Middle Low German-Middle Scandinavian language contact and morphological simplification

The impact of Low German on the Continental Scandinavian languages (Danish, Swedish and Norwegian) in the days of the Hanseatic League has been a decisive chapter in Scandinavian language history. Not only were a substantial amount of words
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  Middle  Low  German Middle  Scandinavian languagecontact  and morphological  simplification MURIEL  NORDE Abstract The impact of Low German on the  Continental  Scandinavianlanguages  (Danish, Swedish  and  Norwegian)  in the  days  of the  Hanse- atic  League has  been  a  decisive  chapter  in  Scandinavian languagehistory. Not  only  were a substantial  amount  of words transferred from Middle  Low  German into  Middle  Scandinavian,  it has  also  been argued  that Middle  Low  German  influence  played  an  important part  in the  loss  of  inflectional  mo hology  (deflexion 1 )  in most  varieties  ofthe continental  Scandinavian  languages, although this  aspect  remains somewhat  underexposed in the  extensive  literature on languagecontact between Middle  Low  German  and  Middle Scandinavian  . The  strongest  argument  in  favour  of this  claim  is that the  decline  of the  old  native  inflectional Systems reached  its  most advanced  stage  inprecisely  those areas  where Middle Low German impact was at its strongest,  whereas  more  peripheral  languages  and  dialects,  such  äs Icelandic or certain Swedish  rural  dialects  are  more conservative.However, it still remains unclear in what way contact with Middle Low  German  affected  Scandinavian  morphology.  In the  present  study I  will  examine  some  of the  hypotheses that have been  put  forward with  regard to the relationship between language contact andmorphological  simplification. 2 1  will approach this problem  from  two,rather  different,  angles.  First,  I  will discuss  the  hypothesis  that  long term  contact between closely related languages (such äs Middle LowGerman and Middle Scandinavian or Old English and Old Norse), which  to a  degree  are  mutually intelligible,  leads  to a  rapid neutralisation  of  inflectional  differences.  The  second  viewpoint  I  willconsider concerns  the  relation  between  the  vast amount  of  loan-words and  morphological simplification (cf. Norde 1994).  I  will take  the Middle  Low  German influence  on  Middle Swedish  äs  an  example. Mjultilingua  16-4  (1997),  389-409  0167-8507/97/0016-0389 ©  Walter  de Gruyter,  Berlin Brought to you by | Humboldt Universität zu BAuthenticatedDownload Date | 3/24/16 2:36 PM  390  M.  Norde 1.  Sweden  and the  Hanseatic  League 1.1  Historical  background The  intense  language  contact between Middle  Low German and  MiddleSwedish resulted  frorn the  expansion  of the  most  powerful  economic alliance in  medieval Northern  Europe:  the  Hanseatic league.  In the  first  half  of the twelfth  Century  an  increasing  number  of  German  ships  appeared  in the  Baltic, where the  Swedes used  to be  lord  and  master  during  the  Viking  Age.  At  thattime,  the  Germans  had  captured  the  Slavonian town Liubice, which they renamed  Lübeck. Thanks  to  its  Strategie position Lübeck  became  the  leading trading  town  on the  Baltic. Other important economic centres were Visby (the  capital  of  Gotland),  Riga  and Reval  (Högberg  1981:  36). It  is not  surprising  that  the  Swedish  authorities  sought contact with  the German  merchants: the  Germans  had  better  material aids at  their  disposal,  äs well  äs  a  more  highly  developed business style.  Besides,  they  maintained relations with  the  flourishing  economies  of  Westphalia  and the Rhineland (Wessen 1929: 265; Högberg 1981: 37). In  1158,  the  ruler  of  Lübeck, Duke Henry  the  Lion, sent  a  businessdelegation  to  several towns  in Denmark, Norway,  Sweden  and  Russia,  in order  to  offer  them  peace  and  free  entrance  to the  town  of  Lübeck. Henryconcluded  a  treaty  with  the  Swedish  king  Knut  Eriksson,  which  was  renewed by  Birger  Jarl  in  1251.  By  that time,  the  occasional business contacts between  the  Swedes  and the  Germans  had  given  way to a  permanentresidence  of  German merchants  and  craftsmen  in  several Swedish towns.Most  of  them  lived  in  Stockholm, which owed  its  rapid economic  growth  to alarge  extent  to its  German citizens.  Stockholm*s  oldest  city  plan even  bears a slight  resemblance  to  Lübeck's.  