Norwegian and Cumbrian/Westmorland dialect

Amatire   Thu Mar 02, 2006 7:51 pm GMT
I'm not sure what forum this should be under so I'm posting it here I hope you don't mind.

I have several questions really. All centred around the commonly held belief in the Lake District (in England) that the local dialect in its purest form is more easily understood by Norwegian speakers than English speakers or even those who speak the Yorkshire dialect. (Yorkshire claims to get many of its words from Danish, and a Cumbrian wouldn't understand above half of them, despite the seeming similarities to the outsider, but perhaps that's just a matter of accents! ;-) )

First of all, when I asked my Norwegian friend to test out this theory for me by comparing different words from our respective languages he told me that there are two kinds of Norwegian, almost entirely different languages, one spoken around Oslo, and the other spoken in the far north on the coast where he comes from. Is this true? I haven't found any other evidence of it. Is he just refering to Norwegian and say a form of Swedish, which is often used all over Scandanavia? (I know many Finnish people speak Swedish as their first language and few now know more than a handful of words in Suomi). Or are there really two different languages with perhaps many commonalities - much as there used to be Northern English and Southern English before Modern English emerged and unified them over the past few centuries?

His main examples were for the different words for river and hill. He said where he comes from in the north, river is bekk and hill is fjell, wheras in the south of Norway hill is berg and, well I can't remember what he said for river but it didn't sound anything like bekk!

Of course I know that fell, beck, tarn, force and dale all have their counterparts in Norwegian, does anyone know of any other words?

I know of someone who was holidaying in Norway and overheard someone in a pub saying "yam gang wam" which is exactly how he would say "I'm going home" in Cumbrian, though to be honest, it sounds a lot like a Brummie (Birmingham) accent to me, as the locals round here say 'yam' rather than 'I'm' and 'wam' is a standard term for 'home' in the West Midlands too. Now, there is this theory that the place furthest from the capital and furthest from any other borders (or coastline) is the place where the accent/dialect remains the most pure and so Birmingham would be the place where the English spoken most closely resembles that of the Middle-English speaker. So does that mean that these words that Cumbrians hold on so tight to as distinctly Cumbrian and of Old Norwegian origin are in fact just another example of the way that Norse and other Germanic languages fed into the general English mix, all over the country, or are they distinct to that particular northern area of Britain?
Bubba   Wed Mar 08, 2006 3:40 am GMT
I do know that there are two distinct dialects of Norwegian, called "nynorsk" and "bokmal". Can't say I know a lot more than that, but I am fascinated by this thread and hope others will contribute based on their knowledge and experience.
Fredrik from Norway   Thu Mar 09, 2006 12:58 am GMT
Interesting thread about the languages of two beautiful places!

Firstly, I doubt that a modern Norwegian would be better at understanding Cumbrian (the English dialect that is, not the ancient Celtic language of Cumbria) than the average Englishman. 1000 years are a long time.... And remember that Cumbrian was influenced by Old Norse, which was quite another language than modern Norwegian. Old Norse was practically also the same language as Old Danish. So modern Icelandic might be much closer to Cumbrian than Norwegian is.

Your friend explained Norwegian very poorly to you. In Modern Norwegian there are two literary standards used for writing, Danish-inspired Bokmål and Nynorsk, which is more inspired by Old Norse. Bokmål is by far the mos widely used one, especially in the towns. Nynorsk is mostly used in rural areas and especially in Western Norway.
For more information about

Spoken Norwegian is actually a large number of mutually very well understandable dialects. The dialects of larger cities, of Oslo and the South-East in general are closer to Bokmål and Danish, while West Coast dialects have more resemblance with Nynorsk and Old Norse.

Your friend is correct about Danish forms for mounatin "berg" and river "å" being a little used in Southern Norway, but this use is marginal. Normally mountain is "fjell" and river is "elv". Brook or stream is "bekk".

I am going home:
In Cumbrian: Am ga'an yam
In Bokmål: Jeg går hjem, /yei go:r yem/
In Nynorsk: Eg går heim /eg go:r heim/

Cumbrian: Fell
Bokmål and Nynorsk: fjell /fyel/
Old Norse: fell or fjall

Brook / stream:
Cumbrian: Beck
Bokmål and Nynorsk: bekk
Old Norse: bekkr

Cumbrian: tarn
Bokmål and Nynorsk: tjern /tchern/
Old Norse: Tjarn or tjorn

Cumbrian: force
Bokmål and Nynorsk: foss
Old Norse: foss or fors

Cumbrian: dale
Bokmål and Nynorsk: dal
Old Norse: dalr

(To) play:
Cumbrian: laik
Bokmål: leke
Nynorsk: leika
Old Norse: leika

Stable box:
Cumbrian: boos
Bokmål and Nynorsk: bås /bo:s/
Old Norse: báss (bo:s:)

Cumbrian: aa
Bokmål and Nynorsk: ja
Old Norse: já /jo:/ or /ja:/
Jill Tardivel   Thu Mar 16, 2006 6:04 pm GMT
I wondered about something similar but after a trip to Denmark.

