Menota Handbook 3.0
Guidelines for the electronic encoding of
Medieval Nordic primary sources

Ch. 11. Linguistic annotation

Version 3.1 (12 October 2023) – cf. version 3.0 (12 December 2019)

by Odd Einar Haugen

11.1 Introduction

The two major types of linguistic annotation are morphological (lemma, word class and grammatical form for each word) and syntactic (sentence structure and functions, also for each word). The latter annotation is usually based on the former, since a full morphological annotation helps to restrict and specify the annotation of syntactic roles in a sentence.

Several texts in the Menota archive have been morphologically annotated, so this type of annotation is part and parcel of a full, Menotic XML file. Some of the texts in the archive have also been syntactically annotated, but this work has been done in projects outside Menota, such as PROIEL (more information in ch. 11.8 below). For this reason, the present chapter will deal almost exclusively with morphological annotation.

In ch. 3.6 and ch. 5.3, we suggested that the word, <w>, is a basic unit in any transcription. Each <w> element in a manuscript text can easily be supplied with information about the dictionary entry and the grammatical analysis of the word in question. We recommend that this information is provided by two attributes, @lemma for the dictionary entry and @me:msa for the grammatical form:

Element & attributes Contents
<w> Delimits a grammatical word.
    @lemma States the lemma (lexical entry) of the word.
    @me:msa States the grammatical (morphosyntactial) form of the word.

It is essential that the lemmatisation of Medieval Nordic manuscript text is done in adherence to the principles developed for handling large corpora in linguistic research. We have found the guidelines provided by EAGLES 1996 to be particularly useful, but have decided to deviate somewhat from these guidelines in order to produce a more self-explanatory, although slightly more verbose, system.

The model provided here is aimed at Medieval Norwegian and Icelandic texts. For Medieval Swedish and Danish texts and also for later Norwegian texts, we can expect a radical levelling in the grammatical system, e.g. in the nominal and verbal inflections. The model provided here will therefore often provide the possibility for encoding distinctions that were not themselves extant or applicable in the languages under study, when applied to Medieval Swedish and Danish texts, and to late Medieval Norwegian texts.

This chapter is intended as a discussion of the basic principles for lemmatisation and grammatical encoding of manuscript text. It should be read as a suggestion rather than as definite guidelines.

Medieval Nordic texts sometimes include words, phrases or even whole passages in other languages, particularly in Latin. The encoding of such passages is discussed in ch. 11.7 below.

11.2 The attribute @lemma

The element <w> can be supplied with several lexicographical attributes for each word in a transcription. The attribute @lemma provides the lexical form of each word based on the entries in standard dictionaries. For Medieval Norwegian and Icelandic texts we suggest that the word-list produced by the Arnamagnæan Commission’s Ordbog over det norrøne prosasprog at the University of Copenhagen is used to create the lemma base. The attribute would then be marked up as in this example, which states that the word “hefir” has “hafa” as its lemma:

<w lemma="hafa">hefir</w>

In general, we recommend that the @lemma attribute is used for the standard dictionary of the language in question. If a text has been encoded according to another standard, such as texts from Gammelnorsk ordboksverk, we offer the additional @me:orig-lemma attribute. According to the orthography of Gammelnorsk Ordboksverk, the lemma of the verb “heyra” should be spelt “høyra”, and the encoding might be as follows:

<w lemma="heyra" me:orig-lemma="høyra">heyrir</w>

Note that ch. 15.4.2 offers another way of linking annotated words to lexicographical resources. This subchapter also discusses Old Swedish and Old Danish dictionaries.

Lemmatised texts are useful for any language, and in particular for languages with complex morphology or variable orthography. The morphology of Old Norse is more complex than that of the modern Nordic languages, but not particularly difficult – it is rather like the morphology of Modern German. The orthography, however, was far from fixed, and since many transcriptions are likely to be fairly diplomatic, any lemma may be expressed by a large number of orthographic forms. For example, the pronoun “hann” has only three forms in the normalised orthography of Old Norse: “hann” (nominative and accusative), “hans” (genitive), and “honum” (dative). In an actual transcription, however, a dozen or more forms may occur, as shown in the table below.

Form Lemma Grammatical form
hann hann Nominative
hans hann Genitive
honum hann Dative

In ch. 5.3.2 above the use of <w> for the encoding of graphic words and information concerning their description is treated. Note the use of entities for special characters, such as &fins; and &nscap;, or abbreviations such as &bar;. These are described in ch. 5.

As noted in ch. 4.5, a text may be encoded on a single level of transcription, as exemplified with “hefir” above. If the text is transcribed on more than one level there is no need for any further attributes, since each word is contained within a single <w> element and the attribute is valid for the whole contents:

<w lemma="hafa">

The next example is slightly more complicated since it contains an abbreviation on the facsimile level and a corresponding expansion in the diplomatic level, but the @lemma attribute is unchanged:

<w lemma="koma">  

In cases where a graphic word is included partially or completely in the element <unclear> this can be encoded within the element <w> and be related to the attribute @lemma.

<w lemma="svá">  
    <me:facs><unclear reason="faded">s<am>&ra;</am></unclear></me:facs> 

Text included within the element <supplied> is not lemmatized. The following example shows how a character, word or phrase that has been supplied is encoded with the element <w>, but without any @lemma attribute as the text (in whole or in part) is not transcribed from the manuscript itself.

    <me:facs><supplied reason="restoration" resp="KGJ">lei
    <me:dipl><supplied reason="restoration" resp="KGJ">lei
    <me:norm><supplied reason="restoration" resp="KGJ">lei

This means that the forms that are not marked will not be included in the searchable database under the category @lemma. We hereby avoid the problem of contamination between forms that are from the manuscript text and forms that have been supplied by a transcriber or encoder of the text. A basic principle is that the lemmatized text should be from the manuscript text.

Certain words appear as part of multi-word phrases, such as the subjunctions “því at” and “þó at”. If the annotator wants to make them searchable as individual words as well as multi-word phrases, we recommend the following encoding:

<seg type="enc">
  <w lemma="þó" me:msa="xAV">þo</w> 
  <w lemma="at" me:msa="xCS">at</w>

In this encoding, we use the <seg> element as a container in a similar way to the encoding of words which are written together, cf. ch. 5.3.2.

Sometimes, a word can be associated with more than one lemma. For example, the dative “lífi” can be mapped to the lemma “líf” as well as to “lífi”. This problem is discussed in ch. 11.4 below.

11.3 The attribute @me:msa

The attribute @me:msa (for morphosyntactical analysis) adds information about the grammatical form of a word. To be able to make this analysis it is necessary to create a model which includes all possible morphological forms of each lemma. As stated above, the model is based on the morphology of Medieval Norwegian and Icelandic, as expounded in standard grammars of Old Norse or “norrønt”.

