Old English and Its Closest Relatives: A Survey of the Earliest Germanic Languages

By Orrin W. Robinson | Go to book overview

4


OLD NORSE

A Brief History of the Norsemen

During the Age of Migrations, when many other Germanic groups were migrating from the ancestral homeland in the north, the ancestors of the speakers of Old Norse stayed close to home. There were some movements within that area, of course. The Danes moved south out of southern Sweden into Zealand and the Jutland peninsula, which after the departure of the Angles and other tribes was relatively empty. The Swedes, meanwhile, who at first were merely one of several tribal groups occupying modern Sweden, set about conquering their neighbors, the Geats, and slowly expanded their power base through central Sweden and Götland. And as reported by the Ynglingatal, an Old Norse genealogical poem, the royal house of Norway also originally came from Sweden to the Oslo region. It was not until late in the eighth century, however, that the rest of Europe came to hear much about these people. And when they did, the tidings brought little joy. For the northernmost Germanic peoples appeared on the world scene as vikings, professional pirates who attacked from the sea without warning and carried away any treasure they could get their hands on.

It was probably in the mid-eighth century that the vikings began their attacks and conquests in western Europe. For by the time the Norwegians attacked Ireland and England, it seems clear that they had already established bases in the Shetlands and Orkneys. Since it was the illiterate Picts that they took them from, no records of these conquests survive.

The further progress of the Norwegian vikings is better recorded. They seem to have been responsible for an exploratory raid in the south of England in 789, which resulted in the death of a sheriff, and for the

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Old English and Its Closest Relatives: A Survey of the Earliest Germanic Languages
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations xi
  • The Germanic Language Family 1
  • Germanic: A Grammatical Sketch 24
  • Gothic 43
  • Old Norse 69
  • Old Saxon 100
  • Old English 136
  • Old Frisian 176
  • Old Low Franconian 199
  • Old High German 222
  • The Grouping of the Germanic Languages 247
  • Appendix 265
  • Appendix: 267
  • Reference Matter 277
  • Bibliography 279
  • Index 285
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