Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The verb 'cut, hew'

Together with the references in this post I add a fourth one according to:

[1] Hammerdalsmålet, Vidar Reinhammar
[2] Klövsjöord, Gösta Edlund et al
[3] Orlboka - Ordbok över jamskan, Bo Oscarsson
[4] Åremålet, Anna-Lena Forsåker

Reference [4], a dictionary for the Åre dialect spoken in western Jämtland, will provide us with a third (and final?) basis element of the space of Jamtlandic dialects. (Sorry for the math jargon.)

I would like to analyze the spelling for the Jamtlandic word for 'hew, cut'. As always, we take a look at the Old Norse word in order to understand how to spell: hǫggva [hɒɡːu̯ɑ]. Even East Norse dialects seem to have u-umlaut for this word (Swedish has hugga rather than "hagga", see this site.) In Early Middle Jamtlandic (c.a 1350), the conjugation of the verb was in first person probably the following (inf.pres.imp.past part.):

[ hɑɡːɐ][hɑɡː][hɪ̯oː]/[hɪ̯ʊɡː][hʊɟːɪð]

(See here for how this may have evolved through analogisms etc.) In Hammerdal dialect (H), Klövsjö dialect (K) and Åre dialect (Å), the conjugation above has become (ref. [1,2,4]:

H: [hɔ.ɔɡː][hɔɡː][hɞɡː][hœdʒːə]
K: [haʊɡːə][haʊɡː][hɔɡː][hɔɡːə]
Å: [hɔ.ɔɡː][hɔɡː][hʊɡː][hʏɡːə]

This looks like a mess, but we'll try to sort things out. The pronounciations above are (naïvely) consistent with the spellings

H: hággehágghuggh(ø/y)ggjeð
K: hággehágghugghuggeð
Å: h(á/o)ggeh(á/o)gghógghyggeð

The first observation is that the alternative "hogge" (inf.) and "hogg" (pres.) with "o" instead of á is not possible. We also observe that hagg-
hágg- has occured through closing (and a less interesting rounding) of the vowel due to the gg consonant which kind of resembles [w]. (In the article Overlange stavingar i nordisk by Helge Sandøy in Nordiska dialektstudier, see this earlier post, it's clearly proven that there can have been no lengthening of the vowel before the closing.)

When it comes to the imperfect, we see that hugg clearly comes from an older hjugg. One probably doesn't have a dropped j, but rather an intermediate stage jugg in which one has replaced j with h through analogy with all other conjugations of the verb. The form hógg in the Åre dialect requires special attention. It may have been developed from hjó through first, then hógg through analogy with all other conjugations (first replace j with h, then add -gg in the end). The problem is that this probably isn't possible since one would have expected an intermediate form hjœ [
hɪ̯øː], which would have become "høgg" after the analogical development. Hence, hógg must be derived from hjugg, and it's probably due to a closing phenomenon with hugg → [hoɡː] as intermediate stages. Closing of [o] produces a desired [ʊ].

Finally, let's look at the past participle. Genuine Jamtlandic must have a softening here, i.e., -ggjeð rather than "-ggeð". (I am surprised both Klövsjö dialect and Åre dialect lack softening in this case. probably an analogism with the other conjugations.) In the Hammerdal dialect, a short y is often [ø] rather than an expected [
ʏ], so we have to choose between hyggjeð with i-umlaut and huggjeð without. I am pretty confident that Klövsjö dialect u for this word is an analogism with the imperfect rather than an archaism. The i-umlaut is employed in most Jamtlandic dialects in the past participle of strong verbs, so this is indeed a trademark of Jamtlandic. Thus, hyggjeð is the correct spelling.

To conclude, the conjugation of the Jamtlandic word
for 'cut, hew' is


Interestingly, we observe that the Hammerdal dialect is, among the three dialects studied, the most consistent with the Jamtlandic orthography in this case. It feels like this often is the case; it's possible that the Hammerdal dialect spoken in northeastern Jämtland is one of the most archaic dialects spoken in Jämtland.