We recommend a scheme in which the attribute @me:msa contains a set of name tokens, one for each morphological category. White space separates each name token. We further recommend that the order of the name tokens should be fixed, and that there should be one specific order for each word class, as specified in ch. 11.5 below. For words with inflection, the first token specifies the word class and the following tokens the morphological categories relevant for this specific word class. Words belonging to word classes with no inflection, such as prepositions and subjunctions, will only receive a single name token for the word class itself. In addition to tokens for morphological categories such as gender, number and case, tokens for inflection class may be added.

Each name token consists of two parts. The first part specifies the category itself and is represented by a single lower-case letter. The second part specifies the value of the category and is given in one or more upper-case letters. As far as possible, mnemonic characters are used, e.g. “c” for “case” and “G” for “genitive”. The name token “cG” is thus to be understood as “case: genitive” and is applicable to all words which can be inflected in genitive, such as nouns, adjectives, pronouns/determiners, numerals and verb participles.

In Old Norse, nouns are inflected for gender, number, case and species (definiteness). Below is an example of the mark-up for the word “hestum”, dative plural indefinite of the masculine noun “hestr”. The @me:msa attribute opens with a name token for the word class, “xNC” for “noun, common”, moving on to “gM” for “gender: masculine”, “nP” for “number: plural”, “cD” for “case: dative” and finally “sI” for “species: indefinite”.

<w lemma="hestr" me:msa="xNC gM nP cD sI">hestum</w>  

Prepositions, which are not inflected, will receive a much simpler encoding, consisting of a single name token, “xAP”, in which “x” denotes word class and “AP” the actual class, prepositions.

<w lemma="fyrir" me:msa="xAP">fyrir</w>  

Old Norse has the most complex morphology of the Nordic vernaculars and is therefore a suitable starting point. For texts with less complex morphology it is simply a case of making a selection of relevant categories from the repertoire in this chapter. Cf. the discussion on zero values in ch. 11.4.3 below.

11.3.1 Invariable properties

Words in inflectional languages exhibit variable and invariable properties. Word class is the prime example of an invariable property, since a word can belong to one and only one word class – the noun “hestr” can not be inflected in adjectival and verbal forms. For nouns, gender is an invariable property – once again, “hestr” can not be inflected in feminine or neutral forms. Adjectives, on the other hand, are inflected in gender, so for this word class gender is a variable property. Other categories, such as case, number, grade etc., are all variable.

Information on inflectional classes can be added to the @me:msa attribute, e.g. strong vs. weak verbs, stem classes of nouns etc. These are also invariable properties.

The name tokens will, in any case, make it clear which tokens refer to invariable properties and which refer to invariable properties. Word class

Word class is denoted by a name token consisting of the character “x” + an uppercase two-letter abbreviation for each class, including commonly recognised subclasses (such as the division between common and proper nouns). Inevitably, there will be some conflict of categorisation, especially among the pronouns and determiners. They will be discussed in ch. 11.5 below.

Name token Word class Inflection
xNC Noun, common Yes
xNP Noun, proper
xAJ Adjective
xPE Pronoun, personal
xPQ Pronoun, interrogative
xPI Pronoun, indefinite
xDP Determiner, possessive
xDD Determiner, demonstrative
xDQ Determiner, quantifier
xPD Pronoun/Determiner
xNA Numeral, cardinal
xNO Numeral, ordinal
xVB Verb
xAV Adverb
xAT Articles
xAP Preposition (apposition) No
xCC Conjunction, coordinating
xCS Conjunction, subordinating
xIT Interjection
xIM Infinitive marker
xRP Relative particle
xUA Unassigned Inflectional class

Inflectional class is another invariable property and can usually be derived from a combination of the lemma and the word class. Thus, the lemma “fara” belonging to the word class “xVB” (verbs) will be classified as being a strong verb of the 6th class, according to most grammars of Old Norse. This is information which might be found in a dictionary or a lexicographical database of Old Norse.

If the encoder wishes to include information on the inflectional class we recommend that this is being done by adding to the @me:msa attribute a name token consisting of the lowercase character “i” + an uppercase abbreviation for each class. The table below contains examples for the verb class, but can easily be extended to other classes. Incidentally, the distinction between strong and weak inflection also applies to nouns.

Name token Inflectional class
iST Strong
iWK Weak
iRD Reduplicating
iPP Preterite-Present

Since inflectional class is an invariable property of the word there is no compelling reason to specify it as part of the morphosyntactical analysis. The major verb classes listed above are a possible exception, since there are some pair verbs which must be disambiguated by way of inflectional class, e.g. the weak (and transitive) verb “brenna” vs. the homonymous strong (and intransitive) verb “brenna”.

The distinction between strong and weak inflection is an invariable property in verbs and nouns, i.e. a verb or a noun has either weak or strong inflection. For example, the noun “armr” has a strong inflection, while “granni” has weak inflection. What has been termed “species” (or “finiteness”) here, is a variable property. This applies to nouns and adjectives, e.g. “hestr” vs. “hestrinn” and “hvítr [hestr]” vs. “[inn] hvíti [hestr]”. Cf. ch. below.

11.3.2 Variable properties

The list of variable properties is rather long for an inflectional language such as Old Norse. Note that the very first category in this list, gender, is a borderline case, since it is an invariable (inherent) property for nouns. For other word classes, such as adjectives, pronouns/determiners, numerals, articles and verb participles, it is a variable property. The remaining categories are variable. Gender

This category applies to nouns, adjectives, pronouns/determiners, numerals and verb participles. Gender is denoted by a name token consisting of the lowercase character “g” + an uppercase abbreviation for each gender. The character “U” indicates unspecified cases.

Name token Value
gM Masculine
gF Feminine
gN Neuter
gU Unspecified

Some nouns may have two genders, e.g. “hungr” (hunger), which is either masculine or neutral. For words of this type we suggest using name tokens with more than one value, “gMF”, “gMN” and “gFN”.

We recommend that gender is ascribed on the basis of standard dictionaries. Even if a text at a certain point may point to a specific gender, e.g. in the collocation “mikill hungr” (meaning that “hungr” is masculine), any disambiguation is of limited value. So rather than trying to distinguish between (a) unequivocal cases of “hungr” being masculine, gM, (b) unequivocal cases of “hungr” being neuter, gN, and (c) ambiguous cases, gMN, we recommend the classification “gMN” in all cases (since this is what the dictionary states).