It is  likely,  therefore,  that Lübeck citizenswere  among  the  first  people  who  settled down  in  Stockholm. Apart  from Stockholm,  the  Germans settled  down  in  (among other places) Kalmar,Söderköping, Örebro, Västeräs  and  Uppsala  (Wesson  1929:  265-266; Högberg 1981:  23,44). The  economic relations were  not the  only  source  of the  strong German cultural  influence;  the  Swedish king Magnus Laduläs  (1275-1290)  main- tained intimate  relations with Northern  Germany's  dynasty  and in  Sweden  hefavoured  foreigners  and  foreign  customs  (Wessen 1929:  266-267). When in  1364  Albert  of  Mecklenburg became  the  first  German king  on the Swedish throne,  the  German influence  in  Sweden  came  to a  climax.  A  lot  of German knights, craftsmen  and  adventurers came  to  Sweden, hoping  to amass wealth  and  power (Wessen 1970:  7).  During Albert s reign, whichlasted  for 26  years,  more  and  more Opposition  arose  against the  foreign monarch  (Wessen 1929: 267). Brought to you by | Humboldt Universität zu AuthenticatedDownload Date | 3/24/16 2:36 PM  Language  contact  and  morphological  simplification  391 From  the  middle  of the  fifteenth  Century  onwards,  the  German  influence  inSweden  began to decrease, but the Germans and the Swedes  continued  to maintain  relations  with  each  other  on all  levels.  Mixed  marriages,  forexample, were quite common. Many Stockholm  families had  both German and  Swedish  members  and a  lot  of  children  born in  Stockholm grew  up  with two  languages (Moberg 1989: 29). l  .2  L<?w  German  influence  on Swedish Low  German is generally assumed to have  exetted  enormous influence onthe continental Scandinavian languages. In one paper on Middle LowGerman influence on Swedish (Törnqvist 1955: 102) it is even stated that theSwedish language risked losing  its  Nordic identity äs  a  result  of the  vast amount  of  loan-words  which were transferred from Low German intoSwedish. Poems and proclamations from those days warn against the threat of  the Swedish language  turning  into a mere  dialect  of German, and it had tobe  embedded  in the National Law (Magnus  Erikssons  Landslag, which was written  down around the year 1350) that all  official  documents had to be written in  Swedish: (1)  Skulu  ok all  bref.  konunx.  laghmanz  ok  hcerazh0fdinga.  J  thylikum malum.  ok  andrum.  a.  suensko  skrifuas 'All  letters about these and other matters should be written in Swedish, whether  they  are  written by the king, the lawspeaker or the district chief.' Even in  this  Century,  the  prominent Swedish linguist  Elias Wessen  givesexpression  to  his feelings  of  regret: The foreign  character  became,  however, larger than was  necessary  and  useful.  A lot of  good  Swedish words  and  phrases  were  unnecessarily  driven out by  strangers.  Wecould  regret  that  it  happened,  but we  cannot change  it. It is an  ever-lasting memory  ofa  culturally and politically  weak  period  in our  history. 3  (Wess6n 1929: 280; mytranslation) In  more recent  research,  however, this view is  modified  somewhat (and rightly  so), for instance in  Zeevaert's article  'Wie  intensiv war derMittelniederdeutsch-Skandinavische Sprachkontakt  wirklich?'  (1995).Middle Low German influence on Middle Swedish was predominantlylexical. The majority of the Low German loan-words consists of  'cultural items',  i.e.,  terms for new  things  and  ideas (Wessen 1929: 269), such äs titles,  terms  for the  Organisation  of  towns  and  cities,  terms  for  constitution and  society,  for  craft,  trade  and  industry,  etc. But also  function  words weretransferred, e.g.,  bliva  ('to  remain;  to  become'),  mäste  ('must'),  sädan Brought to you by | Humboldt Universität zu BAuthenticatedDownload Date | 3/24/16 2:36 PM  392  M.  Norde ('such'),  ganska  ('quite'),  dock  ('yet'),  men  ('but')  and  y w  [mera]  ...  desto [bättre]  ('the  [more]  ... the  [better]')  (see  for  instance Höfler 1931  andWessen  1970). The rapid increase of the  amount  of Middle Low German loan-words canbe shown with the  help  of  (literary)  texts  from  different  periods.  In Erikskrönikan  ('Eric's  chronicle',  ca.  1320) 4  there  are  approximately  ten to fifteen  times  äs many loan-words  äs  in the  Old  Swedish (OSw) thirteenth Century  laws.  By the end of the fifteenth  Century,  the  number  of  Middle  Low German loan-words had increased even  further  (Törnqvist  1955: 108). A  second important part of Middle Low German  influence  on Middle Swedish  are  derivational  affixes  (both  prefixes  and  Suffixes),  such  äs  an-,  be- ,  bi-,för- y  und-,  -inna, -ska,  -het,  -bar,  -aktig.  Some of these  have  become productive, that is, they may also be attached to native stems, äs in  bebo  ('to inhabit').  Seip  (1924:  474-^477)  argues  that the  adoption  of so  many  affixes is due to the  fact  that a  lot  of Scandinavian native  affixes  had been heavilyreduced  äs  a  result  of  syncopation  and  reduction  of unstressed  vowels  and were hence no longer transparent.However  large  the  portion  of Low  German  srcin in the  Modern Swedishlexicon  may be, it is not  äs  large  äs  it  once was.  