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Viking Treasure in the English Language

  • Conference Centre The British Library 96 Euston Road London NW1 2DB (map)

Explore the legacy the Vikings had on the English language

A thousand years ago this year, Cnut ‘the Great’, King of Denmark, came to the throne of England. But Cnut (Canute) was only the latest of many Vikings who had raided, ruled and settled in early medieval Britain, and who had a major and lasting impact on our history and culture. One of their most enduring influences was on the English language. We can trace hundreds of English words back to the language of the Vikings, Old Norse — and we still use many of them every day, including words as basic as call, die, egg, husband, law, leg, skin, take, window, and even they. This talk explores these words and how we know about them, tracing their journey from the languages of the Viking Age to the present day. Along the way, we shall take a particular look at the rich and distinctive language of some of the most important alliterative poems in Middle English, which survive in manuscripts in the British Library. These great literary works — amongst them Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Pearl — are important witnesses to the medieval English dialects of the North and North Midlands, where the influence from the Old Norse spoken by Scandinavian settlers is found in its greatest variety. Introducing the famously expressive vocabulary of these poems, we discover the stories behind intriguing words like gersum, hernez, rasse, snitter, and tulk, and what they can tell us about our medieval Scandinavian heritage.


Name:Viking Treasure in the English Language

Where:Conference Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show map      How to get to the Library

When:Mon 7 Nov 2016, 13:00 - 14:00


Enquiries:+44 (0)1937 546546