Name token Value
gMF Masculine or Feminine
gMN Masculine or Neuter
gFN Feminine or Neuter
gMFN Masculine, Feminine or Neuter Number

This category applies to nouns, adjectives, pronouns/determiners and verbs. Number is denoted by a name token consisting of the lowercase character “n” + an uppercase abbreviation for each number. The dual form occurs only in the inflection of personal pronouns. The character “U” indicates unspecified cases.

Name token Value
nS Singular
nD Dual
nP Plural
nU Unspecified Case

This category applies to nouns, adjectives, pronouns/determiners and numerals. Case is denoted by a name token consisting of the lowercase character “c” + an uppercase abbreviation for each case. The character “U” refers to words that cannot be specified for case.

Name token Value
cN Nominative
cG Genitive
cD Dative
cA Accusative
cU Unspecified

In some cases, the annotator will not be able to decide the case of a word. When this happens, we recommend using name tokens with more than one value, “cAD”, “cGD”, “cAN”, “cAG” and “cO”:

Name token Value
cAD Accusative or Dative
cGD Genitive or Dative
cAN Accusative or Nominative
cAG Accusative or Genitive
cO Oblique (i.e. Accusative, Dative or Genitive) Species

This category applies to nouns and adjectives. Species (or definiteness) is denoted by a name token consisting of the lowercase character “s” + an uppercase abbreviation for each type of species. The character “U” indicates unspecified cases.

In Old Norse, nouns and adjectives can have either indefinite or definite forms, e.g. “hestr” (indefinite noun) vs. “hestrinn” (definite noun) or “hvítr [hestr]” (indefinite adjective) vs. “[inn] hvíti [hestr]” (definite adjective).

Name token Value
sI Indefinite
sD Definite
sU Unspecified Grade

This category applies to adjectives and adverbs. Grade is denoted by a name token consisting of the lowercase character “r” + an uppercase abbreviation for each grade. The character “U” indicates unspecified cases.

Memory hint: since the character “g” has been reserved for “gender”, the character “r” can be interpreted as “relative”, which refers to an aspect of the category of grade.

Name token Value
rP Positive
rC Comparative
rS Superlative
rU Unspecified Person

This category applies to verbs and some of the pronouns. Person is denoted by a name token consisting of the lowercase character “p” + an uppercase abbreviation for each person. The character “U” indicates unspecified cases.

Name token Value
p1 1. person
p2 2. person
p3 3. person
pU Unspecified Tense

This category applies only to verbs. Tense is denoted by a name token consisting of the lowercase character “t” + an uppercase abbreviation for each tense. The character “U” indicates unspecified cases.

Name token Value
tPS Present
tPT Preterite
tU Unspecified

Preterite-present verbs are classified according to their logical tense, not their historical formation. Thus, “veit” has the present tense of “vita” (even if it has a preterite formation) and “vissti” the preterite tense. Mood

This category applies only to verbs. Mood is denoted by a name token consisting of the lowercase character “m” + an uppercase abbreviation for each mood. The character “U” indicates unspecified cases.

Name token Value
mIN Indicative
mSU Subjunctive
mIP Imperative
mU Unspecified

In some cases, the annotator will not be able to decide the mood of a verb. When this happens, we recommend using name tokens with more than one value, “mINSU”, “mINIM” and “mSUIM”:

Name token Value
mINSU Indicative or Subjunctive
mINIM Indicative or Imperative
mSUIM Subjunctive or Imperative Voice

This category applies only to verbs. Voice is denoted by a name token consisting of the lowercase character “v” + an uppercase abbreviation for each type of voice. The character “U” indicates unspecified cases.

Name token Value
vA Active
vR Reflexive
vU Unspecified Finiteness

This category applies only to verbs. Finiteness is denoted by a name token consisting of the lowercase character “f” + an uppercase abbreviation for each type of finiteness. The character “U” indicates unspecified cases.

Name token Value
fF Finite
fI Infinite (non-finite)
fP Participle (non-finite)
fU Unspecified Enclitics

In some cases, a word may be attached to the previous word resulting in a single, new word. This process of cliticisation occurs after finite verbs with personal pronouns and negative particles. Examples of the first type are “emk” for “em ek” ‘I am’ and “fórtu” for “fórt þú” ‘you went’, of the second type “erat” for “er at” ‘is not’ and “bárut” for “báru t” ‘did not carry’. From a morphological point of view, this process is similar to the suffixation in definite noun forms, e.g. “hestr + inn” = “hestrinn”, or reflexive verb forms, e.g. “kalla + s[i]k” = “kallask”. However, it may be argued that the enclitic words retain their characters as words to a larger extent than the suffixed determiner “inn” or the reflexive pronoun “s[i]k”. For this reason, we suggest that enclitic forms are encoded with the <seg> element, as suggested in ch. 5.3.2 above:

<seg type="enc">
  <w lemma="vera">em</w>
  <w lemma="ek">k</w>

<seg type="enc">
  <w lemma="vera">er</w>
  <w lemma="at">at</w>

The segmentation is in several cases open to discussion. Thus, the “t” in “fórtu” may be seen as part of the verb form or as part of the pronoun. From a phonological point of view, it is an assimilation product of the final “t” in the verb and the initial “þ” in the pronoun. As recommended in ch. 5.3.2 above, the main word should be encoded with the fullest form and the enclitic with a reduced form, e.g.

<seg type="enc">
  <w lemma="fara">fórt</w>
  <w lemma="þú">u</w>

In a similar vein, the negative particle in “bárut” may be analysed as “at” reduced to “t” in a process of contraction, “báru at” > “bárut”:

<seg type="enc">
  <w lemma="bera">báru</w>
  <w lemma="-at">t</w>

We suggest the name tokens “eP” and “eN” for enclitic words, to be used as the final name token in the @me:msa attribute of the enclitic word:

Name token Value
eP Enclitic pronoun
eN Enclitic negative particle

In marginal cases, there can be two or even three enclitics, such as “vilkat” for “vil [e]k at” ‘I will not’ and “bjargigak” for “bjargi [e]k a[t] [e]k” ‘I do not I save’ (Hávamál, st. 149). In the encoding, each word part should be rendered in a separate <w> element in the phonetic form it actually has:

<seg type="enc">
  <w lemma="vilja" me:msa="xVB fF tPS mIN p1 nS vA">vil</w>
  <w lemma="ek" me:msa="xPE p1 nS cN eP">k</w>
  <w lemma="-at" me:msa="xAV eN">at</w>

<seg type="enc">
  <w lemma="bjarga" me:msa="xVB fF tPS mSU p1 nS vA">bjargi</w>
  <w lemma="ek" me:msa="xPE p1 nS cN eP">g</w>
  <w lemma="-a" me:msa="xAV eN">a</w>
  <w lemma="ek" me:msa="xPE p1 nS cN eP">k</w>

With the <seg> encoding, the stylesheet would ensure that these words were displayed with no internal spaces as “vilkat” and “bjargigak” respectively, but the individual, partly reduced word forms should be annotated as separate words. Importantly, in a syntactic analysis, in which a distinction between a verb and a pronoun (i.e. a predicate and a subject) is essential, these words would easily be identified.

