Mission: The goal is to construct a naturalistic, a-posteriori conlang, derived from 10th century Old Norse and spoken in Greenland, after centuries of isolation from mainland Europe but reoccurring contact with Native Americans. I intend there to be two main dialects, both of which correspond to the two major historical settlements in Greenland by the Norse: The Western Settlement and the Eastern Settlement. Because it is known that the Norse Greenlanders were in contact with the Inuit, I expect the language to be moderately influenced by that language, possibly taking in a number of loan words or grammatical features. However, I am hesitant to completely supplant the grammar of Greenlandic with that of the Inuit-Eskimo languages. As this will be a mostly naturalistic conlang, I am inclined to allow the sound shifts to decide most of the grammatical changes that will occur. However, I still might try for an agglutinative verbal morphology.

Grammar and Morphology: One grammatical change that I have strongly considered is innovating conjugation for person in verbal morphology. This was already a tendency in Old Norse and is even found in modern Icelandic, such as the spoken form talarðu, although not to the extent that I am thinking of. For example, pronouns would be able to be conjugated with any verb, and it wouldn’t be limited to just ek and tú. Furthermore, this would become the only grammatical way to show agreement. One problem I encountered was when fusing the gendered 3p pronouns hann & hon, they would lose their distinctiveness. So, they will be replaced by the 3p demonstratives sá & sú, which were occasionally used in place of hann & hon in Old Norse times. Hopefully, this will make their forms distinctive in conjugation.

Another change I am thinking of at the time is the elimination of the reflexive pronouns, particularly in the first and second persons. Instead of saying Ek elska sik, the Greenlander would be more inclined to say Elska’k mik, or “I love me” (LOVE-3p/IND me-REFL).

Diachronic Phonology: Three features are guaranteed to be in my conlang, such as the shift {θ,ð} → t, and preserving /h/ before consonants and /øː/. Otherwise I am not sure where to go with sound shifts. I’m hoping you guys could bounce ideas off me. One idea is consonant cluster simplification, perhaps influenced by Kalaallisut. For example, sibilants would most likely disappear first, with words like skrúð, “cloth,” simplifying to krúð. In other clusters, liquids and semi-vowels would be the first to elide. Another way to simplify consonant clusters is through assimilation, probably via gemination. We already see this in Old Norwegian, where in some dialects “eptir” became “ettir.” The same processes could occur here in syllable nucleus or coda. Finally, other types of clusters could experience affrication or assimilation – [kʁ] and [gʁ] could become [k͡x] and [g͡ɣ] in syllable onset (after [r] > [ʁ]) and [hl sl tl] > [ɬ].

Vowels are arguably trickier. Inuktitut (and related languages) only have three to five different types of vowels, whilst Old Norse has ten. As in Icelandic, Faroese, and many West Norwegian dialects, y yː might merge with i iː. Furthermore, I expect ø øː to go the same route and merge with e eː, or become a schwa vowel. ɒ ɒː may merge with o oː to become ɔ ɔː while æ æː and e eː could similarly become ɛ ɛː. This would give me a simple five vowel contrast – /a aː ɛ ɛː i iː ɔ ɔː u uː/. (Perhaps a more accurate trans cription: [ä äː e̞ e̞ː i iː o̞ o̞ː u uː])

Other, more conditioned sound changes could be the syncope of word final nasels following lowering of the vowel. e.g hestum > hestun > hestũ > hestɔ̃ (in another dialect this could be hestœ̃).

This is all for now. I am not one for longish blog posts, and it is already early in the morning here after working all night, so I hope this is clear enough. Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below.

Ælfwine (talk)