Øynduyska – diachronics of declension

Sorry for the lack of updates in recent months. You know how it is – stuff. Also, I’ve been working at two massive blog projects that will probably never see the light of day. And I have two book reviews I need to do.

For now, though, it’s just a snippet of Øynduyska again – this time, how its noun declensions have developed over time. And yes, this does contradict (and supersede) the information in my last series about the language. Sorry!

I should also probably clarify for the sake of background context what I mean by these temporal terms. I divide the history of the language into five rough periods: Primitive, Old, Middle, Early Modern and Modern. “Primitive” was a Northwest Germanic dialect (not attested in writing), not greatly diverged from Proto-Germanic; “Old” was a sparsely attested language that flourished in the eighth and ninth centuries; “Middle” flourished in the 11th and 12th centuries; “Early Modern” was spoken in around the 16th and 17th centuries; and “Modern”, which is more or less mutually intelligible with Early Modern, is the term for the language from the 19th century on, although some elements of the orthography were not settled until the late 19th century.

So, with that established…

The development of Øynduyska noun declension

Old Øynduyska

The declension system of Old Øynduyska was conservative and complex, with five major declensions, many with subtypes, and a small but significant number of irregular nouns, all inflecting for up to six cases (although one, the vocative, was distinguished only in the first declension) and two numbers.

The first declension contains the majority of nouns, which may be either masculine or neuter. There is an important distinction between ‘long’ and ‘short’ stems, and subclasses for both long and short where the root vowel is a short -o- (‘long’ stems may show a short vowel if followed by a coda).

The following are the declined forms of the nouns hūda (“dog”) and ioca (“yoke”):

Declension 1 Hūda, masculine long stem   Ioca, neuter short o-stem
Sng. Pl. Sng. Pl.
Nominative hūda hūd ioca iucu
Vocative hūd hūd ioca iucu
Accusative hūda hūdan ioca iucu
Dative hūdē hūdam iocē iocam
Instrumental hūd hūdam iucu iocam
Genitive hūdas hūdō iocas iucō

Notably, the orthography does not reveal a slight difference in the final vowels of the nominative and accusative singular in the masculine, with /a/ in the nominative but /ɑ/ in the accusative.

As can be seen, long stems show no suffix in the vocative and instrumental singulars, nor the nominative and vocative plurals, all of which show -u in short stems. Neuters show further syncretisms, conflating the nominative, vocative and accusative in each number. O-stems are marked by vowel alternation, with raising of -o- to -u- in the nominative and vocative (and for neuters also accusative) pluals, the genitive plural, and the instrumental singular.

There is a similar distinction between regular and o-stem nouns in the second declension, in which all nouns are feminine. The second declension also possesses a small subclass of ‘i-stems’, mostly comprising abstract nouns. Following are the declined forms of eorth (“earth, ground”), spitu (“skewer, spit”), and sylli (“permeable barrier, dividing line”):

Declension 2 Eorth, long stem   Spitu, short stem
Sng. Pl. Sng. Pl.
Nominative eorth eorthō spitu spitō
Vocative eorth eorthō spitu spitō
Accusative eortho eorth spito spitu
Dative eorthō eorthomm spitō spitomm
Instrumental eorth eorthomm spitu spitomm
Genitive eorth eorthō spitu spitō
Declension 2 (cont.) Sylli, i-stem
Sng. Pl.
Nominative sylli sylliō
Vocative sylli sylliō
Accusative syllio sylliu
Dative sylliō sylliomm
Instrumental sylliu sylliomm
Genitive sylliu sylliō

As can be seen, the –a and of the first declension accusative and dative singulars are replaced by –o and –ō; nominative and vocative plurals also take –ō, while dative and instrumental plurals take –omm. Nominative, vocative, instrumental and genitive singular, and accusative plural, take either –u in short stems or zero in long stems, except that i-stems, which otherwise pattern as short stems, drop this affix in the nominative and vocative singular.

The third declension, likewise, shows three major subclasses, as it consists of one masculine subclass and two feminine subclasses, represented here by scancō (“thigh”), færi (“passage, travel”) and uarto (“wart”):

Declension 3 Scancō, masculine   Færi, feminine short i-stem
Sng. Pl. Sng. Pl.
Nominative scancō scancan færi færīnn
Vocative scancō scancan færi færīnn
Accusative scancan scancann færīnn færīnn
Dative scæncin scancamm færīnn færīmm
Instrumental scæncini scancamm færīnn færīmm
Genitive scæncin scancannō færīnn færīnnnō
Declension 3 (cont.) Uarto, feminine o-stem
Sng. Pl.
Nominative uarto uartōnn
Vocative uarto uartōnn
Accusative uartōnn uartōnn
Dative uartōnn uartōmm
Instrumental uartōnn uartōmm
Genitive uartōnn uartōnnō

