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An Introduction to Old Norse Paperback – July 23, 1981

ISBN-13: 978-0198111849 ISBN-10: 0198111843 Edition: 2nd
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An Introduction to Old Norse + A Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic (Dover Language Guides) + Viking Language 1 Learn Old Norse, Runes, and Icelandic Sagas (Viking Language Series)
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"This is a superlative textbook for the teaching of Old Icelandic (language and literature)."--R. Mark Scowscroft, Catholic University of America


Language Notes

Text: English
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2 edition (July 23, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198111843
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198111849
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 0.9 x 4.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #475,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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100 of 100 people found the following review helpful By Cinna the Poet on August 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a very nice book and the one we used in my Old Norse class at BYU, and the selections are all very good, very interesting. However, I agree with the reviewer that this is, despite the title, hardly the best introdruction to the language.
What I recommend is this: Get yourself Stefán Einarsson's fine book, "Icelandic: Grammar, Texts, Glossary", which is set up in lessons for the beginner and which you can get real cheap here at Amazon. That book is modern Icelandic, so the readings aren't about Egill Skallagrímsson or Snorri's Edda, but not only is the Old Norse spirit very much alive in modern Iceland (and all the people very familiar with the old stories), but the language has changed extraordinarily little in the last thousand years (very very minor things), so that if you learn modern Icelandic even reasonably well (which you will from Einarsson), you can easily pick up the sagas with no problem.
Then, when you've finished with his book, you can get Gordon, which will be much more enjoyable then. Alternatively, you can get the texts of lots of the sagas online from Icelandic sites and get hardcopy English versions here at Amazon to use as "ponies". (Hrafnkels saga is a good one to start with, or Snorra Edda.) Good luck!
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64 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Richard A. Weaver on December 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Please don't send away 30 dollars thinking that this book is going to teach you to read Old Norse / Old Icelandic. If you're hoping for a basic grammar, with graded lessons, you're going to be disappointed. This is an excellent work, an indispensable work, but it's a reader for those who have already learned the basics of Old Icelandic.
After a brief introduction to Scandinavian history, the Viking expansion, and saga literature, the author gives about 160 pages of West Norse, normalized into classical Icelandic. Most of the selections are from the sagas, and they are well annotated, and a full vocabulary is included in the back of the book. There is also a section on what he calls "East Norse" (the Old Norse particular to Denmark, Norway and Sweden), and a small section dealing with the language of the runic inscriptions.
There is a 40 or 50 page section where he presents the grammar, but it's more along the lines of an outline of the grammar. It's sufficient for someone who already has a good knowledge of Old English, OHG, or Gothic, but my hat's off to anyone with the determination to acquire a reading knowledge of the language from this grammatical sketch alone.
There's the rub: where DO you get the introduction to Old Icelandic that will enable you to use this book with benefit? The superb learning grammar "Old Icelandic: an Introductory Course" by Valfells and Cathey is out of print. Kenneth Chapman wrote "Graded Readings and Exercises in Old Icelandic" about 35 years ago, but that's disappeared as well. Until either of those works is reprinted, or a new introduction is written, it's going to be tough.
But none of this is meant to take anything away from Gordon's work; it's a wonderful, scholarly work. Problem is, you really do need to have something of a background before you use it.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By abt1950 on June 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
It seems like this book has been around forever. It was first published in 1927 and for many years was the only English language resource for learning Old Icelandic. But that didn't mean that Gordon made the process easy. There are no basic lessons of the "Helgi is a Viking. See Helgi loot" type that you normally expect to find in an introductory language text. On the contrary, Gordon provides the grammar and vocabulary all right--at the end of the book--but it's up to the user to apply them to the wide selection of classic Norse literature that he's included. It's not an impossible way to learn the language, but it can be confusing at first. Those who have a background in Old English will find it easier going because of the similarities between the two languages.
Gordon was the text my class used many years ago when I took Old Norse in grad school. I still remember my professor pointing out all its inaccuracies and criticizing the author. Nonetheless, between Gordon, Zoega's dictionary (now available online), and a xerox of "Gunnlaug's Saga," we muddled through. Learning a language by parsing each word is tedious, but it does give one a sense of accomplishment.
In addition to the grammar and literary selections, Gordon contains a lengthy historical introduction to Old Norse literature. It's out-of-date by now, but still a good place to start. As for the selections themselves, they provide a fairly broad overview. "Hrafnkel's Saga," a gem of a character study, is given in its entirety. There are selections from Snorri and from the Vinland sagas, among other pieces. The only complaint that I have is that Gordon is a little light on the poetry.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
G.V. Gordon's book is an excellent introduction to the Old Norse Language. It explains the intricacies of Norse grammar lucidly, and is very easy to work with. The fact that one cannot obtain it here, is really unfortunate; however, on the positive side, I know for a fact that at least one other major internet site has it.
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