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Ch. 10. Normalisation

10.1 Introduction
10.2 Normalisation of lemmata
10.3 Normalisation of texts
10.4 Samples

Version 3.0 beta

This is a preliminary version which can be changed or updated at any time.
The revision and updating of this chapter has been assigned to Haraldur Bernharðsson.
Additional text by Alex Speed Kjeldsen, Odd Einar Haugen and possibly others.


10.1 Introduction

This chapter discusses the normalisation of the orthography of (1) lemmata and (2) texts in Menota. A strict normalisation of the former is important for the consistency and searchability of the annotated texts in the corpus. This normalisation refers to the contents of the @lemma attribute described in ch. 9.2. The normalisation of texts can not be specified as strictly, partly because there are no commonly accepted normalisation rules for Old Danish and Old Danish and partly because there are some variation also within the rules for Old Icelandic and Old Norwegian (Old Norse). This type of normalisation refers to the regularisation of texts within the <me:norm> element discussed in ch. 3.2 above.


10.2 Normalisation of lemmata

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10.3 Normalisation of texts

Medieval (Norse) orthography is not as systematic as modern orthography. Typically, the medieval orthograpy varies from one scribe to another, from one period to another, and, moreover, within the work of the same scribe. This orthographic variation can detract significantly from the readability of the text. In order to make the text more accessible to the readers, the editor may choose to remove this orthographic variation and present the text in a normalised orthography.

The normalisation of a medieval text is, however, not an easy undertaking. The modern editor (obviously) lacks native fluency in both the Old Norse language and the linguistic standard he is imposing on the text (even if the latter is a modern creation).

At the outset, the editor will have to make two practical decisions: (1) Select the norm, and (2) decide the scope of the normalisation.

When it comes to selecting a norm, there are mainly two choices for an edition based on a single manuscript:

(a) Normalisation based on internal criteria. In this kind of normalisation, the language of the manuscript itself would be used as a point of reference. A manuscript from the middle of the 14th century would thus retain (as far as possible) its mid-14th-century characteristics in a normalised edition. This can be a challenging task and not many editions have used normalisation of this sort.

(b) Normalisation based on external criteria. Typically, this requires imposing on the manuscript text an orthographic and linguistic norm from a different period. There are, for example, two main alternatives under this heading when editing Icelandic texts: (i) Classical Old Icelandic normalised orthography, based on the Icelandic language around or shortly after 1200 (on which see more below), and (ii) Modern Icelandic normalised orthography.

The fundamental aim of normalised orthography is to remove orthographic variation that detracts from the readability of the text. In practice, however, the normalisation usually affects different aspects of the language. The orthographic manifestation of sound changes is erased or inserted, morphological forms are altered and sometimes even the word order is changed. The outcome is, therefore, not only an edition with a normalised orthography, but rather with normalised language, and the editor must decide how extensive a normalisation is needed for his intended readership.


10.3.1 Normalisation of Old Norse texts

The orthography of Old Norse texts can be normalised in several ways. In this chapter, we will discuss four (or more?) existing norms, (1) the orthographic normalisation in 18th and 19th century editions, based on the contemporaneous Icelandic orthography, (2) the Íslenzk fornrit norm, (3) the Old Norwegian norm of Gammelnorsk Ordboksverk in Oslo, (4) the norm of the Dictionary of Old Norse Prose in Copenhagen.

Fig. 10.1. Normalisation variation in Old Norse texts

This figure has been made by Robert Paulsen, and might be used (modified) somewhere in the present chapter. Note that Modern Icelandic forms should be replaced with examples from Fritzner’s dictionary. Normalisation in 18th and 19th century editions

Suitable text here ... Please have a look at the article “Om normalisert norrønt” by Ivar Berg in Arkiv för nordisk filologi vol. 129 (2014). Icelandic

As already indicated, there are mainly two alternatives when selecting an external standard for presenting a text in Icelandic:

(i) Classical Old Icelandic normalised orthography takes as its point of reference the Icelandic language around or shorty after 1200. This is the standard used by Ludvig F.A. Wimmer in his Oldnordisk læsebog (‘An Old Norse Reader’) in 1877 and has since then been widely used with some minor modifications, in for example the series Altnordisches Saga-Bibliothek and Íslenzk fornrit. This has also been used for the normalisation of lemmata by Ordbog for det nordiske prosasprog (ONP). The following are some of the characteristics of the classical Old Icelandic normalised orthography:

1. Orthographic distinction of the short vowels ǫ : ø

2. Orthographic distinction of the long vowels ǽ : ǿ

3. Orthographic distinction of vowels i : y, í : ý, and ei : ey

4. Etymological vá rendered “vá”: svá, hvárt, vápn

5. Etymological long monophthong é rendered “é”: mér, sér, þér

6. Etymological short monophthong e rendered “e” before ng: lengi

7. Word-final -t in unstressed position: at, þat, hvat

8. Word-final -k in unstressed position: ok, ek, mik

9. The middle voice exponent as -sk: kallask

10. Orthographic distinction of the endings -r and -ur (no epenthetic u): nom. sing. armr : nom.-acc. plur. sǫgur

The editors of the Íslenzk fornrit series, have in some instances employed a slightly younger variant of this standard for 14th-century texts, by, for instance, adopting the vowel mergers ǫ + ø > ö and ǽ + ǿ > æ.