The feminine i-stems and o-stems are analogous, with –i and –ī– in the former where the latter shows o and –ō; i-stems (but not o-stems) further distinguish long and short stems, with the former simply dropping the –i of the nominative and vocative singular (sometimes accompanied by a vowel change – so burth (“burden”), but burthīnni

The masculine third declensions are similar, showing –ō and –a as the thematic vowels, but further  showing umlaut and suffixes with –i (including an anomolous final –i) in the oblique singulars, and backing in the nominative/vocative singular in the case of nouns in –a– (not shown in the orthography)

Even further syncretism was displayed in the fourth declension, which contained two major subclasses, each further distinguished by stem length. The examples used here are bainc (“slope, bank”), æci (“ache, pain, stiffness”), barc (“bark of a tree”), and uidu (“wood”, the substance):

Declension 4 Bainc, feminine long stem   Æci, masculine short stem
  Sng. Pl. Sng. Pl.
Nominative bainc bainc æci æci
Vocative bainc bainc æci æci
Accusative bainc baincin æci æcin
Dative bainc baincim æci æcim
Instrumental bainc baincim æci æcim
Genitive bainc bainciō æci æciō
Declension 4 (cont.) Barc, feminine long i/u-stem Uidu, masculine short i/u-stem
  Sng. Pl. Sng. Pl.
Nominative barc barc uidu uidi
Vocative barc barc uidu uidi
Accusative barc barcun uidu uidun
Dative barc barcum uidi uidum
Instrumental barc barcum uidu uidum
Genitive barcō barciō uidō uidiō

Gender in the fourth declension was essentially arbitrary and not discernable from the form of the word or its declension patter. The “i/u” alternating stems show –u in the accusative, dative and instrumental plurals, and –ō in the genitive singular; further more, the short stems show alternation between –i and –u.

Finally, the fifth declension has only a single paradigm, shown here with aga, “fear”:

Declension 5 Aga
Sng. Pl.
Nominative aga ægisu
Vocative aga ægisu
Accusative aga ægisu
Dative ægi ægisum
Instrumental ægisi ægisum
Genitive ægis ægisō

Notably, the umlaut here is only seen in nouns with short root vowels, and is absent where certain clusters or consonants appear root-finally. Thus, singular aga, plural ægis, but singular calba (“calf”), plural calbis (“calves”). It should also be bourne in mind that Old Øynduyska orthography did not distinguish between /s/ and, as here, /z/.

Middle Øynduyska

Middle Øynduyska was a period of considerable morphological simplification. The vocative had by now been entirely lost, outside of idioms; the instrumental, again with the exception of some set turns of phrase, and having already merged with the dative in the plural, now merged with the nominative in the singular. The accusative was distinguished only in the first declension singular (through a vowel change) and in the second declension plural (through merger with the dative). Probably as a result of this, the accusative came to be relatively rarely used, in most cases merging with the nominative.

The first declension tended to lose its absolute division into long and short stems, and between o-stems and regulars. The old alternation between –o– and –u– was relegated to an irregular vowel in the nominative/accusative plural of some words, with most o-stems being regularised entirely. Some long stems retained a distinct accusative singular, and also showed vowel length alternations. Similarly, with the decline of the accusative, the masculine-neuter distinction ceased to be significant (and indeed, some hypercorrect accusative forms for old neuters are seen in this period). Some neuters came to be reclassified as feminines, creating a new feminine subclass of the first declension, but they were not distinguished morphologically.

Instead, the first declension split anew over the loss in most words of a distinct nominative plural. This deficiency lead to a piecemeal substitution from other sources, dividing nouns into different plural classes. One class – mostly but not entirely old short stems – retained the old short stem ending, a simple –e. A second and third class borrowed the fifth (-re) and second (-enn) declension plurals respectively, with the former particularly associated with animals and children (on the example of such words as calbh (“calve”), lábh (“lamb”), hróð (“male farmyard animal”), irregular fae (“sheep”), and celth (“child”). A fourth class, simply generalised from the dying accusative to create an –an suffix. Here, the declension is represented by r-plural húð (“dog”) and e-plural yøk (“yoke”).

