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  Norn - the Language of Orkney

The few remaining samples of Norn

As I mention on the main page dealing with Orkney Norn, although Orcadians spoke the language for nearly 1,000 years, few, if any, wrote or could write a word of it.

Because of this we have very little idea as to the structure of the language. A number of words, phrases and indeed the structure of Orcadian dialect still contain remnants of Norn, with words like:

Felkyo - meaning "witch"
Speir - meaning "to ask"
Kye - meaning "cattle"

However, actual written evidence is harder to come by. A few tiny fragments exist, such as the Norn version of the Lord's Prayer shown below:

Favor i ir i chimrie, Helleur ir i nam thite,
gilla cosdum thite cumma, veya thine mota vara gort
o yurn sinna gort i chimrie,
ga vus da on da dalight brow vora
Firgive vus sinna vora sin vee Firgive sindara mutha vus,
lyv vus ye i tumtation, min delivera vus fro olt ilt, Amen.

Other snippets come to us via the writings of early visitors to the islands.

Some time between 1529 and 1657, a mysterious character known only as Jo Ben travelled the length and breadth of Orkney, documenting his thoughts and discoveries in a form of diary.

During his exploration, it is likely that Jo Ben came across Orcadians speaking their native tongue and may even give us a corrupted example of Norn when he states:

"...they are cunning and plain speaking, they use dialect, as when we say Good Day, Goodman they say goanda boanda...."

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