exist in Proto-
Germanic; on the contrary, it came into existence in Scandinavia as
following consonants began to disappear. The nasal distinction stems
from the quality of the lost consonant (nasal vs. non-nasal) - thus,
the Á in 'á' (på) is nasal (from PGmc *ana), while the Á in 'mál' is
non-nasal (from PGmc *maþlam).

Here is a Germanic trivia question:
Which historical Germanic language had the most vowels?
A: Old Scandinavian from about 800-1200.
Which dialect of Old Scandinavian had the most vowels?
A: Old West Norse, the language West Norway, Iceland and the Faroes.

In addition to all of the usual vowel mutations found in the East
Scandinavian dialects, West Norse had one more: full U-mutation
everywhere that it could apply. This minor difference won for Old
West Norse the dubious distiction of having the most difficult-to-
pronounce Germanic vowel-system of all time - a fact which we will
have to learn to live with if we want to pronounce our ancesters'
language the way the real old-timers did. ;)


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