In a multi-level encoding, the stylesheet should not display any space between the main word and the enclitic on the <me:facs> and <me:norm> levels, but a space should be displayed on the <me:norm> level. See the example in ch. 5.3.2 above. Government

In the Old Norwegian lemmatised corpus, prepositions are encoded for the case which they govern. This is valuable syntactic information, but it is really not a morphological category. We therefore recommend that prepositions, which have no inflection in Old Norse (or possibly not in any other language), are only encoded for word class in the @me:msa attribute, “xAP”.

However, to accommodate the information provided in the Old Norwegian lemmatised corpus without introducing attributes for syntactic categories we suggest using a name token for government, consisting of the lowercase character “y” + an uppercase abbreviation for each type of case government. This category would apply to prepositions, verbs and some adjectives.

Name token Value
yG Governing Genitive
yD Governing Dative
yA Governing Accusative
yU Unspecified government

In the Old Norwegian lemmatised corpus, also conjunctions (i.e. subjunctions) are encoded for the mood which they govern. This is not a morphological category, but the information can be retained by adding a name token for government, consisting of the lowercase character “y” + an uppercase abbreviation for each type of mood government.

Name token Value
yIN Governing Indicative
ySU Governing Subjunctive
yU Unspecified government

11.4 Homography and zero values

Two or more words sometimes have the same spelling, but different meanings. This is usually referred to as “homography” and it is a basic problem for all morphological analysis. We shall distinguish between two types of homography, external and internal. The first case must be handled by the @lemma attribute, the second by the @me:msa attribute.

For the discussion in this chapter, we shall adopt the distinction between word form, grammatical form and lemma (lexeme). The word form is the word as it is spelt in the text, whether normalised or not. The grammatical form is a specific morphological value of the word, referred to by the attribute @me:msa. The lemma is the common denominator for all of these forms, typically given as a dictionary entry and referred to by the attribute @lemma.

11.4.1. External homography

External homography means that one grammatical word can be mapped onto two or more lemmata. In some cases the alternative lemmata are different words from a semantic and etymological point of view, such as the feminine noun þýða “friendship” in nominative singular and the verb þýða “interpret” in infinitive. In all but a few cases, a semantic analysis will disambiguate these forms. The annotation will thus be unequivocal.

In some cases, however, it is a questions of related words with variant forms, such as the neutral nouns líf and lífi. In dative singular they happen to have the same form, lífi:

Lemma Word form Grammatical form
líf lífi xNC gN nS cD sI

For this case of external homography we recommend encoding each of the possible lemmata in full, using the vertical bar, “|”, as delimiter:

... <w lemma="líf | lífi" me:msa="xNC gN nS cD sI | 
  xNC gN nS cD sI">lifi</w> ...

Note that for each possible lemma value there must be a corresponding me:msa value, even if they happen to be identical (as in this example). Thus, the first possible lemma is “líf” and the corresponding me:msa value is “xNC gN nS cD sI”. The second possible lemma is “lífi” and the corresponding me:msa value “NC gN nS cD sI”. The general form is thus:

... <w lemma="alt.1 | alt.2" me:msa="alt.1 | alt.2">homographic word</w> ...

A search engine would be able to pick out both “líf” and “lífi” as possible lemmata for “lífi”, and also to keep this example separate from unambiguous ones, such as the genitive “lífs”, which can only be mapped to the lemma “líf”, or the nominative “lífi” which can only be mapped to the lemma “lífi”.

11.4.2 Internal homography

Internal homography means that one word form can be mapped onto two or more grammatical words. This is often referred to as syncretism, and is frequently found in many languages, typically as the result of linguistic change (such as phonological mergers). The levelling of the morphological system in Medieval Nordic (except Icelandic) produced a large amount of syncretism.

The feminine noun “kona” is a case in point. It has the same form, “konu”, in all three non-nominative (oblique) cases in singular:

Lemma Word form Grammatical form
kona kona xNC gF nS cN sI
konu xNC gF nS cG sI
xNC gF nS cD sI
xNC gF nS cA sI

In most cases, a syntactic or semantic analysis will yield a unique result. For example, in the phrase “til konu” the word form “konu” would be analysed as genitive since the preposition “til” only governs this particular case:

<w lemma="til" me:msa="xAP">til</w> 
<w lemma="kona" me:msa="xNC gF nS cG sI">konu</w>  

In another phrase, e.g. “fyrir konu”, the encoder might not be willing to make a definitive choice, since the preposition “fyrir” governs both accusative and dative. The annotation should be “either accusative or dative”, or in other words cAD:

<w lemma="fyrir" me:msa="xAP">fyrir</w> 
<w lemma="kona" me:msa="xNC gF nS cAD sI">konu</w>  

It turns out that in Old Norse, there is a rather short list of internal homography:

Name token Value
mINSU mood: indicative or subjunctive
mINIM mood: indicative or imperative
mSUIM mood: subjunctive or imperative
gMF gender: masculine or feminine
gMN gender: masculine or neuter
gFN gender: feminine or neuter
gMFN gender: masculine, feminine or neuter
cAD case: accusative or dative
cGD case: genitive or dative
cAG case: accusative or genitive
cAN case: accusative or nominative
cO case: oblique (i.e. accusative, dative or genitive)

These values have been included in ch., ch. and ch. above.

Finally, it should be pointed out that it is a moot question whether “konu” should be seen as a single word form, or as a three homographic word forms representing three distinct grammatical forms, “konu-GEN”, “konu-DAT” and “konu-ACC”. The answer to this question depends on the morphological analysis of the linguistic stage in question. One might possibly claim, for example, that in Medieval Norwegian case is a relevant distinction to make for all nouns, but that in Late Medieval Norwegian the case distinction has collapsed, and that the lemma “kona” only has two grammatical forms, the nominative “kona” and the non-nominative (oblique) “konu”.

11.4.3 Combinations of external and internal homography

In more complex cases, there may be a combination of external and internal homography. For example, the word form “sinni” may be a dative of the noun “sinn” or it may be either dative or accusative of the noun “sinni”. In other words, the combinations are:

Lemma Word form Grammatical form
sinn sinni xNC gN nS cD sI
sinni xNC gN nS cD sI
xNC gN nS cA sI

A unique way of encoding this structure would be to list the three alternatives in such an order that the first lemma value corresponds to the first me:msa value, the second lemma value corresponds to the second me:msa value, and the third lemma value corresponds to the third me:msa value. In other words:

... <w lemma="alt.1 | alt.2 | alt.3" me:msa="alt.1 | alt.2 | alt.3">
  homographic word</w> ...