I wondered about the use of 'Ta' for thank you, and if it had evolved from a word like the Danish 'tak'. However I think of Ta as 'northern' rather than Westmorland.

The oak chest was known as the 'kist' in my childhood. I saw oak chests in danish museums labelled as 'kists'.

An empty shop had a label in it announcing the owners had 'flytten' and I wondered about the verb 'to flit' meaning to have moved, use in north Westmorland whn I was a child.

Just wondered

Fredrik from Norway   Thu Mar 16, 2006 7:59 pm GMT
Very interesting what you observed, Jill!
All the word forms you mention probably come from Old Norse:

thanks = Old Norse: þakk / þokk (þ = th)
chest = Old Norse: kista
move = Old Norse: flytja / flutta
Adam   Sun Sep 10, 2006 6:20 pm GMT
Research has shown the the Geordie accent- spoken in the city of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in North Eastern England, is closely related to the Norwegian accent.
Adam   Sun Sep 10, 2006 6:21 pm GMT
The Geordie dialect

Geordie derives much less influence from French and Latin than does Standard English, being substantially Angle and Viking in origin. The accent and pronunciation, as in Lowland Scots, reflect old Anglo-Saxon pronunciations, accents and usages.

Pronunciation of personal pronouns differs markedly from Standard English: Geordies use IPA: /juəz/ for plural "you", /mi/ for "my", /ʌz/ for "me", "wor" for "our". The word "wor" is sometimes placed before the given name of the person being the subject of conversation to denote that they are a family member, for example "wor Allan" or "wor da" (father). It is also quite common for Geordies to use the word "man" for both men and women, as in "howay man" (meaning "c'mon you").

Vowel sounds are also quite unusual. "er" on the end of words becomes /æ/ ("father" is pronounced "fatha", both "a" sounds as in "hat"). Many "a" sounds become more like "e": "hev" for "have" and "thet" for "that". Double vowels are often pronounced separately as dipthongs: "boat" becomes "boh-ut" and ""boot"" becomes "bee-yut". Some words acquire extra vowels ("growel" for "growl", "cannet" for "can't"). This property of the dialect has lead Geordie to be known for putting as many vowels as possible into a word. The "or" sound in words like "talk" becomes "aa" ("walk" becomes "waak"), while "er" sounds in words like "work" becomes "or". The "ow" in words like "down" or, most famously, "town" becomes "oo", hence "the Toon" meaning Newcastle. In Wearside, the "oo" in words like "cook", "book" or "look" becomes "uu", although this accent has come to be known as Mackem, not Geordie.

Geordie also has a large amount of vocabulary not seen in other English dialects. Words still in common use today include canny for "pleasant" (it should be noted that the Scottish use of canny is often somewhat less flattering), hyem for "home", divn't for "don't", bairn/grandbairn for "child/grandchild", hacky for "dirty", and gan for "go". Howay is broadly comparable to the invocation "Come on!". Examples of common use include Howay man!, meaning something like "come on" or "hurry up", Howay the lads! as an encouragement for a sports team, or Ho'way!? (with stress on the second syllable) expressing incredulity or disbelief. The word hyem for "home" is inherited from the Old Norse language. The word tab for "cigarette" is thought to derive from Ogden's Tabs, a once‐popular brand of cigarettes.

Geordie commonly uses the word aye meaning "yes", which is also found in most Scottish dialects. As a contrast, a geordie might say the word na for "no" however this occurs less frequently.

Much of the vocabulary is a preserved form of Old English, the north having not been so affected by the Norman conquest. Pronouncing Old English with a Geordie‐like accent, rather than the more commonly recommended German, results in a form more comprehendible to those with knowledge of the meaning of Geordie vocabulary. When a Geordie uses the word larn for teach, it is not a misuse of the English word "learn" as often thought; the word is derived from the Anglo Saxon word laeran, meaning "to teach".

In standard English, where one would say "to be able", in Geordie, "te can" (from Old English "cunnan", "to know") is used in its place.

Geordie is also sometimes used to describe the distinctive dialect of the people of Northumbria. However strictly speaking, South East Northumberland (the mining area bordering Tyneside) has its own similar, but distinctive dialect known as Pitmatic.
Benjamin   Sun Sep 10, 2006 7:57 pm GMT
« Research has shown the the Geordie accent- spoken in the city of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in North Eastern England, is closely related to the Norwegian accent. »

I think I'd have to say that 'closely related to' is a bit of an overstatement here.
greg   Mon Sep 11, 2006 12:12 am GMT
Benjamin : « I think I'd have to say that 'closely related to' is a bit of an overstatement here. »

Adam le copieur-colleur peut s'estimer heureux que tu préfères l'euphémisme au sarcasme, Benjamin.
Alan   Tue Oct 16, 2007 7:33 am GMT
Don't forget that the Viking influence on the English language came not just through raids on the north, but through conquest via the south - many of the knights of William the Conqueror would have been more familiar with Norse than with the language of the Franks - cf the Old Norse kriki, passed into French as crique and into English as creek.