Declension 1 ð, masculine r-plural   yøk, feminine e-plural
Sng. Pl. Sng. Pl.
Nominative ð ðre yøk yøke
Accusative huað huðan yøk yøke
Dative huðá huðan yøká yøkan
Instrumental ð huðan yøk yøkan
Genitive ðes huðá yøkes yøká

The second declension in Middle Øynduyska is the result of considerable merger and analogy. In general, the fourth declension nouns, which otherwise would have lost all case in the singular (the i/u-stems losing their distinctive genitive singular by analogy), adopted the dative singular –á ending of the second declension, making the singular forms of the two declensions identical, while the confusing accusative plural of the second declension (which would otherwise have been identical to the nominative singular) was replaced by copying the fourth (and first) declension pattern of merged dative and accusative plurals (after the delabialisation of final –m). At the same time, the genitive plural of the fourth declension was simplified by removing the anomolous –i-, a process that also swept through the relatively rare second declension i-stems. The exception to this was the dative and accusative plural, which would have been predicted to be in –yonn, to –inn rather than to –onn. Final –nn in the second declension was reduced to –n by analogy with the first and fourth declensions. The result of this was the creation of an enlarged second declension i-stem group containing most of the old regular fourth declension (while the old i/u-stems merged with the regular second declension). Finally, final –n in this group was restored to –nn, probably by analogy with the i-stem third declensions, which also merged into this subclass. For futher explanation of this process, see the appended tables.

Aside from this distinction between i-stems and regulars (and the introduction, from the fourth declension, of masculines), the second declension continued to show a minor distinction between long and short stems. Short stems showed a final –e where long stems showed no suffix. More significantly, long stems with long vowels or diphthongs were prone to alternation – long vowels shortening and diphthongs becoming long vowels. This could in turn influence the voicing of following consonants.

Here, the declension is represented by long-stem regular eorth (“earth, ground”), short-stem regular spite (“skewer, spit”), and short i-stem ecce (“pain, ache, decrepitude”).

Declension 2 Eorth, long stem   Spite, short stem   Ecce, short i-stem
Sng. Pl. Sng. Pl. Sng. Pl.
Nominative eorth örðá spite spitá ecce eccá
Accusative eorth örðon spite spiton ecce eccinn
Dative örðá örðon spitá spiton eccá eccinn
Instrumental eorth örðon spite spiton ecce eccinn
Genitive eorth örðá spite spitá ecce eccá

The development of the third declension was rather simpler. The i-stems were, as mentioned, largely merged into the second declension i-stems, leaving only a single masculine and a single feminine subclass. The masculine third declensions saw the expansion of the –nn suffix of the accusative and dative plurals to the nominative plural (which otherwise would have had plain –n), no doubt influenced by analogy from the feminines, in which these forms have already merged. The masculines also retained –inn and umlaut in the dative and genitive singular, while nouns in –a– showed backing in the nominative and accusative. The declension is represented here by schąnká (“leg, thigh”) and uuarte (“wort”).

Declension 3 Schanká, masculine   Uuarte, feminine
Sng. Pl. Sng. Pl.
Nominative schąnká schankenn uarte uartann
Accusative schąnká schankenn uarte uartann
Dative schenkinn schankenn uartann uartann
Instrumental schanká schankenn uarte uartann
Genitive schenkinn schankenná uartann uartanná

The old fourth declension having been entirely merged into the second, what was the old fifth declension became the new third declension. It is here represented by umlauting agh (“fear, dread”) and non-umlauting calbh (“calf”):

Declension 4 Agh, umlauting   Calbh, non-umlauting
Sng. Pl. Sng. Pl.
Nominative agh eghre calbh calbhre
Accusative agh eghre calbh calbhre
Dative eghe eghrun calbhe calbhrun
Instrumental eghre eghrun calbhre calbhrun
Genitive eghr eghrá calbhr calbhrá

Early Modern Øynduyska

The transition to Early Modern Øynduyska saw continued simplification. Outside of fixed expressions or some very archaic writing, the instumental and the accusative ceased to exist. The loss of final short nasals caused considerable further syncretisms.

The first declension continued to show multiple plural classes, though most of the old e-plurals (which would otherwise be indicated only by vowel length) merged with the a-plurals. Most of the old long stems lost any length alternations, though a few irregulars did retain them.

Declension 1 ð, masculine r-plural   Yøk, feminine a-plural
Sng. Pl. Sng. Pl.
Nominative huð huðr yøk yøka
Dative huða huða yøka yøka
Genitive huðes huða yøkes yøka

It should be noted here that the orthography is somewhat archaic in this era, with (other than in the nominative plural) indicating what was already by this point /w/.

