Almost completely right, but please let me add that if you want to
learn the most valuable living Scandinavian language, learn Swedish.
Modern Icelandic is a wonderful language, and its morphology, grammar,
and syntax has remained almost entirely in tact from the form people
learn when they study Old Norse, i.e. "classical" Icelandic. The
reason I recommend Swedish, is that, although lacking in most
grammatical remnants of Old Norse (the extent is not as much as many
people claim though), it's vocabulary is largely intact and its
accentuation and intonation is very conservative, more so than Bokmål
Norwegian and Danish. Nynorsk is somewhere about 3/4 to Bokmål from
Old Norse, but definitely preferable if you want to be able to speak
to about three times the amount of people as those from Iceland (it is
an official language of Norway, but it represents only about 13% of
Norwegians). Swedish, on the other hand, has only one significant
dialect (at least in the sense that it may be transferred with no
significant difficulty to every living dialect in Sweden and Finland).
German is a good option as well, since it is a little less difficult
than Icelandic grammatically, and it is spoken by the largest amount
of speakers in the whole of Germanic languages (excluding, of course,
our own language, English). German is also West Germanic, and if you
learn the 2nd sound shift and take a formal course, you can learn it
with just a little work. German is also offered at many high schools,
community colleges, community centers (German-related institutes),
universities, and so forth. Plus, most of the American "Caucasian"
(that means white people, if you're dense) is of German-descent
(meaning we all have a little Kraut in us, more or less). French is an
important romance language, but will get you nowhere with Germanic
languages, Spanish just as little (despite some significant amount of
nouns from Germanic Visigoths). Latin will teach you grammar, but if
that is all you want, why not German instead? Faroese is wonderful for
philologists and Scandinavists, but even less people speak it than
Icelandic, and it is only a bit more conservative than Nynorsk. Modern
Icelandic is still, by an insanely large degree, the closest living
descendant of Old Norse. Take this word, for a random example, in Old
Norwegian: 'sjónhverfing' - "optical illusion," has change in Modern
Icelandicto 'sjónkverfing.' The only change in pronunciation is that
the initial sj- has changed from s- and j- (pronounced like English
'y' in yes) to Danish and Norwegian sj- pronounced like English 'sh.'
And the other change, h to k is noted in the spelling. There are
numerous examples, but if you can read and write Modern Icelandic, you
would have the greatest advantage available to read an older form of a
Germanic language in the North Germanic branch. Think of it as Old
Icelandic (a dialect of West Norse, Eastern Norwegian) with Danish
pronunciation. Lastly, although I love the Danes, Danish culture, the
country of Denmark, their language is ridiculously terrible sounding
and hard to understand when spoken.
Swedish is still the best option to learn as a modern Scandinavian
language. In relatively little time, a moderate level of mutual
comprehension can be obtained for the other two, Norwegian [easier]
and Danish [easy to read, almost impossible to understand]).
So in summary, the best three options are: 1) Modern Icelandic, 2)
Swedish 3) German. Although I'm sure a few people will debate the
positions of 2 and 3, if you want to get closer to Old Norse, that is
the best recommendation; that, or learn Old Norse and leave it as a
dead language you can only read and poorly pronounce and reproduce
(like in shows on the history channel).
If you're taking language courses this summer, it's unlikely they'll
have anything worth wasting money on. Save it until they offer German
or Old English.
--- In email@example.com, "llama_nom" <600cell@...> wrote:
> 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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