https://www.duolingo.com/Albantar

Little linguistic gems

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I've only just started learning Norwegian here and I already love it. I'm very interested in linguistics and I feel like I'm now glimpsing through a keyhole into a whole new linguistic playground that I didn't know before!

For example, I just learned that the Norwegian word for "island" is "øye". This looks a lot like the English word "eye". The Dutch word for "eye" is "oog" and it seems that in old Dutch this may have also been a word for "island", since we have islands such as "Schiermonnikoog", "Callantsoog" and "Rottumeroog" and even in Germany they have the islands "Spiekeroog" and "Wangerooge"...

Another interesting snippet is "kniv". In Dutch it's "mes" and in German it's "Messer", but in English it's "knife" so it seems that the Viking invaders didn't only come to England with knives between their teeth, but also on their tongues... :D

I'm hoping to find many more of such linguistic gems as I progress through this excellent Norwegian course!

May 26, 2015

7 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/jjd1123
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Regarding "kniv": While it's true that the standard translation in German would be "Messer (n)", there are also the less common regional variants "Kneip (m)", "Kneif (m)" or "Kneipchen (n)", all of which refer to (certain types of) knives. They are related to the verb "kneifen" ("(to) pinch, squeeze"), just like "Kneipe (f)" ("bar, pub"). While the English term seems to be derived from the Norse word, according to Wiktionary all of them originate "from Proto-Germanic knībaz (compare Low German Knief, Luxembourgish Knäip ‘penknife’), from knīpaną ‘to pinch’ (compare Dutch knijpen, Low German kniepen, Old High German gniffen), from Proto-Indo-European *gneibʰ- (compare Lithuanian gnýbti, žnýbti ‘to pinch’, gnaibis ‘pinching’)". Interestingly, even the (purported) Proto-Indo-European term is still quite similar to those modern Germanic words.

As a side note, an "f/v" in English or the North Germanic languages (or Dutch) seems to often correspond to a "b/p" in High German, especially at the end of syllables:

  • Kneip - knive
  • Leib - life
  • Laib - loaf
  • Weib - wife
  • schreiben - skriva; schrijven
  • geben - give (Gabe - gift)
  • haben - have
  • etc.

By the way, I think that the "oog" in the name of some German islands is probably either from Dutch or Low German (maybe from Frisian), but not from High German (even though "Auge" isn't too different).

May 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Stigjohan
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Yes, it's great fun! Regarding 'kniv', I also think it's amusing that English has retained the 'k' in the spelling of 'knife', but they don't pronounce it anymore unlike us Norwegians.

Just a small nitpick: "øye" is "eye", and "øy" is "island" :)

May 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Albantar
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Thank you for that correction. But it stands to reason that "øy" and "øye" are linguistically closely related.

May 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Luis_Domingos
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According to Wiktionary, they're not really related: øy comes from Proto-Germanic "awjō" (Old Norse/Icelandic ey > Modern Norwegian øy), meaning island (related to ahwō, meaning water, stream: see Old Norse/Icelandic á > Modern Norwegian å); øye comes from the P-G augô (Old Norse/Icelandic auga > Modern Norwegian øye).

Considering that Modern Faroese writes "eye" as eyga, there seems to be an evolutionary pattern that allows for a convergence between the words in writing, without them being actually related ("augô" ultimately comes from a Proto Indo-European root, and it is cognate with the Latin oculus and the corresponding Romance words - olho, ojo, œil, occhio, etc.).

This same process of vocabulary convergence can be seen in other languages; for example, in Portuguese, "rio" can mean both "river" and "I laugh", but the corresponding Latin words from which they derive are different - "rivu" and "rideo", respectively.

May 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Albantar
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Wow, really impressed with the contributions by Luis_Domingos and jjd1123! Obviously, I'm just a lounge chair linguist. :D

I'm having some problems with false friends, though. The Norwegian "jeg" sounds like the Dutch "jij", which means "you" (singular)... And the Norwegian "vi" looks like the Esperanto "vi" which means "you" (singular and/or plural)...

On the other hand, the Norwegian "deg" sounds a lot like the "dij / dich" that some Dutch dialects have and that does mean exactly the same. All in all I find Norwegian a lot easier than I thought it would be! :)

May 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/pepperoach
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I like finding parallels between Norwegian and Portuguese, my native language, since they're pretty much completely unrelated :D

For example, "gaffel" and "garfo", both meaning fork; "trist" and "triste", both meaning sad, and a few others that I can't remember @u@

False cognates are always fun too, and in the end help to remember the words with a good laugh xD

Like the word "bonde" in Norwegian: it is written exactly like the Portuguese word for "tram", but is pronounced pretty close to "bunda", which means butt c:

May 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/dottedmag
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Many English words are Old Norse ones. Have you seen this video about history of English language? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3r9bOkYW9s

May 27, 2015
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