Research Group for Medieval Philology
The Research Group presents

Old Norse Texts in Normalised Orthography: Some Challenges

Haraldur Bernharðsson (University of Iceland) will discuss challenges related to the normalisation of Old Norse texts.

AM 133 fol (middle of the 14th century)
Stofnun Árna Magnússonar

Main content

Old Norse texts are often published in normalised orthography (particularly in Iceland) in order to make them more accessible to readers who are not familiar with medieval orthography. What is often referred to as “classical normalised Old Icelandic orthography” (Icel. samræmd stafsetning forn) has its roots in the 19th century, not least in Ludvig Wimmer's textbook published in 1877 and the editions in the series Altnordische Saga-Bibliothek 1892-1929, and continued in the editions of Íslenzk fornrit since 1933 and later.

The normalisation of orthography requires the editor to make changes to the text, which bring up several questions. One of them is the choice of the norm: Which norm should be used? An external norm from a different period? Or an internal norm taken from the manuscript? Another question is the extent of normalisation: How far should one go? Should only the orthography be normalised? It may be difficult to distinguish between orthography and language. The language is often normalised in practice, which may lead to inconsequencies and anachronisms. Some of these challenges will be discussed in the lecture. 

Haraldur Bernharðsson is a linguist and Associate Professor in Medieval Icelandic Studies at the University of Iceland in Reykjavík.