The main aim of this dissertation is to examine and throw light on occurrences and use of loanwords of Middle Low German (MLG) origin in Icelandic deeds of the period c. 1200-1500, and at the same time to test my hypothesis that the MLG influence on the Nordic languages in Scandinavia reached Iceland by the first half of the 14th century, i.e. earlier than is often supposed.
For this purpose all Icelandic deeds and letters (conveyance contracts, bills of sale, receipts, marriage settlements, wills etc.), as well as lists of inventory in Icelandic churches and convents and a few other texts from the period c. 1200-1500, have been investigated for instances of loanwords. The result is 1,150-1,200 words and word-forms, of which over 600 (c. 310 stems) originate from or have been conveyed through MLG, or are formed from MLG words. The investigation has been as encompassing as possible. Altogether about 2,600-2,800 word-instances were recorded.
The study only partly confirms the above mentioned working hypothesis. Certainly, a number of words from MLG appear already early in the 14th century, and a few in deeds and other documents dated to the 13th century. Most of those words are, however, not fully representative of the actual influence of the language of the German Hansa-merchants. The oldest examples are from statutes of bishops and archbishops from about 1270 and onwards. In lists of inventory, MLG words begin to appear early in the 14th century. In deeds, letters and other documents such words appear sporadically also in the early 14th century, but do not become frequent until in the late second half of the century and in the 15th century. MLG words in the statutes are to a high degree ecclesiastical-religious (abstract); in lists of inventory they are to a high degree ecclesiastical-terminological (concrete); in other documents they are to a high degree secular (abstract and concrete) and have much to do with administration, commerce, negotiation etc. The words almost always enter present word classes in Icelandic, they are given Icelandic inflectional endings, and uncertainty as to which gender they take is very rare. New affixes are few, and they occasionally merge with domestic ones. Phonological and phonotactic changes seem to be minimal.
Parallels to the main part of the Icelandic words are found in Old and Middle Norwegian, as well as in Old Danish, Older Modern Danish and Old Swedish. The main part of the Norwegian parallel examples are found in Norwegian deeds, charters and other official or semi-official documents.
Many of the words are also found in other Old Icelandic texts, mainly in sagas of bishops, chivalric literature and different ecclesiastical and semi-ecclesiastical texts. Most of those are no doubt from the 14th century, but some are older, even from the early 13th century, or maybe with roots even in the 12th century. Those last mentioned often exist only or partially in altered and revised versions of uncertain age, so examples of MLG words in them can not without reservation be taken as evidence of great age and originality in the text in question.
The words are without doubt predominantly borrowed through Norwegian and, from the end of the 14th century, from Danish.
Uppsala: Institutionen för nordiska språk , 2001. , 310 p.
Scandinavian languages - general, Old Icelandic, Nordic Languages, Middle Low German, deed, letter, charter, loanword
2001-06-06, Ihresalen, Språkvetenskapligt centrum, Villavägen 4, Uppsala, 10:15