Um hljóðdvöl í íslenzku

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Published Jan 1, 1970
Svavar Sigmundsson

Abstract

Previously it was believed that Jón Arason (died 1550) was the last Icelandic poet to observe the old rules of quantity, but Stefán Karlsson has pointed out that as late as 1643 poetry was being written in the old manner.

The difference in length between í and i, for example, was secondary, the main difference being that í was tense, whereas i was lax. The first stage in this development was that + tense: -r tense lost its significance, and + length: -j- length became the deciding factor both for the old lax vowels and all diphthongs. In modern Icelandic there is no phonetic difference between long and short vowels, whereas such a difference does exist in modern Faroese.

In Icelandic diplomas from ca. 1300—1450 there are many examples of doubled intervocalic consonants, mostly following a lax vowel (for example sammann), and following diphthongs, most often ei (nteittaði); the same phenomenon is present in Norwegian diplomas from the same time, although in the Icelandic // appears only sproradically for / (Steffán), whereas the Norwegian has many examples of this. In the oldest of these diplomas there are also many examples of uncertainty as to whether the tensity of a vowel should be indicated by doubling it or by adding a diacritical mark over it, and in the case of the length of a consonant, whether to double it: máálum, naat, setu, snori, aara instead of málum, nátt, settu, Snorri, Ara. Examples of this uncertainty also occur in modern Icelandic (orusta : orrusta). Diphthongization of e began already in the 13th century, that of <* around 1400, whereas diphthongization of á and ó \s not observed in writing before the 15th and 16th centuries. At the same time, or perhaps somewhat later, lax vowels became long before short consonants. The unstressed vowels i and u were first written e and o, since they corresponded to e and 6. When e became a diphthong, i was written when unstressed, and by analogy, u. Somewhat different was the development of foreign loanwords: Ádam and (.va. Delabialization of y and ý is more recent, beginning around or after 1500, but examples of a difference between y and i are still to be found in the ballad book of Gissur Sveinsson (born 1604). Delabialization of y in the diphthong ey, however, began already in the first half of the 14th century. The corresponding development in the other Scandinavian languages is also mentioned.

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Section
Linguistics