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Subject: Old Norse and Icelandic Vowels
Question: I have three mysteries about Old Norse and Icelandic that I would like to have cleared up. One is, why is it that Old Norse i-stems like and have i-umlaut, yet other i-stems like , and do not (assuming these are all i-stems, of which I'm not sure)? Another question is, why is it that in Icelandic, <ó> is a mid diphthong [oU], yet its umlaut is now <æ>, a low dipthong [aI], even though this comes from earlier <œ>, which presumably was a mid vowel, [ø:] or similar. Why is it that a former mid long front vowel merges with a low long front vowel, yet the mid long back vowel is kept distinct from the low long back vowel? <œ> could have become [eI] very easily, and more expectedly. It looks to me like the current pronunciation [aI] is a spelling pronunciation, resulting from the graphic merging of the graphemes <æ> and <œ>. Does anyone know whether this is the case? My third question is, why is it that and are fronted to [œ] and [Y] respectively, but was not fronted? I can understand with regard to , because [U] is somewhat further front than [u], [o], or [ɔ]. But how was pronounced? Wasn't it [ɔ] or [ɒ]? Why would these be subject to fronting while ([o] or [ɔ]?) was not? Was actually somewhat centralized, like [U]? Regards, Andrew Jarrette
Reply: I notice that you’ve had no replies to your query from our Ask-a-Linguist panel. The reason might be that we are unable to assist you. In such cases, I usually advise posting queries to the Linguist List, in order to reach a much larger and broader specialist circle. You can just copy and paste your question on this site: I hope this helps! Madalena
Reply From: Madalena Cruz-Ferreira      click here to access email
Date: 11-Jan-2014

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