(ii) Modern Icelandic normalised orthography is often used in text editions in Iceland. This requires a fair amount of modernising. The following are some of the characteristics of the Modern Icelandic normalised orthography vis-à-vis the classical Old Icelandic orthography are:

1. The merger of the short vowels ǫ + ø > ö

2. The merger of the long vowels ǽ + ǿ > æ

3. Orthographic distinction of vowels i : y, í : ý, and ei : ey

4. Etymological vá rendered “vo”: svo, hvort, vopn

5. Etymological long monophthong é rendered “é”: mér, sér, þér

6. Etymological short monophthong e rendered “e” before ng: lengi

7. Fricativisation of word-final -t in unstressed position: að, það, hvað

8. Fricativisation of word-final -k in unstressed position: og, eg, mik

9. The middle voice exponent as -st: kallast

10. No orthographic distinction of the endings -r and -ur (epenthetic u): nom. sing. armur : nom.-acc. plur. sögur

In addition, the Modern Icelandic normalisation sometimes incorporates morphological changes, especially in the endings of the verbs. Old Norwegian

Gammelnorsk ordboksverk (The Old Norwegian Dictionary) was established in 1940 with the aim of publishing a dictionary of the Old Norwegian language. For this work, a fixed orthography was needed for the dictionary entries (lemmata), which should correspond to the then established norm for Old Icelandic, but also take into consideration the specific traits of Old Norwegian. The most recent version of these rules is available here in extenso:

GNO rules (June 1982)

The major differences between the GNO norm and the Íslenzk fornrit norm are the following (cf. pp. 8-9 of the rules):

1. The long vowels "á", "é", "í", "ó", "ú" and "ý" should be indicated by accents. However, the long "æ" should not be indicated by an accent [presumably because the short "æ" was not recognised in this orthography], and the long "ø" should be rendered by "œ" and the short "ø" by "ø". In charters (diplomer) dated after 1300, the long "ø" should be indicated by an accent, "ǿ".

2. The vowel "ǫ" (o med kvist) should be rendered by "o", i.e. there should not be any distinction between "o" and "ǫ".

3. The consonant symbols should be the ordinary ones. There should be only one symbol for each of the consonants "r", "s", "f" and "v" (not the round "r", the tall "s" nor the Insular forms of "f" and "v"). The combination "ck" should be spelt "kk".

4. The falling diphthongs should be spelt "ei", "au" and "øy".

5. The rising diphthongs should be spelt "ia", "io" (not with "j"), similarly "-ia" and "-iu" in word-final position ("skilia", "kirkiu").

6. The consonant "h" should be left out in front of "l", "n" and "r" ("lutr" m. etc.).

7. The privative prefix should be "ú" ("úreinn" adj.).

8. The unstressed vowels should be rendered as "i" (for "i" and "e") and "u" (for "u" and "o"), similarly for "-liga" and "-ligr". In other words, there should be no vowel harmony in the orthography.

9. Reflexive verbs should have the ending "-st" ("nálgast" etc.).

10. The consonant combination "ft"/"pt" should be rendered by "pt" ("eptir" prep.).

11. The consonant combination "fn"/"mn" should be rendered by "fn" ("sofna" verb). However, there may be exceptions to this rule, especially for words which are closely connected to another word of the same root, e.g. "samna" verb (cf. "samr" adj.).

12. There should not be any mutation (omlyd) in unstressed positions, e.g. "prédikarum" rather than "prédikurum", "kunnastu" rather than "kunnustu", etc. In editorial comments, however, mutated vowels might be used in this position, e.g. "kolluðum" rather than "kallaðum".


For a historical survey of Gammelnorsk ordboksverk, see Magnus Rindal, "Gammelnorsk ordboksverk 50 år, 1940-1990", Maal og Minne 1991, pp. 29-58. The Dictionary of Old Norse Prose (ONP)

The ONP orthographic norm ....


10.3.2 Normalisation of Old Swedish text

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10.3.3 Normalisation of Old Danish text

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10.4 Samples

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First published 10 December 2009. Last updated 4 September 2017. Webmaster.