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Scandinavian language found in Tibet

Tibetan Armor
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It has just been accounced today that a Scandinavian (or North Germanic) language (i.e., a language descended from Old Norse, the language of the Vikings) has been found in Tibet.

The language, called Lünmòn by its speakers, is spoken in some remote Tibetan valleys by a tribe calling themselves the Lünp?n.

At a first glance, the language looks superficially like any other language in the region, but a large part of the vocabulary has clearly been derived from Old Norse in ways similar to the processes that created Modern Tibetan from Classical Tibetan. In particular, consonant clusters and syllable-final consonants have been simplified radically, producing tones in the process.

The phonology of Lünmòn is similar to that of modern Chinese, and it is therefore written in a notation similar to Pinyin:

Labial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ny ng
Plosive aspirated p t ch q k
unaspirated b d zh j g
Fricative s sh x h
Approximant r y w
Lateral voiceless hl
voiced l

Lünmòn has six vowels: a, e, i, o, u, ü.

There are four tones: Low plain (unmarked), high plain (á), low creaky (à) and high creaky (?). The high tones are generally used when the vowel in Old Norse was preceded by a voiceless consonant. For instance, chü “to break” comes from Old Norse brjóta, while ch? “joy” comes from Old Norse frygð. The creaky tones are used when the word in Old Norse was monosyllabic. For instance, singular s?o “sheep” comes from Old Norse sauð(r), so it has creaky voice, but the plural sáo comes from Old Norse sauði(r), so it has plain voice.

In general, the distinction between voiced and voiceless consonants in Old Norse is only surviving in the tones. The distinction between the plain and aspirated consonants in Lünmòn goes back to whether the consonant was preceded by another consonant. For instance, q?n “cheek” is derived from Old Norse kinn, but j?n “skin” comes from Old Norse skinn.

As an example of the language, here’s a ritual song: p? t? // ch?n tü // x?n t? sán // ya wèi yèn // son anzhi t?: // w?n tao tòn. Literally, this means: “cattle die.SG // friends die.PL // self die.SG likewise // I know.PRES one // that never die.SG // every dead judgment”, or “The cattle dies, the friends die, you yourself will also die; I know one thing that will never die: That every dead person will be judged.”

This is clearly derived from a verse from the Hávamál: Deyr fé // deyja frændr // deyr sjálfr et sama; // ek veit einn, // at aldri deyr: // dómr of dauðan hvern.

It is currently not known how a Scandinavian language could end up in Tibet, but researchers surmise that it must have been a Viking ship that got blown severely out of course, after which the survivors married local women in Tibet.

Update (2/4): As many people have spotted, this was of course an April Fool’s joke. 🙂

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