Old Norse

Old Norse was a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during about the 9th to 13th centuries. The Proto-Norse language developed into Old Norse by the 8th century, and Old Norse began to develop into the modern North Germanic languages in the mid- to late-14th century, ending the language phase known as Old Norse. These dates, however, are not absolute, since written Old Norse is found well into the 15th century. (Source: Wikipedia)


Use CorpusImporter() or browse the CLTK GitHub organization (anything beginning with old_norse_) to discover available Old Norse corpora.

In[1]: from cltk.corpus.utils.importer import CorpusImporter

In[2]: corpus_importer = CorpusImporter("old_norse")

In[3]: corpus_importer.list_corpora

Out[3]: ['old_norse_text_perseus', 'old_norse_models_cltk', 'old_norse_texts_heimskringla', 'old_norse_runic_transcriptions', 'old_norse_dictionary_zoega']

Zoëga’s dictionary

This dictionary was made in the last century. It contains Old Norse entries in which a description is given in English. Each entry have possible POS tags for its word and the translations/meanings.

Stopword Filtering

To use the CLTK’s built-in stopwords list, We use an example from Eiríks saga rauða:

In[1]: from nltk.tokenize.punkt import PunktLanguageVars

In[2]: from cltk.stop.old_norse.stops import STOPS_LIST

In[3]: sentence = 'Þat var einn morgin, er þeir Karlsefni sá fyrir ofan rjóðrit flekk nökkurn, sem glitraði við þeim'

In[4]: p = PunktLanguageVars()

In[5]: tokens = p.word_tokenize(sentence.lower())

In[6]: [w for w in tokens if not w in STOPS_LIST]

Out[6]: ['var',


The corpus module has a class for generating a Swadesh list for Old Norse.

In[1]: from cltk.corpus.swadesh import Swadesh

In[2]: swadesh = Swadesh('old_norse')

In[3]: swadesh.words()[:10]

Out[3]: ['ek', 'þú', 'hann', 'vér', 'þér', 'þeir', 'sjá, þessi', 'sá', 'hér', 'þar']

Word Tokenizing

A very simple tokenizer is available for Old Norse. For now, it does not take into account specific Old Norse constructions like the merge of conjugated verbs with þú and with sik. Here is a sentence extracted from Gylfaginning in the Edda by Snorri Sturluson.

In[1]: word_tokenizer = WordTokenizer('old_norse')

In[2]: sentence = "Gylfi konungr var maðr vitr ok fjölkunnigr."

In[3]: word_tokenizer.tokenize(sentence)

Out[3]:['Gylfi', 'konungr', 'var', 'maðr', 'vitr', 'ok', 'fjölkunnigr', '.']

POS tagging

You can get the POS tags of Old Norse texts using the CLTK’s wrapper around the NLTK tokenizer. First, download the model by importing the old_norse_models_cltk corpus. This TnT tagger was trained from annotated data from Icelandic Parsed Historical Corpus (version 0.9, license: LGPL).

TnT tagger

The following sentence is from the first verse of Völuspá (a poem describing destiny of Agards gods).

In[1]: from cltk.tag.pos import POSTag

In[2]: tagger = POSTag('old_norse')

In[3]: sent = 'Hlióðs bið ek allar.'

In[4]: tagger.tag_tnt(sent)

Out[4]: [('Hlióðs', 'Unk'),
('bið', 'VBPI'),
('ek', 'PRO-N'),
('allar', 'Q-A'),
('.', '.')]

Phonology transcription

According to phonological rules (available at Wikipedia - Old Norse orthography and Altnordisches Elementarbuch by Friedrich Ranke and Dietrich Hofmann), a reconstructed pronunciation of Old Norse words is implemented.

In[1]: from cltk.phonology.old_norse import transcription as ont

In[2]: sentence = "Gylfi konungr var maðr vitr ok fjölkunnigr"

In[3]: tr = ut.Transcriber(ont.DIPHTHONGS_IPA, ont.DIPHTHONGS_IPA_class, ont.IPA_class, ont.old_norse_rules)

In[4]: tr.main(sentence)

Out[4]: "[gylvi kɔnungr var maðr vitr ɔk fjœlkunːiɣr]"


The oldest runic inscriptions found are from 200 AC. They have always denoted Germanic languages. Until the 8th century, the elder futhark alphabet was used. It was compouned with 24 characters: ᚠ, ᚢ, ᚦ, ᚨ, ᚱ, ᚲ, ᚷ, ᚹ, ᚺ, ᚾ, ᛁ, ᛃ, ᛇ, ᛈ, ᛉ, ᛊ, ᛏ, ᛒ, ᛖ, ᛗ, ᛚ, ᛜ, ᛟ, ᛞ. The word Futhark comes from the 6 first characters of the alphabet: ᚠ (f), ᚢ (u), ᚦ (th), ᚨ (a), ᚱ (r), ᚲ (k). Later, this alphabet was reduced to 16 runes, the younger futhark ᚠ, ᚢ, ᚦ, ᚭ, ᚱ, ᚴ, ᚼ, ᚾ, ᛁ, ᛅ, ᛋ, ᛏ, ᛒ, ᛖ, ᛘ, ᛚ, ᛦ, with more ambiguity on sounds. Shapes of runes may vary according to which matter they are carved on, that is why there is a variant of the younger futhark like this: ᚠ, ᚢ, ᚦ, ᚭ, ᚱ, ᚴ, ᚽ, ᚿ, ᛁ, ᛅ, ᛌ, ᛐ, ᛓ, ᛖ, ᛙ, ᛚ, ᛧ.