A  number  of  loan-words,e.g., verbs with the Low German  prefix  be-  had to make way for the nativeverbs  again.  In Modern Swedish, the native verb  börja  ('to  begin')  is  far more  commori  than the Low German  loan-word  begynna.  (In  Danish,  on theother  band,  begynde  has entirely  replaced  byrie.)  In the  bible  translations from the  sixteenth  Century  however  (1526  and  1541),  börja  is attested  only twice  -  begynna  was the  common word  at  that time.Though Low German influence on the Swedish lexicon may at a firstglance  appear  considerable,  the claim  that  no  less  than  75  percent  of the Swedish lexicon  consists  of  Middle  Low  German loan-words  or  words thatwere transmitted Middle Low German into Swedish via Middle Low German (Hyldgaard-Jensen  1983:  672)  has to be  taken with  a  pinch  of salt. In a  study of  the  6,000  most frequent words divided into six groups of a  thousand  wordseach,  Gellerstam  (cited  in  Edlund  and  Hene:  63-66)  found  quite  different percentages:  over 60 percent of the most frequent words are of native srcin, and  less than 20 percent stem  from  Low German. But also in other frequencygroups,  the  share  of  Middle  Low  German loan-words never exceeds  30 percent (which is quite substantial  nevertheless),  augmented with a fewpercents of  Latin/Greek  loanwords  for  which Middle Low German was an intermediary. 5  Also  Zeevaert  (1995),  in  bis  analysis of the  book  of  Genesis in  the Swedish bible  translation  from 1541 (Gustav Vasas Bibel),  found  that only  1.5 percent of the Swedish base  vocabulary  is made up of Middle LowGerman  loans  -  most loan-words  form  part  of the  'peripheral  vocabulary'. Furthermore,  there  are no  numerals, pronouns, prepositions,  articles or Brought to you by | Humboldt Universität zu AuthenticatedDownload Date | 3/24/16 2:36 PM  Language  contact  and  morphological  simplification  393interjections  of  Middle  Low  German srcin (Zeevaert 1995: 175). This suggests  that,  äs far  äs  lexical interference  is  concerned, Middle  Low German-Middle  Scandinavian language contact  was  less  intense than  Old Norse-Old  English language contact, which  resulted  in  the  transference  of pronouns  such  äs  they/them/their  and  same  into English (cf. Thomason  and Kaufman  1988:  293ff.). 2 Middle  Low  erman  influence  and  morphological  simplification 2.  l  Language contact  or  dialect contact? In  order to be able to  examine  the  relation between Middle  Low  German- Middle Scandinavian language contact  and  morphological simplification,  itis  important  to  establish  the  precise  nature  of  this  contact Situation, because  it has  been  described  in  quite  divergent ways. Haugen  (1976:  314),  for  instance,  suggests that  the  decline  of  inflectionalmorphology  in the  Scandinavian languages  was a  result  of  'mild  creoli- zation'.  He  does  not  define  this  tenn,  but in  my  opinion  terms  like pidginisation  and  creolisation  are  often  applied  in too  broad  a  sense.  Thus, it has  repeatedly been  claimed  that English  is to a  certain  degree  a  creolised language  äs  a  result  of Old  Norse  or  French influence  or both, but  this view has  convincingly been  argued  against  by  Thomason  and  Kaufman  (1988: 306ff).  An  important condition  for the  emergence  of a  pidgin  is, namely,  thatthere  is no  language  for communication  among  the  members  of a  certain speech  Community.  Needless  to  say,  the  Situation  in  medieval Sweden  was an entirely  different  one. Middle  Low  German  and  Middle Swedish were quite similar  in  many  respects,  äs  were  Old  English  and Old  Norse  a few  centuries earlier.  They  were probably  mutually  intelligible, which  made  the  emergence of a  pidgin  unnecessary. Another  frequently  recurring term  is  mixed language (see  for  instance Höfler  1931,  Törnqvist 1955  and  Wess6n  1970). This term  is  rather  vague  äs well  -  according  to  Wessen  (1970:  11)  it  designates  of  kind  of  imperfect Swedish spoken  by  younger German generations which  was  charapterised  by many  German words  and  idioms  äs  well  äs  a  German accent  and  reducedmorphology.  We  have  now  entered  the  field  of  mere  speculation,  since,  äs Jahr  (1994:  32)  rightly  points  out, there  is not a  single  trace  of  such  a  mixedlanguage  in  written  sources, neither Danish  nor  Swedish  nor Norwegian  (cf. also  Braunmüller 1995: 37).  To sum up,  both creolisation  and  mixedlanguage  fail  to  give  an  accurate  description  of the  linguistic  Situation  in medieval Sweden. An  important notion  in the  discussion  of  Middle  Low  German-Middle Swedish (Middle Scandinavian) language contact  is  mutual intelligibility.  It Brought to you by | Humboldt Universität zu AuthenticatedDownload Date | 3/24/16 2:36 PM
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