... <w lemma="sinn | sinni | sinni" me:msa="xNC gN nS cD sI 
  | xNC gN nS cD sI | xNC gN nS cA sI">sinni</w> ...

This way of encoding homography is verbose, but it is unambiguous and simple to process.

11.4.4 Zero values

We believe it is convenient to distinguish between two types of zero values in morphological encoding, not applicable and not specified.

(a) Not applicable

No words have the complete set of morphological categories listed in ch. 11.3 above. For example, although verb participles belong to the verb class, they are not inflected for mood. There is no need to encode participles for “mood:zero” – it is sufficient to leave out the name token for mood. In other words, the absence of the name token implies that mood is not a relevant category for the word in question.

(b) Not specified

In other cases, a word is inflected for a certain category, but the encoder is not able to specify a value. This may be the case with some proper nouns, for which no gender can be given. This is a different type of “zero” value, and we therefore suggest to indicate these cases with the character “U” to be read as “unspecified”. An example:

<w lemma="Byblos" me:msa="xNP gU">Byblos</w>  

This encoding entails that the word in question is a noun and that it does have a gender (it is thus not a case of non-applicability), but that the encoder does not know which gender that would be.

Another example: In Old Norse, there is no gender distinction in genitive or dative plural of any adjective or determiner. It is possible to encode adjectives and determiners for gender based on concord with a noun (if there happens to be one), so that in a genitive plural phrase like “spakra manna” the adjective “spakra” might be ascribed masculine gender on the basis of the noun maðr, which is masculine. From experience, we know that this is time-consuming and not really informative encoding. A less specified option would be to use the character “U” to indicate non-specification:

<w lemma="spakr" me:msa="xNC gU nP cG sI">spakra</w>  

A search engine would be able to pick out “spakra” as an example of an adjective in genitive plural, but not as an adjective in masculine (or feminine, or neutral) gender.

11.5 General model for Medieval Nordic

This chapter contains examples of encoding for each word class in a Medieval Nordic text. As pointed out in the introduction, the model is based on the grammar of Old Norse, and will thus be more detailed than needed for Old Danish and possibly also for Old Swedish. For these linguistic stages and for Middle Norwegian, the model can be scaled down, but we believe that the general framework will still be useful.

We strongly recommend a fixed order of name tokens for each class, beginning with the name token for the word class itself. Note, however, that non-relevant categories can simply be left out, as recommended in ch. 11.4.3 above. Thus, for late Medieval texts the encoding of many word classes may be shorter than the one exemplified here. 

11.5.1 Nouns (NC and NP)

Nouns are divided into two subgroups, common noun (xNC) and proper nouns (xNP). They are further encoded for gender, number, case and species

Example: Encoding of the noun “ymr” in the phrase “þá heyrðu þeir ym mikinn ok gny”:

<w lemma="ymr" me:msa="xNC gM nS cA sI">ym</w>  
Word class Gender Number Case Species

Possibly, a separate name token for oblique case, “cO”, might be added. The concept of the oblique case covers all non-nominative cases, i.e. genitive, dative and accusative.

11.5.2 Adjectives (AJ)

Adjectives are encoded for grade, gender, number, case and species.

Example: Encoding of the adjective “langr” in the phrase “seint er um langan veg at spyrja tíðenda”:

<w lemma="langr" me:msa="xAJ rP gM nS cA sI">langan</w>  

Word class Grade Gender Number Case Species
xAJ rP

Note that in the comparative form, adjectives only have weak (indefinite) inflection. Nevertheless, we recommend that they are encoded for species, “sI”, throughout. Also note that some adjectives have defect modes of forming the comparative, but we still recommend that they are encoded for grade.

11.5.3 Pronouns proper (PE, PQ and PI)

In recent grammars the traditional category pronoun is usually divided into pronouns in a strict sense (words replacing a noun) and “determiners” (adjunct words), and that is our recommendation as well, cf. ch. 11.5.3 and 11.5.4 below. However, in some projects (i.e. the Old Norwegian lemmatised corpus) there is only a single category pronoun, and we have therefore added in ch. 11.5.5 a combined category, pronouns and determiners.

Although pronouns in the strict sense of “words replacing a noun” is a smaller category than the traditional one, there are a nonetheless three distinct sub-categories. In the following these are treated separately to provide an over-view. Personal pronouns (PE)

Personal pronouns are encoded for person, gender, number and case. Note that only personal pronouns in 3. person have a gender distinction; for pronouns in 1. and 2. person this category is simply left out.

Example: Encoding of the personal pronoun “vit” in the phrase “vit erum fegnir” (leaving out the gender category):

<w lemma="vit" me:msa="xPE p1 nD cN">vit</w>  

Word class Person Gender Number Case
xPE p1
cU Interrogative pronouns (PQ)

Interrogative pronouns are encoded for gender, number and case. Memory hint: in the name token “xPQ” the last character stands for “question”.

Example: Encoding of the interrogative pronoun “hverr” in the phrase “Frigg spurði hverr sá vǽri með ásum”:

<w lemma="hverr" me:msa="xPQ gM nS cN">hverr</w>  
Word class Gender Number Case
xPQ gM
cU Indefinite pronouns (PI)

Indefinite pronouns are encoded for gender, number and case.

Example: Encoding of the indefinite pronoun “einnhverr” in the phrase “vill hann taka til at þreyta drykkju við einhvern mann”:

<w lemma="einnhverr" me:msa="xPI gM nS cA">einhvern</w>  

Word class Gender Number Case
xPI gM

11.5.4 Determiners (DP, DD and DQ)

The contents of the word class determiners vary between languages and grammars. In the present analysis, determiners comprise a large part of the traditional word class pronouns (as defined in many grammars of Old Norse) with the exception of pronouns proper. Determiners have three subcategories: possessives, demonstratives and quantifiers.

Note that articles and numerals are often analysed as determiners, but these traditional classes have been retained here. Possessives (DP)

Possessives are encoded for gender, number and case.

Example: Encoding of the possessive “sinn” in the phrase “hann hugðisk þá at reyna afl sitt”:

<w lemma="sinn" me:msa="xDP gN nS cA">sitt</w>  
Word class Gender Number Case
xDP gM
cU Demonstratives (DD)

Possessives are encoded for gender, number and case.