I withdraw the following statement made in an earlier post:

Note though that due to the fact that we orthographically
respect syncopation in words with acute accent, we don't
need the shorthand hyphen in a word like hestn [hɛstn̩]
(acute accent) 'the horse', from ON acc. hest·inn, i.e.,
hest + inn. (Modern Jamtlandic indefinite form hest
[hɛst] 'horse'.)

I realized today that the definite form of mat [
mɑːt] 'food' is pronounced [mɑːtn̩], i.e., with a syncopation. According to the rule claimed above one would then spell "matn". Now, this will interfer with e.g. vatn [ʋatːn̩] 'water' (Old Norse vatn [wɑtn]). A solution could be to spell "vattn", but this will not be consistent with other aspects of my orthography. The simplest solution is to withdraw the rule stated above. That is, we will write hest·n [hɛstn̩].

To conclude, we write hest·n [hɛstn̩]
'the horse', mat·n [mɑːtn̩] 'the horse' etc.,
not "hestn", "matn" etc.

Note that this doesn't affect spellings like knéð [
kneː] 'the knee' instead of the completely redundant "kné·ð".

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Silent h

I am pretty confident in that not many would oppose the not so controversial idea to accept the combination hj- [j] even though the h is silent. For example, Old Norse hjorð [hɪ̯ɔrð] 'herd' has become Jamtlandic hjórð [juːɽ] where the h- is silent. This is how all North Germanic languages work, except Icelandic (pronounciation [ç]), to some extent in Faroese (both [j] and [tʃ] depending on word) and dialectally in "Bondska" (surpringly evolved into [he]).

It's also pretty obvious that the Old Norse combinations hl-, hn- and hr- (originally pronounced [xl], [xn] and [xr]), today preserved only in Icelandic (simplified to the assimilations [l̥], [n̥] and [r̥]), must be written l-, n- and r- in Jamtlandic. For example, ON hlíta [xliːtɑ] 'trust', acc. hnefa [xneβɑ] 'fist' and hrœra [xrøːrɑ] 'move, stir' have become Jamtlandic líte [liː.it], næva [næʋɐ] and røre [ɾøː.øɾ], respectively.

The interesting case that is left is hv-, in Old Norse pronounced [xw] (or, equivalently, [xu̯]). In Jamtlandic this first got simplified to [w̥], then to [w]. Note that at the stage when hv- was pronounced [w], v- was probably pronounced [ʋ] (in Old Norse [w], i.e., [u̯], without th [x] element). In fact, in 1791, Fale Burman (1758-1809) wrote in his Jamtlandic dictionary project:

1. gv, för att uttrycka orden hvila, hvass (acutus)
etc., hvilkas första consonant har sama uttal,
som wh i Engelskan.

This means that at least up until the early 19th century, hv- and v- were pronounced [w̥]/[w] and [ʋ], respectively. (I am not sure exactly how he thought English wh- was pronounced, but definitely not as [ʋ]/[v] which is the important thing.)

Apart from this modern historical fact, in northern Jämtland there's a North Trøndish dialect where ON hv- today is pronounced [kʋ]. (Perhaps not a very relevant fact, though.)

The observations above and the fact that Bokmål and Danish have hv- [ʋ], suggests that in Jamtlandic we should use hv- for historical hv-. For example, ON hvessa [xwesːɑ] 'sharpen' is in Jamtlandic hvesse [ʋɛ.ɛsː] (early 19th century: [w̥ɛ.ɛsː]/[wɛ.ɛsː]).

We conclude that we employ the
spelling hv- for historical hv-.

