Cerca Articolo

Old Norse


The Vikings have traditionally been seen as the bad guys of history, raping and pillaging their way through Northern Europe. But the violence they’re remembered for is only part of the story. In the year 793, invaders from what is today Denmark and Norway started arriving by longboat on the northeastern shores of Britain.
Then, gradually, some Viking raiders began to settle permanently in England.
They established their own system of laws and government called the Danelaw and ruled over territory including the whole northern and eastern part of England.
During the years of the Danelaw, when Anglo-Saxon speakers needed to trade with their Old-Norse-speaking neighbours in the East of the country, the Anglo-Saxon language had to be simplified. Anglo-Saxon was, like modern German, an inflected language. It was extremely hard for non-native speakers to use the language well enough to avoid misunderstanding.
About 150 Old Norse words were adopted into the developing English language, including the words for ‘egg’, ‘happy’, ‘law’, ‘husband’, ‘gift’, and ‘sky’.
Old Norse is reflected in hundreds of place names around Britain, especially in the areas of the North and East of England where the Vikings settled. For example, the cities of Grimsby and Selby incorporate the Old Norse word ‘by’ meaning ‘town’ or ‘farm’; Edale and Dovedale incorporate the Old Norse ‘dale’ word for ‘valley’. Many of today’s most common British surnames reflect the Norse tradition of adding ‘-son’ to a person’s name to show a family connection. These include: Stephenson, Wilson, Richardson and, of course, Johnson, the surname of the current British prime minister.