Page:A simplified grammar of the Danish language.djvu/14
tongues, derived from the Old Northern branch of Gothic, used by the early Northmen, and still preserved almost unchanged by the natives of Iceland, who alone among Scandinavian peoples have adhered to the language of their ancestors as it was spoken a thousand years ago.
This identity of language between cultivated Norwegians and Danes is due to political, rather than to racial causes; for although all the Scandinavian peoples retained as late as the eleventh century a sufficiently accurate acquaintance with their common mother-tongue, the Old Northern, to be able to communicate freely together wherever they met in the course of their wanderings, they soon began to adopt special peculiarities of speech, although in unequal degrees. Thus the Swedes, who took less part than the other Northmen in foreign expeditions, and who by their geographical position were the least influenced by contact with other nations of Western Europe, have retained far more of the Old Northern character in their modes of speech than the Norsemen, or the Danes. In Norway the current speech of the nation at large would possibly have preserved as many traces of its origin, if the Norwegian kingdom had maintained, or recovered, its independence, as Sweden had done. But while the extinction of its native dynasty in the fourteenth century, led to its incorporation with the Danish kingdom, the almost complete extermination of the nobles, and leading free-men, during the sanguinary civil wars of the previous century, caused Norway to be early brought into a condition of dependence on Denmark, not warranted by the terms of its union with that kingdom. The result was that the people