An important exception to the rule above is the case when ON hv- has turned into Jamtlandic [h], mainly in the ON combination hva-. For example, ON hvat [xwɑt] 'what' has become common Jamtlandic [hɔtː], so we spell it hut. (Note the choice of the vowel u, which happens to be the correct one to be consistent with all dialects.) This development probably suggests that between [xw] and [w̥] there was an intermediate stage [hw]/[hu̯]. This would give the following assumed development for ON hvat → J. hut:

hvat ~ [xwɑt] → [hu̯ɑt] → [hu̯ot] → [hʊt] → [hɔtː] ~ hut

We have assumed here that v was lost in Middle Jamtlandic, i.e., Jamtlandic as spoken in the period 1350-1500. (NB: Another common Jamtlandic word for 'what' is hvuð [ʋoː]/[ʋɔ], probably a developed from an old unstressed version of hut.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Softening and ·

One thing we didn't mention in the last post is what we do with softening of g and k in the case of the presence of a hyphen ·. As an example, take ON þak 'roof; ceiling', which in the definite form was þak·it 'the roof; the ceiling'. In Jamtlandic, ON þak·it has evolved into the pronounciation [tʰɑːtʃə] (acute accent) with a softening of the k due to the i. We have three possibilities here:

(1) We spell tak·eð using a rule that e is always
soft in all positions and situations;

(2a) We spell tak·jeð using a rule that e is not
soft in an unstressed position, and that the j
is associated with e;

(2b) We spell takj·eð using a rule that e is not
soft in an unstressed position, and that the j
is associated with k.

Of course, (1) means that ë would be used when there's no softening involved (e.g., takkë [ tʰakːə] (grave accent) 'thank', ON þakka). When choosing between (2a) and (2b) we note that the most etymological choice is (2a) since the j can be seen as being part of the etymological i causing the softening. The problem is of course that the hyphen will separate k and j in this case, but I think it possible to accept this "flaw". Note that both (2a) and (2b) means that ë can't be used in an unstressed position. (Unlike ï which can only be used in an unstressed position, which we will discuss in a future post.)

My personal choice between (1), (2a) and (2b) is (2a), i.e., tak·jeð.

We conclude that when using the hyphen · when
softening of g or k is involved, we write g·j or k·j,

As examples, consider

veg·jen [ʋɛjːən] 'the road',
from ON acc. veg·inn [weɣɪnː];

serk·jen [sæʂːən] 'the sark',
from ON acc. serk·inn [sɛrcɪnː];and

bełk·jen [bæʈʂən] 'the beam; the section',
from ON acc. balk·inn.

stokk·jen [stɔtʃːən]/[statʃːən]/[stɞtʃːən] 'the log',
from ON acc. stokk·inn.

All examples have an acute accent. Note also that stokk 'log' is pronounced [stakː] in Hammerdal and [stɞkː] in Klövsjö, both consistent with a vowel o rather than u. If the spelling would've been "stukk" the most common pronounciation would still be [stɔkː], which would be the pronounciation in Klövsjö too, but [stɞkː] in Hammerdal. Though slightly off topic, I think it's a good idea to write down how short a, á, o and u are pronounced in common Jamtlandic (C), Hammerdal dialect (H) and Klövsjö dialect (K):


This is pretty complicated, and is due to how ON (or rather Old Jamtlandic to be specific) a [ɑ], á [ɒː], o [ɔ] and u [ʊ] have evolved in different parts of Jämtland.

The symbols · and ’

Apart from the ordinary letters of the alphabet, we propose the special symbols · and . The symbol · denotes that a word has an acute accent rather than an expected grave accent, and denotes that a word has a grave accent rather than an expected acute accent. With "expected" we mean how the word's pronounciation would have been a priori perceived if the special symbols weren't present to specify the correct accent.

