Greenlandic Norse

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Greenlandic Norse
Region Greenland; Western Settlement and Eastern Settlement
Extinct by the late 15th century (16th century at the latest)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 None (mis)
Glottolog None

Greenlandic Norse is an extinct North Germanic language that was spoken in the Norse settlements of Greenland until their demise in the late 15th century. The language is attested through some 80 runic inscriptions, many of which are difficult to date and not all of which were necessarily carved by people born in Greenland.[1]

It is difficult to identify specifically Greenlandic linguistic features in the limited runic material. Nevertheless, there are inscriptions showing the use of t for historical þ in words such as torir rather than þorir and tana rather than þana. This linguistic innovation has parallels in West Norwegian in the late medieval period.[1] On the other hand, Greenlandic appears to have retained some features which changed in other types of Scandinavian. This includes initial hl and hr, otherwise only preserved in Icelandic, and the long vowel œ, which merged with æ in Icelandic but was preserved in Norwegian.[2]

Greenlandic Norse is believed to have been in language contact with Kalaallisut, the language of the local Inuit people, and to have left loanwords in that language. In particular, the Kalaallisut word Kalaaleq (older Karaaleq), meaning Greenlander, is believed to be derived from the word Skrælingr, the Norse term for the people they encountered in North America.[3] It has also been suggested that the word kona, meaning woman, is of Norse origin.[4]

The available evidence does not establish the presence of language attrition, the language most likely disappeared with the ethnic group that spoke it.[1]

Sample text

The Kingittorsuaq Runestone dates from ca. 1300, discovered near Upernavik, far north of the Norse settlements. It was presumably carved by Norse explorers.

el=likr * sikuaþs : so=n:r * ok * baan=ne : torta=r son :
ok enriþi * os son : laukardak*in : fyrir * gakndag
hloþu * ua=rda te * ok rydu :[5]
English translation
Ellikr Sikuaþssonr and Baanne Tortarson
and Enriþi Osson, the Saturday before Rogation Sunday
made these stone cairns and cleared(?)

The patronymic Tortarson (standardized Old Norse: Þórðarson) shows the change from þ to t while the word hloþu (Old Icelandic hlóðu, Old Norwegian lóðu) shows the retention of initial hl.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Bandle, p. 1234.
  2. Barnes, p. 185.
  3. Jahr, p. 233.
  4. Jahr, p. 231.
  5. The Rundata database, downloaded and accessed on January 12, 2008.


  • Bandle, Oskar (2002). The Nordic Languages : An International Handbook of the History of the North Germanic Languages : Volume 2. ISBN 311017149X.
  • Barnes, Michael (2005). "Language" in A Companion to Old Norse-Icelandic Literature and Culture, ed. by Rory McTurk. ISBN 0-631-23502-7.
  • Jahr, Ernst Håkon and Ingvild Broch (1996). Language Contact in the Arctic : Northern Pidgins and Contact Languages. ISBN 3110143356.

See also

External links