Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis



First Advisor

Kurt G Goblirsch


To say that the Old English and Old Norse languages have an interesting history with one another is a declaration of utter understatement. So intertwined were these languages and their people that we, some 1,000 years later, are still attempting to discern the extent of their relationship with one another. As new evidence and the reevaluation of old evidence emerges, research in the historical Germanic languages continues to paint a clearer picture. However, the study of possible Old English and Old Norse mutual intelligibility is a subject that is comparatively new within the field, and as such is still exploring a state of uncertainty in the research.

Over the past century, certain aspects within the Germanic language tree have undergone drastic shifts. Specifically, there has been a recent alteration of the arrangement of individual languages within the accepted historical timeline in light of a new understanding of linguistic evidence. This shift sent the comparative views of Old English and Old Norse into disarray, pushing research to reevaluate the possibility of mutual intelligibility between these two languages. Since then, it has become the general consensus that post-migration Old English and Old Norse had enjoyed a relatively long period in which they could understand one another, and linguistic evidence continues to strengthen this view. Though the body of evidence in favor of this theory continues to grow, there is yet another aspect of historical evidence that is, by and large, untapped and could provide an even greater understanding of mutual intelligibility in this respect. The use of literary evidence in the linguistic argument of mutual intelligibility is one that has been meet with some skepticism, and understandably so. However, more and more researchers have begun introducing specific literary pieces as supplementary evidence for intelligibility studies. This work seeks to outline the history of Germanic language categorization, catalog the linguistic attributes in both Old English and Old Norse that have become the cornerstone of the mutual intelligibility argument, as well inquire into the set of evidence that has not received as much attention in the research.

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Linguistics Commons