Islandsk og strilemål - antidansk?

Fonologiske parallelutviklinger i islandsk og sørvestnorsk sett i et nordisk perspektiv

  • Arne Torp Institutt for lingvistiske og nordiske studier / Universetet i Oslo


The main goal of this paper is to discuss some conspicuous parallel consonant developments between Icelandic (and for the most part also Faroese) and South West Norwegian dialects in the light of a hypothesis set forth by Kristján Árnason (1990) that these common innovations might be due to what he calls “a conspiracy for a stop in the rhyme”. This conspiracy is then what “explains” several cases where fricatives and sonorants in post-vocalic position change into plosives (ch. 5): Some of these changes may be very old – even Common Germanic (e.g.  > ndldng), the younger ones, however, from late medieval times [e.g. rnllnn > dndldn].

Particular attention is paid to the dialects in the area around the city of Bergen, where some developments show influence from the urban vernacular (e.g. assimilations like mbnd > mmnn), whereas other developments are in the same vein as in the rural South West Norwegian dialects, in some cases even extending the tendencies even further (e.g. mm > bm, which is restricted to the area around Bergen). These developments could probably be seen as instants of so called hyperdialectisms or neighbor opposition (cf. Trudgill 1988:550–560), i.e. increasing the linguistic distance between city and countryside.

Plosives are less “vowel-like” than fricatives and sonorants, and the same is true of any unvoiced consonant compared with its voiced counterpart (e.g. p : bf :v). Icelandic consonants tend to be more unvoiced that in most other related languages, and this may perhaps be seen as an “extension” of the aforementioned conspiracy for the development of stops in postvocalic consonants, both developments meaning strengthening of the consonantal element, including both desonorization and preaspiration of plosives (cf. Gunnar Ólafur Hansson 2001; ch. 6). In most other Nordic dialects, with Danish as the opposite extreme, we see tendencies in the same environment to assimilate clusters (e.g. ndldng > nnllŋŋ) and weaken the consonants (e.g. vlγlvnγn > ulilinun; cf. ch. 7).

In the strengthening processes phonological oppositions are mostly well preserved; phonemic mergers hardly ever occur. These changes may therefore be characterized as structure-preserving. Assimilations and weakenings on the other hand very often lead to mergers. The phonemic conservatism in the Western Nordic area is argued to be a consequence of little language contact, whereas the many radical changes in especially Danish on the other side are thought to have been caused by long and intensive contact.

Two conclusions are drawn in the final chapters (8-9): One is the rather trivial and often observed conclusion that language contact tends to promote language change. The second and perhaps somewhat less trivial conclusion could be that changes in areas where there has been little language contact tend to be structure preserving.


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