Historically, · means that we have an Old Norse compound of a monosyllabic word (noun, pronoun or adjective) and a suffixed definite article. Such words have an acute accent today, while other bi- (or multi-) syllabic words have a grave accent. As a concrete example, take ON hús 'house', which by adding the definite article it 'the' becomes húsit 'the house' in the definite form. Of course, we could use a more morphologically etymological spelling hús·it to account for the fact that -it has been added. The reason we use · here is that it's a common way of writing a shorthand hyphen. A spelling
hús·it would definitely have made sense to the speaker of Old Norse since the difference between acute and grave accents existed also back then. Thus, we'll write hús·eð [hʉːsə] (acute accent) in Jamtlandic. Had we written "húseð" it'd meant [hʉːsə] (grave accent). Note though that due to the fact that we orthographically respect syncopation in words with acute accent, we don't need the shorthand hyphen in a word like hestn [hɛstn̩] (acute accent) 'the horse', from ON acc. hest·inn, i.e., hest + inn. (Modern Jamtlandic indefinite form hest [hɛst] 'horse'.) We also don't write out the shorthand hyphen when the word has a grave accent, though being a compound with a suffixed definite article. For example, hestan [hɛstɐn] (grave accent) 'the horses', from ON acc. hesta·na, i.e., hesta + ina. (Modern Jamtlandic indefinite form heste [hɛ.ɛst] (grave accent) 'horses'.)

The etymology for
is due to the syncopation of a vowel in a word with a grave accent. The reason we use an apostrophe is of course due to the fact that it by tradition denotes a dropped letter. As an example, take ON lítinn (a variety of ON lítill) 'little' which in Jamtlandic has become [liːtn̩] (grave accent) with a syncopation. Following the recipe, we write this lít’n, where accounts for the syncopated i indirectly preserved in the grave accent.

The alt codes for the special symbols above are

alt+250 to produce · (hyphen), and
alt+0146 to produce (apostrophe).

Of course, if a Jamtlandic keyboard is ever produced, these would be easily accessible. (One can use a Swedish physical keyboard to create one's own Jamtlandic keyboard layout. This isn't important at this early stage, but it's important to mention the possibility of customizing the keyboard layout such that the alphabet and special symbols of Jamtlandic can be accessible without employing the somewhat tedious alt codes.)

The adverb 'so'

According to the references

[1] Hammerdalsmålet, Vidar Reinhammar
[2] Klövsjöord, Gösta Edlund et al
[3] Orlboka - Ordbok över jamskan, Bo Oscarsson

the adverb 'so' is in the Hammerdal dialect [sɞː] (northeast), in the Klövsjö and Oviken dialects [sæː] (south), and in the Marieby dialect [sɑː] (central). Apart from these examples, a common pronounciation is [soː] as in Swedish .

The most fundamental axiom for the creation of a Jamtlandic orthography is that one must find a unified spelling (using the alphabet defined earlier) for every word, at least those that can be traced back to Old Norse. The adverb [sɞː]/[sæː]/[sɑː]/[soː] 'so' can be traced back to Old Norse. According to Svensk etymologisk ordbok, Old Norse had svá [swɒː], svo [ swo] and so [so] with successive degrees of phonological simplification. Note that Swedish comes from Late Old Swedish so rather than "", and (classical) Nynorsk and Faroese have so.

Let's analyze the Jamtlandic instances above of 'so', i.e., looking for the (most relevant) etymology of the word.
Hammerdal dialect [sɞː] is only consistent with an etymology *su. Page 20pp in [1] reads:

"Långt ô i hdm svarar mot:
a) gammalt kort u.[...]
b) gammalt kort a framför ändelse med u.[...]
c) gammalt kort å framför ändelse med u.[...]"

Note that ô and å refer to [ɞ] and [o], respectively. Clearly, b) and c) are impossible, which only gives the option a), i.e., an etymology *su as claimed.
The [sæː] in the Klövsjö dialect is trickier. In this dialect, according to [2], old short u has consistently become [ɔ]/[oː], so the etymology *su is a bit more difficult to derive. I think [sæː] is a secondary stressed version of an unstressed [sɐ], which in turn is a derounding (and slight fronting) of an unstressed [sɔ], with a stressed [soː] consistent with an etymology *su.

It's my firm belief that the Marieby dialect [sɑː] can be explain in a similar way as above.

The very common [soː] is consistent with *su.

To conclude, the Jamtlandic spelling for the
adverb 'so' is su.

