Øynduyska – IV (Nouns)

The continuing adventures of Øynduyska. Comments welcome!



Øynduyska nouns distinguish three cases – nominative, dative, and genitive – and two numbers (singular and plural).

Aside from a small number of common, irregular nouns, Øynduyska’s nouns can be classed as either strong or weak, and either masculine or feminine.

Masculine Strong Nouns
Mänlikja Stranga Nammwyrðer

Masculine strong nouns have unmarked nominative singulars and genitive singulars in -(e)s; dative and genitive plurals, and dative singulars, take -a. Nominative plurals occasionally take plain -a in archaic registers or fixed idioms, but more often take -(e)r, with umlaut. Some common, formal or poetic nouns show predictable vowel changes in the genitives: thus wǫlf, “wolf” has the genitive plural wulfa. There are often vowel changes between the nominative singular and other forms, particularly the dative and genitive singulars.

Singular Plural
Nominative wǫlf; cøbh wylfer; cøbhr
Dative wolfa; cøbha wǫlfa; cøbha
Genitive wolfes; cøbhes wulfa; cøbha

Feminine Strong Nouns
Femenena Stranga Nammwyrðer

These nouns show unmarked nominative singulars, and -a in dative singulars and plurals, as well as in genitive plurals, all as in masculines. The nominative plural, however, is also formed in -a, unlike for masculines, while the genitive singulars are formed with the suffix -(e)r, and both this suffix and all three plural forms frequently undergo umlaut.

There are, again, often vowel changes between the nominative singular and all other forms.

Singular Plural
Nominative stép; rąst; heord stépa rästa; hirda
Dative stépa; rasta; herda stépa; rästa; hirda
Genitive stéper; räster; hirder stépa; rästa; hirda


Weak Nouns
Veyka Nammwyrðer

Weak nouns may be either masculine or feminine. Masculine weak nouns typically end in -a in the nominative singular, while feminine weak nouns typically end in a consonant. Masculine weak nouns take umlauting -a in the dative and genitive singulars, and non-umlauting -on in all three plural forms; feminine weak nouns take -en in every form other than the nominative singular. There is often vowel change between the nominative singular and all other forms.

Singular Plural
Nominative nefa; tong néfon; tungen
Dative nifa; tungen néfon; tungen
Genitive nifa; tungen néfon; tungen

Use of Cases
Bruking av Tykjla

The ‘nominative’ case is used for both nominal subjects and nominal objects; pronominal objects, however, use the dative case.

All three cases are used extensively after particular prepositions. A few prepositions may take either the nominative or the dative case, with a consequent change in meaning.

The genitive is also used to create adjective-like modifiers, which may be compounded with a head noun, or else may precede it while remaining separate. Compounds are used to create a noun with a more specific meaning, as well as to form some proper nouns; separate modifiers may be used for this purpose also, or more generally for possession, but have an archaic, literary quality and are rarely found in colloquial speech outside of set expressions (prepositional constructions are preferred for possession more generally).

The genitive is also used for direct objects of perceptual verbs (sevh ech wulfa, “I see wolves”), and for direct objects of verbs of uncompleted actions (byld ech hussa, “I build parts of houses”, as contrasted with byld ech hysser, “I build houses”), as well for second arguments of some verbs (tell ech hem wulfa, “I tell him about wolves”), and for the subjects of certain embedded clauses (hóp ech ða treos ta grónn, “I hope the tree will grow”). Genitive nouns may also be used pronominally, with the modified noun absent: byld ech hussa may also be translated “I build the houses’ [ones]”, depending on context.

Next Up: Verbs!
Nu ta vylga: Verbema!

6 thoughts on “Øynduyska – IV (Nouns)

  1. areteara says:

    good stuff! a few comments/questions:

    – it looks like outside of a few masculine strong nouns like “wolf” (i can’t find the ogonek) and presumably irregular nouns as well, the dative and genitive plurals are morphologically identical. and outside masculine strong nouns, all the plural forms are identical. are there any grammatical consequences of this? since nominative vs. genitive objects can determine whether a verb is completed or not, for example, i wonder if there are any workarounds here for speakers to use.

    – you gotta show us some irregular nouns! i’m curious to see if they fall into some patterns or sub-groups. or if they’re completely unpredictable.

    – what sort of umlaut patterns are available? i couldn’t quite tell from the vowels post. again, i’m curious what kind of patterns there are among nouns.

    – how is the dative used? besides indirect objects (and direct objects with pronouns–good touch!), are there ethical datives, locative datives, etc.? are there verbs that take dative direct objects? do you ever have weird dative subjects, like there are genitive subjects (we’re close to iceland…)

    excited for verbs!

  2. Hans says:

    You write the gen. pl. differently in the text (wulva) and in the decelension table (wulfa).
    A remark on the native grammatical terminology – it shows a mixture of terms loaned from Graeco-Latin and native calques. What are the rules for their distribution? What I’m used to from German is that you have two full sets*1), with the native calques being used mostly for school purposes (especially in the elementary classes) and popular writing on language (e.g. popular style guides), while the Graeco-Latin terms are used in the higher classes, at university, and in scientific contexts,
    *1) Probably there are no native calques for more esoteric / exotic concepts (I haven’t really looked into that), but there are native calques for every term you’d find in traditional school grammar, which is what you have covered so far.

