My Most Recent Language Table Update

According to wikipedia old Norse was fully developed in the 8th century and by the 14th had started to diverge into the "seperate" languages of the modern North Germanic branch, with considerable remnants of old Norse remaining in use in various places into the 15th century.

Before that time, presumably even before 1220 old norse was already divided into 3 dialects:

  • Old East Norse
  • Old west Norse
  • Old Gutnish

These should IMO be treated as the same language with dialects, probably something like a -1 modifier (so a score of 6 in one dialect is equivalent to being fully fluent in all of them, equivalent to speaking a foreign tongue with no accent). Unlike with ancient and romaic greek I would allow writing in one dialect with a score in another at this time to emphasise that it is still just one language.

Then as time goes on (in the 1300's) you can start to treat the 3 dialects as being different languages (give a -2 penalty on speaking outside your dialect).

this would give you something like:

  • Old east norse:

    • Danish
    • Swedish
  • Old west norse:

    • Old norweigan
    • old icelandic
    • old greenlandic norse
    • old faeroese norse

Old Gutnish:
Old gutnish does not diverge as far as I can tell. It is apprently mainly known from 13th century sources so it is unlikely to go extinct in the 1300's but I believe it does go extinct.

Keep in the mind the somewhat counterintuitive placement of danish and swedish together with norwegian being placed with icelandic. As a dane myself this certainly surprised me to learn because modern norwegian is much more similar to danish than swedish is. I do think that at the time when old norse has diverged there would be definite danish and swedish dialects within old east norse and similarly for the old west norse dialects.

It is also possible to not penalize speaking across dialects but simply point out that the character speaks differently from speakers of other dialects. Sometimes a dialect is not divergent enough that it impedes communication but present enough to notice.

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I thought Greenlandic had completely different roots from the others. Isn't it closest to the Inuit languages? Or is that just the modern version of it.

that would be the greenlandic inuit language, which is indeed not similar to old norse at all. In fact it is not indoeuropean, it is as the name suggests an inuit language, related to languages spoken by native americans of the canadian and Alaskan artic.

However the greenlandic old norse I was referencing above is the dialect of old norse spoken by old norse settlers of greenland, who came primarily from iceland as thus spoke a dialect of old norse similar to the one spoken on iceland. Apparently it developed into its own dialect (according to wikipedia).

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I think the dichotomy would be Greenlandic Norse, spoken by the Scandinavian settlers as opposed to the languages spoken by the indigenous Greenlanders.

Not to tell the Scandinavian about Scandinavia, but old Norwegian was much closer to Icelandic (old or modern), and modern Norwegian is much closer to Swedish due to Sweden getting the run of Norway in the early 19th century, giving them a strong influence on the local language.

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I follow that Greenlandic Norse is different from Greenlandic, but in the year 1220 would it have diverged enough from Icelandic Norse to be a different dialect? It seems that it did not start forming as a different language until the 1200s and finished that in the 1500s.

It might make a good case for one of those special exceptions. Like instead of two people who speak Old West Norse (Icelandic) 5 and Old West Norse (Greenlandic) 5 could speak to each other at 5 [use the base Ability without specialty] rather than 4 [which would be normal rules].

Also the native Greenlandic language would be completely different from the modern version. The one at the time would be the language of the Dorest people, while the modern version based on the Thule people (who became the Inuit) who were only just beginning to arrive in Greenland.

I agree. I think that in general, fewer dialects make things easier than more. Maybe splitting West Norse into just 2 categories Mainland (ie Norwegian) and Islands (Faroe, Iceland, etc).

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Thanks, but I think you totally missed the question I asked. I pretty much already have it set up just like you said. But canon calls this "Norse," rather than "Old Norse." It uses "Old Norse" for something different. Meanwhile, there is a box on Old Norse with Jotun. These are what I was asking about.

As far as I can tell the words listed on page 77 of Rival Magic are just names and a few words in old norse (as in the real world old norse, not the Ars magica old norse). The meanings have in many cases been focused or even redefined to fit the game needs for the muspelli.

As I am not an expert in old norse I would not be able to tell you which dialect they belong to, and it is also possible that the words are modern icelandic, as icelandic is often used as equivalent to old norse.

