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What nation's language today is virtually identical to the Old Norse, the language of the Vikings whose civilization disappeared about 800 years ago?

Question #68536. Asked by Beeker75.
Last updated Jun 18 2021.

Answer has 5 votes
19 year member
450 replies

Answer has 5 votes.
Looks like you could choose between Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and the Faroes, although I'd favour the first named. no longer exists

Response last updated by gtho4 on Jun 18 2021.
Jul 20 2006, 11:40 PM
Answer has 4 votes
24 year member
2385 replies avatar

Answer has 4 votes.
As per first post, but West Norse =/= Modern Icelandic, as per this site:

Haukur Thorgeirsson has a website devoted to the study of Old Norse, and it looks quite good. Along with the lessons he has sections on pronunciation (standard and alternative), runes, links, and other related matters, not to mention a few Old Norse cartoons. Here's his discussion of "Old Norse? Which Old Norse?":

The term Old Norse refers to the language spoken in Scandinavia and Scandinavian settlements from about 800 to about 1350. It should be obvious that it was not exactly the same language over a vast area and 550 years. It is usually split into two groups, which are then split into two dialects.

West Norse
Old Icelandic /Old Norwegian
East Norse
Old Danish /Old Swedish

Of all these, the dialect which preserved the most interesting literature is Old Icelandic.

The term 'Old Norse' is sometimes used to mean specifically what we here call 'West Norse' or what we here call 'Old Icelandic'. It is sometimes applied to Icelandic up to the 16th century.

Via GR Burgess's Old Norse Page at (itself worth a look), via

Any idea how related Old Icelandic is from the way people speak today? Is it like reading Beowulf or the Canterbury Tales (for someone who speaks modern Icelandic)? I know that in Laxness' excellent book "Independent People" illiterate peasants living in the 50s are portrayed as being able to recite the sagas by memory.

The pronunciation has changed a great deal, but the spelling is conservative, so I suspect it's more like reading Shakespeare. I'd love to hear from an Icelandic reader about this, though.

[ cont'd below ]

Jul 21 2006, 12:29 AM
Answer has 6 votes
Currently Best Answer
24 year member
2385 replies avatar

Answer has 6 votes.

Currently voted the best answer.

"How close are Old Norse and Modern Icelandic?

About as close as 21st century English and Shakespeare's English, or maybe the King James Bible."


Jul 21 2006, 12:29 AM
Answer has 3 votes
18 year member
21 replies

Answer has 3 votes.
ya'll did good...

"In terms of etymology, the Icelandic language is the closest to Old Norse, the language of the Vikings. Experts claim them to be virtually identical even though the Viking civilization disappeared about 800 years ago."


Jul 21 2006, 11:03 PM
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