Due to natural changes, combined with the spread by analogy of the genitive singular from the first declension, the old second declension had by now fallen together with the first. The old long-stem second declensions in which alternation was seen simplified this by generalising the nominative/genitive singular stem to the dative singular, creating a straightfoward singular vs. plural alternation. Some old short-stem second declensions retained an orthographic –e (marking a long vowel) in the nominative singular, but many shifted to join the bulk of the a-plural first declension. Here, these two subtypes – alternating and e-stem – are represented by eorth (“ground, earth”) and spite (“skewer, axle, obsessive emotion, penis (col.)”):

Declension 1 (cont.) Eorth, alternating feminine a-plural   Spite, e-stem
Sng. Pl. Sng. Pl.
Nominative eorth ørða spite spita
Dative eortha ørða spita spita
Genitive eorthes ørða spites spita

The second declension having merged into the first, Early Modern Øynduyska’s second declension descended from the old third declension. Little had changed, save for the loss of umlaut in the masculine forms by analogy, and the falling together of the unstressed vowels to merge the masculine and feminine paradigms. The resulting combined declension is represented here by schąnka (“leg, thigh”) and warte (“wart”):

Declension 2 Schanka, masculine   Warte, feminine
Sng. Pl. Sng. Pl.
Nominative schąnka schankenn warte wartenn
Dative schankenn schankenn wartenn wartenn
Genitive schankenn schankenn wartenn wartenn

Finally, the third (formerly fourth) declension continued much as before, represented here by aigh (“dread”) and calf (“calf”):

Declension 3 Aigh, umlauting   Calf, non-umlauting
Sng. Pl. Sng. Pl.
Nominative aigh eighr calf calfr
Dative eighe eighr calfe calfr
Genitive eighi eighr calfi calfr

The case system of Modern Øynduyska is essentially the same as that of the Early Modern form of the language, barring orthographic changes, the loss of umlaut in the third declension, and the reduction of the genitive singular –es everywhere except after a fricative. Furthermore, in speech the –es suffix has been expanded to the second and third declensions (in the former case, in addition to the existing suffix), though this continues to be considered ‘incorrect’ in formal writing.

The modern declensions are thus:

Declension 1 ð, masculine r-plural   Yøk, feminine a-plural  
Sng. Pl. Sng. Pl.  
Nominative huw huðr yøk yøka  
Dative huwa huwa yøka yøka  
Genitive huw’s huwa yøk’s yøka  
Declension 1 Eorth, alternating feminine a-plural Spite, e-stem
Sng. Pl. Sng. Pl.
Nominative eorth ørða spite spita
Dative eortha ørða spita spita
Genitive eorthes ørða spit’s spita
Declension 2 Schanka, masculine   Warte, feminine
Sng. Pl. Sng. Pl.
Nominative schąnka schanken warte warten
Dative schanken schanken warten warten
Genitive schanken’s



schanken warten’s



Declension 3 Calf
Sng. Pl.
Nominative calf calfr
Dative calfr calfr
Genitive calf’s

Appended Tables: The Creation of the Middle Øynduyska Second Declension

The following table compares what would have been the unanalogised descendents of the Old Øynduyska second and fourth declensions, taking regular short stems as our example, along with a short i-stem:

  Spite Sylle Ece
Sng. Sng. Sng. Pl. Sng. Pl.
Nominative spite spitá sylle syllyá ece ece
Accusative spite spite syllye syllye ece ecin
Dative spitá spiton syllyá syllyonn ece ecin
Instrumental spite spiton syllye syllyonn ece ecin
Genitive spite spitá syllye syllyá ece ecyá

After loss of most –i-, and analogous nasal shortening in the i-stems:

  Spite Sylle Ece
Sng. Sng. Sng. Pl. Sng. Pl.
Nominative spite spitá sylle syllá ece ece
Accusative spite spite sylle sylle ece ecin
Dative spitá spiton syllá syllin ece ecin
Instrumental spite spiton sylle syllin ece ecin
Genitive spite spitá sylle syllá ece ecá

The fourth declension nouns borrow the dative singular (which is common across declensions), and also borrow the nominative plural; meanwhile, the second-declensions replace their confusing accusative plural by copying the first, third and fourth declensions:

  Spite Sylle Ece
Sng. Sng. Sng. Pl. Sng. Pl.
Nominative spite spitá sylle syllá ece ecá
Accusative spite spiton sylle syllin ece ecin
Dative spitá spiton syllá syllin ecá ecin
Instrumental spite spiton sylle syllin ece ecin
Genitive spite spitá sylle syllá ece ecá

The result is a combined declension, differing only in the –on/-in ending. At this point, third declension i-stems, already rare, join the –in class, but bring in their own –inn ending to replace the existing form. Meanwhile, fourth declension i/u-stems have followed the same root to merge with the regular second declension, requiring only an additional shift of unstressed –un to unstressed –on.

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