In[1]: from cltk.corpus.old_norse import runes

In[2]: " ".join(Rune.display_runes(ELDER_FUTHARK))

Out[2]: ᚠ ᚢ ᚦ ᚨ ᚱ ᚲ ᚷ ᚹ ᚺ ᚾ ᛁ ᛃ ᛇ ᛈ ᛉ ᛊ ᛏ ᛒ ᛖ ᛗ ᛚ ᛜ ᛟ ᛞ

In[3]: little_jelling_stone = "᛬ᚴᚢᚱᛘᛦ᛬ᚴᚢᚾᚢᚴᛦ᛬ᚴ(ᛅᚱ)ᚦᛁ᛬ᚴᚢᛒᛚ᛬ᚦᚢᛋᛁ᛬ᛅ(ᚠᛏ)᛬ᚦᚢᚱᚢᛁ᛬ᚴᚢᚾᚢ᛬ᛋᛁᚾᛅ᛬ᛏᛅᚾᛘᛅᚱᚴᛅᛦ᛬ᛒᚢᛏ᛬"

In[4]: Transcriber.transcribe(little_jelling_stone, YOUNGER_FUTHARK)

Out[4]: "᛫kurmR᛫kunukR᛫k(ar)þi᛫kubl᛫þusi᛫a(ft)᛫þurui᛫kunu᛫sina᛫tanmarkaR᛫but᛫"


For a language-dependent approach, you can call the predefined sonority dictionary by toogling the language parameter:

In[1]: from cltk.phonology.syllabify import Syllabifier

In[2]: s = Syllabifier(language='old_norse')

In[3]: s.syllabify("danmarkar")

Out[3]: ['dan', 'mar', 'kar']

Length of syllables in Old Norse poems plays a great role. To measure this, words have first to be phonetically transcribed. This is why “old_norse_ipa” language is used

In[1]: import cltk.phonology.old_norse.transcription as ont

In[2]: from cltk.phonology.syllabify import Syllabifier

In[3]: syllabifier = Syllabifier(language="old_norse_ipa")

In[4]: word = [ont.a, ont.s, ont.g, ont.a, ont.r, ont.dh, ont.r]

In[5]: syllabified_word = syllabifier.syllabify_phonemes(word)

In[6]: [ont.measure_old_norse_syllable(syllable) for syllable in syllabified_word]

Out[6]: [<Length.short: 'short'>, <Length.long: 'long'>]

Old Norse prosody

Edda poetry is traditionally composed of the skaldic poetry and the eddic poetry.

Eddic poetry

Eddic poems designate the poems of the Poetic Edda. Stanza, line and verse are the three levels that characterize eddic poetry. The poetic Edda are mainly composed of three kinds of poetic meters: fornyrðislag, ljóðaháttr and málaháttr.

  • Fornyrðislag

A stanza of fornyrðislag has 8 short lines (or verses), 4 long-lines (or lines). Each long line has two short lines. The first verse of a line usually has an alliteration with the second verse of a line.

In[1]: text1 = "Hljóðs bið ek allar\nhelgar kindir,\nmeiri ok minni\nmögu Heimdallar;\nviltu at ek, Valföðr,\nvel fyr telja\nforn spjöll fira,\nþau er fremst of man."

In[2]: VerseManager.is_fornyrdhislag(text1)

Out[2]: True

In[3]: fo = Fornyrdhislag()

In[4]: fo.from_short_lines_text(text1)

In[5]: fo.short_lines

Out[5]: ['Hljóðs bið ek allar', 'helgar kindir,', 'meiri ok minni', 'mögu Heimdallar;', 'viltu at ek, Valföðr,', 'vel fyr telja', 'forn spjöll fira,', 'þau er fremst of man.']

In[6]: fo.long_lines

Out[6]: [['Hljóðs bið ek allar', 'helgar kindir,'], ['meiri ok minni', 'mögu Heimdallar;'], ['viltu at ek, Valföðr,', 'vel fyr telja'], ['forn spjöll fira,', 'þau er fremst of man.']]