Either way it seems to be the canonical stance that the muspelli speak real world old norse, which has apparently been renamed to just "norse" and that old norse is something else entirely. Probably something fictional.

This of course leaves open the question of what old norse is in Ars Magica, and to that I have no answer.

EDIT: on closer inspection the box on page 77 of Rival magic explicitly describes the words as "old norse" and I am not sure where you get the impression that ars magica refers to real world old norse as "norse" and changes "old norse" to mean something else entirely. Can you provide a reference for this?

Take a look at the Vitkir and you'll see the distinction.

I really dont see the distinction between the old norse referenced in Rival magic and the description of the vitkir. I have been unable to find explicit references to old norse in HMRE, though it is a straightforward assumption that it is the primary language of the vitkir.

My best guess is that you are referring to the text box on page 127 of HMRE which lists the names of the runes in the elder futhark.

These runes do indeed have names that seem very divergent from old norse. The reason for this divergence is however that the names given to the runes of the elder futhark on page 127 is that the names are reconstructed proto-germanic words and as such are given in a different language. One that is unattested in written form and thus purely theoretical.

there is also a text box on page 140 of HMRE listing the younger futhark where the names of the runes are given in old norse.

This divergence in the naming of the runes correspond well with the fact that the elder furthark was used to write in proto-germanic and later proto-norse and the younger furthark was used to write in old norse.

Not only is it that they list Elder Futhark, but the sample magi also have two different languages listed.

you are right the vitki in question has both norse and old norse as languages.

that gives us:

from HMRE
Eirik Svennson

  • Norse(solider's slang) 5
  • Old Norse(writing runes) 3

and from Rival magic:

Kotkill Ulfsbrodir

  • West Norse(traders) 4
  • Jotun(respectful) 2

Gunnvara Jarnvida

  • Jotun(Sea giants) 2
  • West Norse(Gautlandish) 5
  • (Low german(Flemish) 3)

I think that the "Gautlandish" specialty on west norse, possessed by Gunnvara is a reference to the Götaland area. This would mean that her language should probably have been "East Norse(Gautlandish) 5" but that is a very minor detail.

With regards to Eirik I think the most plausible scenario is that whoever created the character made a mistake in giving him scores in both "Norse" and "Old Norse", or at least meant something different than what a modern reader would assume. I think the most likely scenario is that Eirik speaks West norse, given his association with a norwegian political group (The birkebeiner). However I also think that this decision is misleading since a modern reader (i.e. the players of the game) are almost bound to misinterpret that statement.

This leaves his score in "old norse". I think this most likely is meant to refer to either proto-norse or proto-germanic, to represent that Eirik has, for purposes of magic, learnt some ancient language that has been preserved by the practitioners of his magic tradition. This is consistent with the idea, that from Eirik's perspective he simply speaks "Norse" since it is not particularly old from his perspective, and the older language will then logically be "old norse" since it is an older version of his language, again from his perspective.

This hypothesis is identical with @InfinityzeN's idea.
Regarding the Jotnar language I favor @Jank's idea about it being some form of finnish or sami. Though more because I like the idea for game purposes than because I think there is any evidence behind it.


Then you'd agree with me, I think. This is what I'd posited when I posted the question:

I believe the intent is "old" compared to 1200, so Ancient Nordic or Proto-Norse or whatever you want to call it, using Elder Futhark script.


@callen where does Venetian figure into your table? I see the Dalmation branch, which references Veneto-Istriot or Vegliot... But Italian Languages are messy to classify.

Also, I see North Iberian has Castilian-Ladino, but not Castilian separately. Is this intentional or not?

Venetian shows up within the continuum under the Veneto-Istriot name. I placed it within the Dalmation branch based on something I was sent to by... perhaps One-Shot. One the Wikipedia page for Venetian you can see there is disagreement about where to classify it.

Castilian and Ladino were very close to each other, much closer than the other North Iberian languages were to each other. So they're listed as a continuum. Another way might have been to list them separately and then to give them a special note of being at -0 to each other instead of the normal -1.

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Ok, thank you for the explanation. I did find the note in about the the dash "-" in your documentation.

Just to hint at what people from Mythic Europe thought of their many languages beyond the sacred ones.


@Callen, In terms of additional languages to add, have you considered where old languages like Akkadian or Sumerian might fit in to your chart?