Example: Encoding of the demonstrative “hinn” in the phrase “hitt fjall er hátt”:

<w lemma="hinn" me:msa="xDD gN nS cN">hitt</w>  

Word class Gender Number Case
xDD gM
cU Quantifiers (DQ)

Quantifiers are encoded for gender, number and case. This category may overlap with Indefinite pronouns.

Example: Encoding of the demonstrative “mar(g)t” in the phrase “mart folk hefir komit hér”:

<w lemma="margr" me:msa="xDQ gN nS cN">mart</w>  

Word class Gender Number Case
xDQ gM

11.5.5 Pronouns/determiners (PD)

This is the traditional category of “pronoun”, as defined in the grammars of e.g. Noreen 1923 and Iversen 1973. From a inflectional point of view this is a heterogeneous category, but since it has been used in much lexicographical work, it is given here as an alternative to the two classes pronouns proper (ch. 11.5.3) and determiners (ch. 11.5.4).

Pronouns/determiners are encoded for person (only personal pronouns), gender, number and case.

Example: Encoding of the pronoun “engi” in the phrase “ormrinn er slǿgari en ekki annat kvikendi” (no name token for person, since this category is not relevant):

<w lemma="engi" me:msa="xPD gN nS cN">ekki</w>  
Word class Person Gender Number Case
xPD p1

11.5.6 Numerals (NA and NO)

The numerals are divided into two sub-categories: “cardinals” (NA) and “ordinals” (NO). The character U is used for “unspecified”, so that “xNU” comprises both cardinal and ordinal numerals – the case for the Old Norwegian lemmatised corpus.

Numerals are encoded for gender (only the cardinals 1-4), number (only ordinals), case, and species (only relevant for the numerals “einn”, “fyrstr”, and “annarr”). Memory hint: since the obvious candidate “NC” for “numeral, cardinal” has been reserved for “nouns, common”, the character “A” in “NA” can be seen as referring to the vowel “a” which occurs two times in the word “cardinal”.

The numerals hundrað “one hundred (and twenty)” and þúsund “one thousand (two hundred)” are treated as nouns.

Example: Encoding of the numeral “sjaundi” in the phrase “in sjaunda borg”:

<w lemma="sjaundi" me:msa="xNO gF nS cN sD">sjaunda</w>  
Word class Gender Number Case Species

11.5.7 Articles (AT)

In recent grammars the traditional word class “articles” is usually classified as part of the word class “determiners”. However, in some projects (i.e. the Old Norwegian lemmatised corpus) articles are treated as a separate class, and we suggest that as an alternative they may be classified as such.

Articles are encoded for gender, number, case, and species.

Example: Encoding of the article “einn” in the phrase “ein kona”:

<w lemma="einn" me:msa="xAT gF nS cN sI">ein</w>  
Word class Gender Number Case Species
xAT gM

11.5.8 Verbs (VB)

Verbs are either finite or infinite. In the former category, they are inflected for tense, mood, person, number and voice. In the latter category, participles are basically inflected as adjectives, while infinitives have a very restricted inflection. For practical reasons, we recommend that finite and infinite forms are treated separately. Finite forms

Finite verbs are encoded for tense, mood, person, number, and voice. Optionally, verbs may be encoded for inflectional class. This might seem adviceable since Old Norse has some “pair verbs” with identical lemmatic forms such as the strong verb “brenna” and the weak verb “brenna”. However, as recommended in ch. 11.6.1 below, these verbs should be disambiguated with reference to the lemmata in Ordbog over det norrøne prosasprog, brenna strong verb (catch fire, burn) vs. brenna weak verb (set light to, burn).

Example: Encoding of the verb “telja” in the phrase “hon taldi” (leaving out inflectional class):

<w lemma="telja" me:msa="xVB fF tPT mIN p3 nS vA">taldi</w>  

Word class Finiteness Tense Mood Person Number Voice
xVB fF tPS
vU Infinite forms

Infinite forms are either participles or infinitives, and may be distinguished by the name token finiteness with “fP” for participles and “fI” for infinitives.

(a) Participles

Participles are inflected for the verbal categories tense and voice (only in supinum), and for the nominal categories gender, number, case and species (not in supinum).

Note that present participles only have weak (definite) declension. Preterite (perfect) participles usually have strong (indefinite) declension, but may sometimes occur with weak (definite) forms. Voice is only relevant for supinum, cf. e.g. “hann hefir kallat” vs. “hann hefir kallazk”.

Examples: Encoding of the verb “koma” in “hann er kominn” and “hann hefir komit” (supinum):

<w lemma="koma" me:msa="xVB fP tPT gM nS cN sI">kominn</w>
<w lemma="koma" me:msa="xVB fP tPT vA gM nS cN">komit</w> 

Word class Finiteness Tense Voice Gender Number Case Species
(b) Infinitives

Infinitives are inflected only for the verbal categories tense and voice, and tense only applies to three verbs, “munu”, “skulu” and “vilja” (which have preterite forms).

Example: Encoding of the verb “fara” in the phrase “hann mun fara” (with optional information on inflectional class):

<w lemma="fara" me:msa="xVB fI tPS vA">fara</w>  

Word class Finiteness Tense Voice
fI tPS

11.5.9 Adverbs (AV)

Adverbs are only encoded for grade.

Example: Encoding of the adverb “sterkliga” in the phrase “hann svaf ok hraut sterkliga”:

<w lemma="sterkliga" me:msa="xAV rP">sterkliga</w>  

Word class Grade
xAV rP

Note that some adverbs have defect modes of forming the comparative, but we still recommend that they are encoded for grade.

11.5.10 Prepositions and particles (AP and VP)

“Prepositions” are not inflected and only encoded for word class, xAP. The latter is an abbreviation for “apposition”, which is the hyponymous term for “preposition” and “postposition” (found in e.g. Japanese, but not in the Nordic languages).

Example: Encoding of the preposition “at” in the phrase “koma þeir at kveldi til eins búanda”:

<w lemma="at" me:msa="xAP">at</w>  

There is seldom any doubt about the word class for prepositions in prepositional phrases like “í hendi”, “á landi”, “til þings”, etc. However, when prepositions appear without complementation (in absolute position) or as verbal particles, it is convenient to have an alternative word class. We suggest xVP for this use of prepositions.

Word class Specification
xAP all prototypical prepositions
xVP in absolute or adverbial use (e.g. as verbal particles)

The words “of” and “um” are frequently used as so-called expletive particles in Eddic poems. This usage is so specific that many encoders would like a separate class for this type. See ch. 11.5.15 below

As stated in above, prepositions in the Old Norwegian lemmatised corpus are encoded for the case they govern. Using the name token “y” + case, the example above would receive this encoding:

<w lemma="at" me:msa="xAP yD">at</w>  

Word class Government
xAP yG
yO yU

No prepositions govern nominative, so the encoding “yN” is not applicable. Many prepositions govern accusative as well as dative, and in cases of doubt, the encoding “yDA” (governing either dative or accusative) may be used. The Old Norse preposition “án” may govern all oblique cases, so in cases of doubt, the encoding “yO” (governing one of the oblique cases) may be used.