  3. Regarding completion, I think that this isn’t so much a core grammatical distinction as just a particular device sometimes used for a partitive meaning, so the lack of the distinction for many nouns isn’t much of a problem. It should also be said that the masculine strong nouns are… I don’t know if they’re the majority of the nouns, but they’re certainly by far the most common.
    However, the conflation of many case forms has had an impact on the prepositional system. Although there are still some core prepositions that can govern nominative or dative, the weight of that distinction has dramatically decreased – instead of using case to distinguish locative from allative prepositions, distinct prepositions are now used.

    There aren’t many irregular nouns. There’s probably a core from the old consonant-root nouns, I’ve not decided entirely what I’m doing with the old family words, and there may be a few words that have become irregular through soundchange, but not many.

    The basic umlaut patterns are pretty simple – back vowels to front rounded vowels (which are often then derounded when short), and raising of original /e/ and /a/. However, when you bring in originally long vowels and past or present diphthongs, things get a bit complicated. [You’ll note I’ve copped out with the ‘vowel differences’ in the nominative singular – these are theoretically predictable, but I haven’t had the heart to sit down and work them out in a table…]

    In terms of quirky case usage: I’m not sure, to be honest. Probably not a lot, because it tends to use prepositions rather than rely too much on cases. I’m leaning against dative direct objects, but I wouldn’t rule it out, because there are verbs with incorporated prepositions – I think that when the preposition gets fixed (as opposed to remaining separable) the case will probably regularise to the nominative, but I’m open to changing my mind on that. [this would primarily effect transitive verbs in be-].
    Any quirky case is otherwise going to have to wait for a more in-depth post. [I’m planning, after this initial sketch, which will focus on the basic grammar, to at least do posts on the use of different modal verbs and on the use of different prepositions. I have a document on the syntax of Icelandic I’ve been peaking at now and then, so I’ll have to study it a bit regarding quirky case…]

    Thanks for the interest!

  4. [darn. Thanks, Hans! It should be ‘wulfa’. I was vacillating on the spelling. Same pronunciation, though.]

    Yeah, grammatical terminology was something I wasn’t too sure on. I’ve tried to reflect a history at the periphery of Europe…
    – ‘noun’ and ‘verb’ are basic grammatical terms introduced early on by monks. They used the Latin for ‘verb’, and that has probably been reinforced by the Danish/Norwegian/Swedish term. There hasn’t bee the direct influence of German that there has been in the continental noth germanic languages, for instance (Danish’s ‘native’ calque, for instance, is apparently a calque from German). The word for “noun”, however, is calqued. It seemed to me that ‘noun’ as a ‘name-word’ is more intuitive, if you’re a monk explaining something to a peasant, than ‘saying’ or ‘word’ is for ‘verb’.

    – ‘consonant’ and ‘vowel’ are taken from north germanic languages. It seemed to me that that’s the sort of language that’s both obscure enough not to be a firmly-ensconced native word, but also commonplace enough to be regularly taught in schools. I don’t know the details of historical schooling on the islands, but I’m thinking that words for ‘consonant’ and ‘vowel’ could easily be things that schools overseen by norwegian or danish administrators could be teaching.

    – In the 20th century, a nationalist regime popularised some native calques that had been devided in the late 19th century. This may have further pushed ‘name-word’ ahead of ‘subtantive’ for nouns. However, most of these terms didn’t stick – and in particular anything very ‘technical’ will have ended up with the ‘international’ (usually greco-latin via Danish or Swedish) terms – hence the words for ‘phonology’ and ‘orthography’. Although some more technical terms are probably drawn from English these days.

    – on the other hand, the native words for ‘stress’ and ‘timing’ have caught on, because these are commonplace words with fairly transparent meanings.

    – “Tykjla”, dative of “tykjel’, “grammatical case”, I shall leave as a (not too difficult) exercise for the reader…

    I wouldn’t say any of these terms are fixed in stone, though, if something better occurs to me.

  5. Oh, and if you were thinking “why is it a native word for ‘masculine’ but a borrowing for ‘feminine’?” – well, there is a reason.
    The native word for feminine would have be “wivli”. However, as “wiv” has become a somewhat disreputable word now, and “wivli” no longer a neutral ‘feminine’, it’s not considered suitable anymore. The Nationalists I think probably introduced “kwąnnli”, but that means more “in the manner of a wife”, and sounds quite old-fashioned in the modern world. So “Femenen” has been borrowed as a more neutral and unproblematic alternative.

    Oh, and there’s some errors here, because my earlier word for ‘noun’ was feminine, and I forgot to change the adjectival agreement… though the only ramification here is that “stranga” shouldn’t have an umlaut.

    Also: verbs are not, in fact, next. There’ll be a post on other stuff first (pronouns, articles, demonstratives, and adjectives).

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