6: Language Change and Linguistic Variation in the Medieval North

Haraldur Bernharðsson (Reykjavík)

The written historical records available to us are the most important source of evidence for the historical development of language. The comparison of written records from two successive stages of a language allows us to identify indications of language change.

Similarly, the comparison of two or more contemporary sources may enable us to discern signs of linguistic variation. Such a cross-sectional study of a variety of sources from the same period – medieval manuscripts, charters or other sources written by two or more contemporary scribes – may thus provide evidence on the spread of language change in the speech community, geographical and social variation. Examination of, for instance, contemporary medieval sources from Iceland and Norway will show on the one hand changes that had started to gain ground in Norwegian but are altogether absent or barely incipient in Icelandic, and on the other hand changes that were in progress in Icelandic, but are never found in Norwegian sources.

This session welcomes papers on the interpretation of historical records as evidence for linguistic change and linguistic variation in any of the early (North) Germanic languages.