11.5.11 Conjunctions and subjunctions (CC and CS)

In recent grammars, the traditional word class “conjunctions” is usually divided into two separate classes, “conjunctions” (e.g. “ok”, “en”) and “subjunctions” (e.g. “at”, “ef”). The former category connects phrases on the same syntactical level, while the latter category typically introduces clauses. In traditional terminology, this is reflected in the subdivision of conjunctions into “coordinating” and “subordinating”. We recommend making a distinction between conjunctions proper = coordinating conjunctions (xCC) and subjunctions = subordinating conjunctions (xCS).

Example: Encoding of the conjunction “ok” in the phrase “Logi hafði etit slátr allt ok beinin með”:

<w lemma="ok" me:msa="xCC">ok</w>  

Example: Encoding of the subjunction “at” in the phrase “hon sagði at Baldr hafði þar riðit”:

<w lemma="at" me:msa="xCS">at</w>  

Word class

The encoding “xCU” would be used if the encoder (in rather unusual cases) cannot decide whether a word is a conjunction or a subjunction. Furthermore, it can be used for texts that have been annotated with the traditional, single word class “conjunctions”, such as in the Old Norwegian lemmatised corpus.

As stated in above, conjunctions (i.e. subjunctions) in the Old Norwegian lemmatised corpus are encoded for the mood they govern. This information can be retained by adding a name token for government, consisting of the lowercase character “y” + an uppercase abbreviation for mood.


The encoding “yU” would be used when the mood of the verb in the clause cannot be specified (in other words that it may be either indicative or subjunctive).

11.5.12 Interjections (IT)

“Interjections” are not inflected and only marked for word class, xIT.

Word class

11.5.13 Infinitive marker (IM)

The infinitive marker is not inflected and encoded as xIM. In Old Norse it usually has the form “at”.

Word class

11.5.14 Relative particle (RP)

The relative particle is not inflected and only marked as xRP. In Old Norse it usually has the form “er” or “sem”. Some grammarians would classify the relative particle as a subjunction, while others tend to look upon it as a pronoun.

Word class

NOTE: We might reconsider this encoding, and recommend encoding the relative particle as a subjunction, “xCS”. See the discussion in Haugen and Øverland 2014, p. 38.

11.5.15 Expletive particle (EX)

The expletive particles “of” and “um” are frequently found in Eddic poems. From one point of view, they can be seen as prepositions in absolute position. However, the specific usage in Eddic poems has led many grammarians to distinguish them from the prepositions “of” and “um”. We suggest that they are classified as expletive particles, xEX.

Word class

11.5.16 Unassigned (UA)

Some words are corrupt, difficult to analyse, belong to another language or are for other reason indeterminate. These words are marked as unassigned, xUA. See, however, the discussion of non-Nordic words in ch. 11.7 below.

Word class

11.6 Specifications for Old Norse

In the previous chapter, we have given a few alternative analyses, especially the choice between on the one hand a broad class of pronouns and on the other hand a smaller class of pronouns and a new class of determiners. We have also pointed out that Old Swedish and particularly Old Danish texts may require a simpler analysis with respect to the morphological categories. There is thus a need for further specification. This chapter will deal with Old Norse, i.e. Old Icelandic up to ca. 1550 and Old Norwegian up to ca. 1350. This is the same period as defined by Ordbog over det norrøne prosasprog (ONP), a dictionary which we will return to repeatedly below.

11.6.1 Selection of lemma

As stated in ch. 11.2 above, we recommend that the lemmatisation of Old Norse texts is coordinated with ONP, in which each lemma has a unique URL. For example, the noun “orð” has the unique URL and can be referred to by this URL. In addition to the @lemma attribute, the URL of ONP can be added in a @me:ref attribute (cf. ch. 15.4.2 below). We understand that the URL’s of ONP will be kept unchanged.

<w lemma="orð" me:ref="" me:msa="xNC">orð</w>

Alternative lemmata. In some cases, ONP offers two or more forms of a lemma, e.g. “blóðigr, blóðugr”. We recommend using the first form for the @lemma attribute. Both forms will be accessible by the same URL, An extreme example is the determiner “nøkkurr” which is listed with no less than seven forms, “nøkkurr, nakkurr, nekkverr, nakkvarr, nǫkkverr, nǫkkvarr, nǫkkr”, all of which are accessible by the same lemma, nøkkurr. Incidentally, the form “nǫkkurr” (known from most grammars and dictionaries) is not among the seven; this specific form supposedly does not appear in Old Norse sources at all.

Homonymic lemmata. In other cases, ONP (and indeed most other dictionaries) distinguishes between two or more identical-looking lemmata, e.g. “mǽla” in the sense ‘speak’ and “mǽla” in the sense ‘measure’. We recommend using the same forms in the @lemma attribute, but making a distinction by way of the @me:ref attribute. Here is an example of “mǽla” in the first sense, and then in the second sense:

<w lemma="mǽla" me:ref="" me:msa="xVB">mǽlti</w>
<w lemma="mǽla" me:ref="" me:msa="xVB">mǽldi</w>

Note that ONP treats lemmata as homonymic even if they belong to different word classes, e.g. the noun hár ‘hair’ and the adjective hár ‘high’. They should be kept apart by the @me:ref attribute, even if they also differ by way of their word class, in the first case “xNC” for “nouns”, in the second “xAJ” for “adjectives”.

Hypothetical lemmata. Some lemmata are not attested in the sources. This applies to a few verbs with no known infinitive, a few adjectives with no known positive form, and some nouns with no known singular form. For example, ONP lists the singular noun forms “ørlag” and “skap” rather than the plural forms “ørlǫg” and “skǫp”. We have identified a couple of words where we would like to deviate from ONP:

ørlǫg (xNC)

skǫp (xNC)

Even if we in marginal cases deviate in the orthography of the lemma, we will keep the URL of ONP in the @me:ref attribute, i.e. ørlag and skap.

11.6.2 Normalisation of the orthography in texts

As stated in ch. 10.3 above, the orthography of normalised Old Norse texts varies to a certain degree. While encoders should feel free to make their own choices in this respect, we encourage the use of the orthography of ONP, irrespective of whether the source is Old Icelandic or Old Norwegian. See ch. above for a discussion of this norm.

