Old Norse/Grammar/Alphabet and Pronunciation

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The Old Norse Alphabet[edit]

The Old Norse alphabet consisted of the following lettersː a b c d ð e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z þ æ ǫ ø œ

This is based on the more modern 'standardized' spelling, as older texts in most every language lacked unified spelling standards, meaning the same word could appear in several different ways within the same text. The above Latin alphabet will be used in this book for all words in Old Norse.

Consonants[edit]

Consonant chart
Consonant English example
b boy
c call
d dog
ð this
f far (initial)
very (middle or final position)
g good (initial, after n)
Scots loch (before s or t)
Scots loch (otherwise; voiced)
h have
j year
k call
loch (immediately before s or t)
l leaf
leaf (voiceless directly after h at the beginning of a word, ends of words after voiceless consonants or between voiceless consonants)
m man
n new
p happy
far (before s or t)
q call (only in qu)
r roof (trilled like Scottish)
s safe
t time
v victory
w win
x lochs (Scottish)
z cats (like German z)
þ thin

Vowels[edit]

Vowel chart
Vowel English example
a father (short)
á father (long)
e é as in French 'été' (short)
é é as in French 'été' (long)
i ee as in feet (short)
í ee as in feet (long)
o o as in vote (short)
ó o as in vote (long)
u u as in droop (short)
ú u as in droop (long)
y ü as in German München (short)
ý ü as in German Füße (long)
æ a as in 'cat' (long)
ǫ́ au as in 'naught', (long)
ǫ au as in 'naught', (short)
ø eu as in French 'feu'
œ eu as in French 'feu', (long)

Diphthongs[edit]

Diphthong chart
Diphthong English example
au ow as in 'now'
ei ay as in 'hay'
ey combination of ON e+y

Examplesː

  • baugr (bäʊ̯ɣʀ)
  • heitir (heɪ̯tiʀ) (hay-tir)


̈Similar to other Germanic languages, the vowel change, or umlaut, operates in Old Norse. There are two kinds: i-umlaut, and u-umlaut.

The i-umlaut appears thus:

U-umlaut chart
Underlying vowel I-Umlaut vowel
a e
á æ
o ø
ó œ
u y
ú ý

This is the fronting of a back vowel (a, o, u) to its frontal version, similar to how German has (a, o, u) become (ä, ö, ü).

In certain circumstances, the presence of a 'u' in the endings of adjectives or nouns causes what is called 'u-umlaut' or 'back mutation' to the stem vowel. This is how that change presents itself:

U-umlaut chart
Underlying vowel U-Umlaut vowel
a ǫ
á (ǫ́) > á
e ø
é œ
i y
í ý
a (unstressed) u