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What language did Vikings speak?

Posted by Kurt Evald Noer on

Vikings were united more by language, beliefs, and culture than by national origin. Vikings spoke a language now known as Old Norse, a northern Germanic language and the descendant of Proto-Germanic.

Old Norse is a cousin of Old English, so some words, ideas (and letters) are similar to the English we use today. Norse runes (especially the Elder Futhark, which was being replaced by the Younger Futhark around the beginning of the Viking Age) has many letters that are very similar to our modern English alphabet.

Modern Icelandic is today's closest relative:
Old Norse was the parent of modern Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish. The modern language most like Old Norse, though, is Modern Icelandic. This continuity is probably due to Iceland's isolation and conservative culture. Modern Icelandic is so close to Old Norse that many Icelanders find they can read Viking sagas and poetry in the original manuscripts. Pronunciation changes over time, though, so it is a mistake to think that Old Norse and Modern Icelandic sounded the same, even when the words carry over in print.

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