In[7]: fo.syllabify()

In[8]: fo.syllabified_text

Out[8]: [[[[['hljóðs'], ['bið'], ['ek'], ['al', 'lar']]], [[['hel', 'gar'], ['kin', 'dir']]]], [[[['meir', 'i'], ['ok'], ['min', 'ni']]], [[['mög', 'u'], ['heim', 'dal', 'lar']]]], [[[['vil', 'tu'], ['at'], ['ek'], ['val', 'föðr']]], [[['vel'], ['fyr'], ['tel', 'ja']]]], [[[['forn'], ['spjöll'], ['fir', 'a']]], [[['þau'], ['er'], ['fremst'], ['of'], ['man']]]]]

In[9]: fo.to_phonetics()

In[10]: fo.transcribed_text

Out[10]: [[['[hljoːðs]', '[bið]', '[ɛk]', '[alːar]'], ['[hɛlɣar]', '[kindir]']], [['[mɛiri]', '[ɔk]', '[minːi]'], ['[mœɣu]', '[hɛimdalːar]']], [['[viltu]', '[at]', '[ɛk]', '[valvœðr]'], ['[vɛl]', '[fyr]', '[tɛlja]']], [['[fɔrn]', '[spjœlː]', '[fira]'], ['[θɒu]', '[ɛr]', '[frɛmst]', '[ɔv]', '[man]']]]

In[11]: fo.find_alliteration()

Out[11]: ([[('hljóðs', 'helgar')], [('meiri', 'mögu'), ('minni', 'mögu')], [], [('forn', 'fremst'), ('fira', 'fremst')]], [1, 2, 0, 2])
  • Ljóðaháttr

A stanza of ljóðaháttr has 6 short lines (or verses), 4 long-lines (or lines). The first and the third lines have two verses, while the second and the fourth lines have only one (longer) verse. The first verse of the first and third lines alliterates with the second verse of these lines. The second and the fourth lines contain alliterations.

In[1]: text2 = "Deyr fé,\ndeyja frændr,\ndeyr sjalfr it sama,\nek veit einn,\nat aldrei deyr:\ndómr um dauðan hvern."

In[2]: VerseManager.is_ljoodhhaattr(text2)

Out[2]: True

In[3]: lj = Ljoodhhaatr()

In[4]: lj.from_short_lines_text(text2)

In[5]: lj.short_lines

Out[5]: ['Deyr fé,', 'deyja frændr,', 'deyr sjalfr it sama,', 'ek veit einn,', 'at aldrei deyr:', 'dómr um dauðan hvern.']

In[6]: lj.long_lines

Out[6]: [['Deyr fé,', 'deyja frændr,'], ['deyr sjalfr it sama,'], ['ek veit einn,', 'at aldrei deyr:'], ['dómr um dauðan hvern.']]

In[7]: lj.syllabify()

In[8]: lj.syllabified_text

Out[8]: [[[['deyr'], ['fé']], [['deyj', 'a'], ['frændr']]], [[['deyr'], ['sjalfr'], ['it'], ['sam', 'a']]], [[['ek'], ['veit'], ['einn']], [['at'], ['al', 'drei'], ['deyr']]], [[['dómr'], ['um'], ['dau', 'ðan'], ['hvern']]]]

In[9]: lj.to_phonetics()

In[10]: lj.transcribed_text

Out[10]: [[['[dɐyr]', '[feː]'], ['[dɐyja]', '[frɛːndr]']], [['[dɐyr]', '[sjalvr]', '[it]', '[sama]']], [['[ɛk]', '[vɛit]', '[ɛinː]'], ['[at]', '[aldrɛi]', '[dɐyr]']], [['[doːmr]', '[um]', '[dɒuðan]', '[hvɛrn]']]]

In[11]: verse_alliterations, n_alliterations_lines = lj.find_alliteration()

In[12]: verse_alliterations

Out[12]: [[('deyr', 'deyja'), ('fé', 'frændr')], [('sjalfr', 'sjalfr')], [('einn', 'aldrei')], [('dómr', 'um')]]

In[13]: n_alliterations_lines

Out[13]: [2, 1, 1, 1]
  • Málaháttr

Málaháttr is very similar to ljóðaháttr, except that verses are longer. No special code has been written for this.

Skaldic poetry

Dróttkvætt and hrynhenda are examples of skaldic poetic meters.

Old Norse pronouns declension

Old Norse, like other ancient Germanic languages, is highly inflected. With the declension module, you can get a declined form of a pronoun already stored.

In[1]: from cltk.declension import utils as decl_utils

In[2]: from cltk.declension.old_norse import pronouns

In[3]: pro_demonstrative_pronouns_this = decl_utils.Pronoun("demonstrative pronouns this")

In[4]: demonstrative_pronouns_this = [[["þessi", "þenna", "þessum", "þessa"], ["þessir", "þessa", "þessum", "þessa"]], [["þessi", "þessa", "þessi", "þessar"], ["þessar", "þessar", "þessum", "þessa"]], [["þetta", "þetta", "þessu", "þessa"], ["þessi", "þessi", "þessum", "þessa"]]]

In[5]: pro_demonstrative_pronouns_this.set_declension(demonstrative_pronouns_this)

In[6]: pro_demonstrative_pronouns_this.get_declined(decl_utils.Case.accusative, decl_utils.Number.singular, decl_utils.Gender.feminine)

Out[6]: 'þessa'