Note that I am not 100% confident with su. It's possible (though unlikely) we must go back to an older etymology svo to base our spelling on. But until any new information on the matter is brought up to the surface, we'll stick with su.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Since I already have a clear picture of the Jamtlandic orthography, I think I can claim the alphabet in this post. The claim is that the Jamtlandic alphabet is given by:

Minuscule:  a á b d ð e ë é f g h i ï í j k l ł
m n o ó p r s t u ú v y ÿ ý æ ø

Majuscule:  A Á B D Ð E Ë É F G H I Ï Í J K L Ł

This alphabet is basically based on the Old Norse one.

The acute diacritic ( ´ ) denotes vowels coming from old long vowels, denoted with an acute diacritic in Old Norse. The umlaut diacritic ( ¨ ) denotes vowels which do not cause an expected softening of g and k. (The vowels e, i and y cause softening, which the umlaut diacritic stops. This has to do with the vowel levelling phenomenon in Jamtlandic.)

Like in Faroese, the letter ð is silent. It is necessary in order to separate minimal pairs such as kaste (inf.,pres.) vs kasteð (imp., past part.) 'throw', in most Jamtlandic dialects pronounced [kʰa.ast] and [kʰastə], respectively, but in some (archaic) dialects pronounced [kʰastə] for both. A unified orthography for all dialects requires a special symbol to denote the prevention of dropping the ending vowel. The etymology for this prevention is the letter ð, so we use it. The use of ð is generalized, e.g. kné 'knee' vs knéð 'the knee', both pronounced [kneː]. We don't even need minimal pairs: góð [guː] 'good', from Old Norse góðʀ [goːðɻ].

The letter ł was discussed in an earlier post.

The letter æ doesn't come from Old Norse æ (which has coincided with é in the alphabet proposed here), but is a product of the vowel levelling. E.g., Old Norse spila 'play' and tala 'talk' have become Jamtlandic spæla [spælɐ] and ła [tʰæɽɐ]. (This is actually a concrete near-minimal pair in the motivation of the "thick"-l symbol ł.)

In most cases, the letter ø, [øː] (long) or [œ] (short), comes from Old Norse œ/ǿ, i.e., a long ø [øː]. One rare exception is øks 'axe', from Old Norse øx. (Note that Old Norse ø never comes from an i-umlauted o. In the case of øx, the etymology is perhaps *akwezī.)

I think this concludes a superficial discussion about the proposed alphabet. Of course, later I'll be more detailed.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Broad vowels

The North Germanic dialects can, in one very special sense, be divided into two groups: (1) "broad" dialects, and (2) "narrow" dialects. The broad dialects are in majority. So, in what sense are the dialects "broad" and "narrow"? With a dialect being "broad" we mean specifically that Old Norse short i [i]/[ɪ] and short y [y]/[ʏ] in front of a short (or none) consonant have become openened to something like [e] and [ø] (not bothering about length here), respectively.

One example of a "broad" dialect is (the by icelanders mocked into near-extinction) northern Icelandic where e.g. skip 'ship' is pronounced something like [sceːb̥] instead of standard Icelandic [scɪːp]. Standard Swedish is yet another "broad" dialect, in this case one has skepp [ɧɛpː]. (A quality [ɛ] instead of [e] since the vowel has become short.)

Jamtlandic is, just like the two examples above, a "broad" dialect. The sample word would be pronounced [ʂepː] in the most genuine form of the dialect.

The immediate question arises: How should we spell a broadened i? I think the key observation that the northern Icelandic dialect, though being "broad" like Jamtlandic, has the rule that the orthography's i is actually pronounced [e]. This could definitely be used in Jamtlandic too. The phoneme [i] in Jamtlandic can be spelled í, i.e., just like the ON etymology. The letter e should be used for the [ɛ] sound, etymologically from ON e. Needless to say, since y is just a rounded i, we employ the same rule for y, i.e., it's pronounced [ø].

To conclude, when in front of a single or
none consonant, the letters i and y denote
the phonemes [e] and [ø], respectively.

As an example for i, we already have skip [ʂepː] 'ship'. For y, take e.g. kyn [tʃøːn] 'gender'.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Why a "thick"-l symbol?

