The Dialect Of English Which Was Shaped By The Vikings

The Northumbrian dialect is an extinct dialect of the English language. During the early Middle Ages it was a dialect of Old English that was spoken in the former Anglian Kingdom of Northumbria (currently divided between northern England and southern Scotland). During the late part of the 8th century, the Northumbrian dialect came in contact with Old Norse concomitantly with the incursions of the Vikings.

Image source:

Since the raid that took place at the Lindisfarne monastery in 793 (which was most likely conducted by Norwegian

The Kingdom of Northumbria at the round of the 9th century. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Vikings; a historical event claimed by many scholars to have actually started the Viking Age), the Northumbrian dialect was forced to split in two additional varieties, namely southern Northumbrian and northern Northumbrian.

While the southern variety of the Northumbrian dialect got heavily influenced by the language the Norsemen brought with them when they first landed on British soil, the northern one continued to develop independently of Old Norse and retained many characteristics of the Old English.

From these two varieties that split from the initial proper Northumbrian dialect are descended the dialects of English spoken in Scotland and northern England. As a matter of fact, many words from the English dialects in the north east of England sound quite similar in form with their counterparts in Norwegian, a language also descended from Old Norse.

It is believed that the split of the Northumbrian dialect took place on the river Tees, but there are no solid evidences that can prove this. Additionally, the Scots language (comprising all of its dialects: Ulster, Central, Northern, Southern and Insular) has also been influenced by the Northumbrian Old English as well.

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28 Responses to The Dialect Of English Which Was Shaped By The Vikings

  1. Andy McWilliams says:

    I believe some of that dialect is found in Appalachia today. For instance, adding an A before an, ” We’re a comming. We’re a fishing.” Etc. It’s written off as slang, or ” hillbilly ” language. But can’t get that out of an Appalachian’s daily vernacular.

    • Jenn says:

      what part of Appalachia are you referring to? In 48 years, I have never heard anyone say that.

    • Sharon J says:

      Andy, did you see this movie? The Songcatcher. About a woman who goes deep into Appalachia in 1907 (I think) to record songs that have been perfectly preserved for 200-300 years, which had been lost in England.

    • Amy says:

      You’re completely right! Our dialect is said to be the closest to Elizabethian English that was spoken by the settlers due to isolation. Most notably taking an “o” sound at the end of a word and replacing it with “er”. Hollow is holler. Add an r to wash and it is said warsh.

    • KC Coff says:

      You mean a verb – at least in your examples. And I agree with you: I too have heard it, certainly through parts of Virginia, West Virginia, even into western Maryland.

  2. val says:

    There could be other influences too, especially on Tyneside. Geordies say they are “ganning oot” or “ganning yem” (home); in Dutch exit is ootgang and home is hyem. Geordies also often refer to parents as me (my) mam or dad which could have Roman origins (mama mia). My father, who was from Tyneside and born in the early 1920s, told me that as a child, they often used the word vine for pencil, which is German.

    • Jan says:

      “gå ud” and “gå hjem” is also danish. Most vikings In Skotland were danes.

    • Martyn says:

      A road near me in Nottingham (part of the Danelaw) was known as Outgang Lane until Victorian times.

    • Marge von M says:

      Hjem is Norwegian, it’s all from old Norse/Old German. Utgang is exit in Norwegian too.

      What’s actually the case is that Old German evolved into Old Norse and then that’s what was spread to the North West of England, not that there was direct Dutch or German influence in the language separate from that of Viking settlers.

  3. Neil Lucock says:

    Yem is very similar to Norwegian Hjemm (it can also have a final “e”).

  4. Nick says:

    ‘Going wam’ is used in Lancashire for going home

  5. Bente Tarantola says:

    Hjem(home)……..hjemme(at home)…

  6. Rangjan says:

    “the Northumbrian dialect came in contact with the Old Norse language concomitantly with the Viking incursions” – by incursions you must mean settlement or migration.

  7. Michael Hales says:

    The map refer to “England”. It is not England. England did not exist as such.

  8. Inerria Whitesmith says:

    Many, many words of Norse origin are in common use in English today: window, sky, cake, die, give, husband, aloft, awe, awkward, billow, birth, blunder, freckle…hundreds more. In English English and American English.

  9. Isobel McAllister says:

    In eastern Scotland, the word braw is used to say very good. It always amuses me to hear it in Scandinavian tv programmes.

  10. I grew up in outer London with grandparents from Gloucestershire, Liverpool and West Sussex and have been familiar with “I’m a coming” etc. all my life, principally from my West Sussex maternal grandfather. Colloquial, certainly and suggesting a limited formal education, but not outlandish. I even remember at school being criticised for using it. I was eleven and was required to compose some verse and it seemed a way to get something to fit my metre “The plane it came a crashing down.”

  11. My uncle a farmer in the fjords in norway.. Bit desolated curse when pissed off by saying something tht made me laugh.

    I asked wht it was, And he got shy And said its a bad word. Not allowed to say this.

    Only years later i realized english “wednesday” comes from odins day. But the way the british say “wedn” is exact same as my uncles cursing. And i know for a fact he dont know a clue of speaking much english. Not even the word wednesday would he pronounce corrtect.

    So with tht in mind i realized thursday must be the same. if u gonna shout in rage And anger, but add a t in front the warcry will be thuuuuurr.. Which is the warrior god thor

  12. Alan Ritchie says:

    I’ve always been struck by several words which are either spelt the same or pronounced the same in scots dialect and norwegian, e.g. Church = Kirk (S), Kirke (N), child = bairn (S), Barne (N)

  13. Barry says:

    Look for some Cumbrian dialect if you want to hear Vikings speak!

  14. Alvise Schanzer says:

    Forms like a-coming are historically common all over England and have nothing to do with Northumbrian more than they have to with West Saxon.Hyem stems from OE hãm which in became ME home south of the River Humber. Forms like kirk are the original low german forms that became church in Southern England and Friesland. In some words such as a-thacking for thatching the k forms are still common as far south as Didcot, Oxon.

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