Proto-Norse had for sure two allophone l sounds, a "back" l (IPA [ɫ]) and a "front" l (IPA [l]) and a "back" l (IPA [ɫ]). The back l was a short consonant (i.e., l) and the front l was long (i.e., ll) in Proto-Norse. The cluster ld was pronounced [ld] with a front l, though.

In Modern Jamtlandic the back l has turned into a retroflex flap [ɽ], let's call it a "thick" l, except in the beginning of words and after front vowels where it has become [l], let's call this a "thin" l. (There are a couple of further rules of exception; see §38 in this document.) The front l has stayed the same.

The question is now, is there any use for a special symbol denoting the thick l? The thin and the thick l's are clearly not allophones anymore in Jamtlandic, and there are no 100% waterproof rules to tell whether an l is thin or thick. A bisyllabic Old Norse word -ila would have a thin l in Modern Jamtlandic due to the front vowel i, and a bisyllabic ON word -ala would have a thick l due to the fact that a act as a back vowel. Due to vowel levelling, the words would only be separated by the quality of the l. This suggests that the thick l needs its own symbol.

What symbols should we use? Preferably a diacritic of l. Polish ł seems to be the given canditate. In Modern Polish it denotes [w], but in older Polish (and still in archaic dialects) it was pronounced [ɫ], i.e., the Old Norse pronounciation of what has become a thick l in Modern Jamtlandic.

     To conclude, the thick l in Jamtlandic is written ł.

Needless to say, in situations where one has assimilation of thick l with another consonant giving a retroflex consonant, one still writes out
ł rather than using r. Hence, we write e.g. gułd [gɞɖː] neut. 'yellow', not something like "gårdd" (see §38 in this document again).

Monday, July 21, 2008

Nordiska dialektstudier

A couple of weeks ago I borrowed from the university library the book Nordiska dialektstudier (fifth Nordic dialect dialectology conference, 1994), editor Maj Reinhammar.

The contribution Dialekterna och språkhistorien - Till frågan om en gamla au-diftongens utveckling i nordiska språk by Lennart Elmevik discusses the au diphthong and how it has developed in Nordic languages. He seems to claim that there are numerous examples of the development au ó in Nordic dialects. This assumes the middle stages ǫu and (later) long ǫ.

The relevance to Jamtlandic is that this gives us a hint on how we should spell the old au diphthong. As is well-known, the semi-official spelling today given by
Vägledning för stavning av jamska assumes a spelling au, probably based on how one spells in Norwegian. Early Old Norse used to have three separate diphthongs: ai, au and ey. Due to a generalized, regressive umlaut process, ai and ey (the y pronounced rounded) turned into ei and øy. In Norwegian this is how one spells: ei, au and øy. A later umlaut is, following Elmevik, au ǫu. This seems to have affected all Nordic dialects except Gutnish and (possibly) Danish and/or Faroese. The Jamtlandic pronounciation of the old au diphtong is fully compatible with the umlauted ǫu. This suggests a spelling ou (the letter ǫ is not employed elswhere, so we use o instead). Note the consistency with øy. Indeed, øy is manifestively the i-umlaut of ou, just like how Early Old Norse ey is manifestively the i-umlaut of au.

To conclude, the three (old) diphthongs
of Jamtlandic are ei, ou and øy.

Later I'll discuss other contributions in the book Nordiska dialektstudier. I'll use a couple of treatises on Jamtlandic dialects as aids, namely Klövsjöord by Gösta Edlund et al and Hammerdalsmålet by Vidar Reinhammar. I have chosen the dialects spoken in Klövsjö in the south and Hammerdal in the northeast since they are, in a sense, mutually complementary with eachother and with the dialect spoken (traditionally) where I grew up in western/central Jämtland.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Initiation of the blog

Hereby I initiate my blog, The Jamtlandic Project, about the Jamtlandic language. The intention is to give the interested reader an idea of the progress of my work on constructing a written normal for a dialect, in this case the North Germanic dialect of Jamtlandic spoken in the province Jämtland in northwestern Sweden.