In an Old Norwegian text, the word “hnakki” ‘neck’ might be normalised to “nakki” (or even “nakke”) in an edition, but the lemma should in any case be “hnakki”. Otherwise, Norwegian and Icelandic examples of this word will appear under two different lemmata, “nakki” and “hnakki”.

The main points in the ONP orthography are the following:

1. All long vowels have accents, including “ǽ” (not just “æ”) and “ǿ” (not “œ”).

2. The asyllabic semivowel is spelt “j”, not “i”, e.g. “jafn”, “hjarta”.

3. The privative prefix is spelt “ó-”, e.g. “ójafn”.

4. No lengthening of stressed vowels in words like “sjalfr” and “holmi”.

5. The consonant cluster “pt” should be rendered with “ft”, thus “oft” and “eftir” rather than “opt” and “eptir”.

Even if we recommend the ONP norm for normalisation of Old Norse texts, there will inevitably be some cases where one might want to deviate from this norm. Some examples:

ONP lemma Preferred forms
glíkr (xAJ) líkr, lík, líkt, ...
nøkkurr (xDQ) nǫkkurr, nǫkkur, nǫkkut, ...
fǫgnuðr (xNC) fagnaðr, fagnað, fagnaði, fagnaðar, ...
skipun (xNC) skipan, skipan, skipan, skipanar, ...

Note that even if the normalised orthography of the text may deviate somewhat from the ONP norm, the orthography of the lemma should adhere strictly to ONP, as specified in the first column of the table.

11.6.3 Word classes

On the whole, Old Norse grammars and dictionaries comply with the traditional eight word classes (parts of speech), i.e. nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections. We suggest that a newer set of word classes should be used, in line with what is now the standard for e.g. Modern Norwegian, cf. Norsk referansegrammatikk (1997) by Jan Terje Faarlund, Svein Lie and Kjell Ivar Vannebo. This question is discussed at some length in the guidelines for the Menotec project, Haugen and Øverland 2014, p. 13–40.

We recommend that morphological annotation is restricted to the following word classes:

Abbreviation Word class
xNC noun, common
xNP noun, proper
xAJ adjective
xPE pronoun, personal
xPR pronoun, reflexive
xPQ pronoun, interrogative
xPI pronoun, indefinite
xDD determiner, demonstrative
xDQ determiner, quantifier
xDP determiner, possessive
xVB verb
xAV adverb, general
xAQ adverb, interrogative
xAP preposition
xCC conjunction
xCS subjunction
xIM infinitive marker
xIT interjection
xUA unassigned
xFW foreign word

Texts in the Menota archive have been annotated according to earlier schemes, especially that of Gammelnorsk Ordboksverk. In the annotation of these texts, a traditional set of word classes has been used. These classes will be kept as alternatives, but our recommendation is that encoders from now on should restrict themselves to the list of word classes above. The following classes should be deprecated:

Abbreviation Word Class Comment
xCU conjunctions (in general) should be analysed as either xCC (conjunctions) or xCS (subjunctions)
xPD pronouns (in general) should be analysed as either pronouns (xPE, xPR, xPQ) or determiners (xDD, xDQ, xDP)
xAT articles should be analysed as determiners (xDQ)
xNA cardinal numbers should be analysed as determiners (xDQ)
xNO ordinal numbers should be analysed as adjectives (xAJ)
xRP relative particle should be analysed as subjunctions (xCS)
xVP verbal particles should be analysed as prepositions (xAP) or adverbs (xAV)
xEX expletive particles should be analysed as subjunctions (xCS)

Prepositions vs. adverbs. Prepositions in absolute position (i.e. with no complementation) can be analysed as adverbs or as verbal particles. We recommend that prepositions are analysed as prepositions, xAP, in all cases, whether they have a complementation, “í hendi”, “til matar”, “undir honum”, or not, “en vǽta var á [the air?] mikil um daginn”. As for “of” and “um” in Eddic poems, we do not think there should be any distinction between prepositions and expletive particles. This is a syntactic difference, not a morphological one, so the word class shoud be xAP in both cases.

Adjectives in adverbial usage. Adjectives in neuter are often used as adverbs, e.g. “hann kallaði hátt” (he called loudly), in which the adjective “hár” has the form neuter singular accusative, i.e. xAJ rP gN nS cA. Some encoders would like to indicate the adverbial usage by using an alternative annotation, xAJ rP gN nS cA | xAV rP. However, we believe that the simplest solution is to encode the adjective as an adjective, and leave the rest for a syntactical analysis of the text. In other words, xAJ rP gN nS cA should suffice.

Supinum. In periphrastic constructions, the verb “hafa” is typically followed by supinum, e.g. “hann hefir keypt hús” (he has bought a house). From a morphological point of view, this form is identical with the perfect participle in neuter singular accusative, i.e. xVB fP tPT gN nS cA, and we would recommend to analyse supinum this way. Note that this analysis also applies to the older construction of verb + object + object predicative, e.g. “hann hefir hús keypt ” (literally, he has a house in bought condition).

Past participles vs. adjectives. If a past participle can be referred to a verb, the infinitive of this verb should be used as the lemma. Thus, “búa” would be the lemma for “búinn”, even if this participle is on the verge of being lexicalised as an adjective in Old Norse. Another example is “lǽrðr”, which ONP lists under the verb “lǽra”, even if it might have been analysed as an adjective. For derived participles like “heimkominn”, it is not advisable to refer it to the simplex verb “koma” nor to a derived verb like “heimkoma”. In this case, ONP offers a derived adjective “heimkominn”, and this is what we would recommend as lemma. As for a participle like “framfarinn”, ONP has in fact a derived verb “framfara”, and that must do. In cases of doubt, and there may be quite a few, ONP should be consulted.

Roman numerals. Roman numerals are frequent in Medieval Nordic texts, and should be encoded as numbers using the <num> element, e.g. <num><w>.iv.</w></num>. There will be no @lemma attribute for Roman numerals as part of the <w> element, but they may receive @type and @value attributes as part of the <num> element. For details, see ch. 11.5 above.

As a rule, we recommend encoders to avoid duplication of words. So rather than distinguishing between the numeral “einn”, the pronoun “einn” and the article “einn”, we recommend mapping this word to a single word class, in this case xDQ (determiner, quantifier). Only in cases where there is a morphological distinction, should potentially homonymous words be disambiguated. One example is the verb “brenna”, which is inflected as a weak verb when transitive (“hann brennir húsit”), and as a strong verb when intransitive (“húsit brann”). This disambiguation should be made with reference to the ONP dictionary, as explained in ch. 11.6.1 above.

11.6.4 Extent of categories and features

There is a number of categories in each word class, ranging from zero in the non-inflected classes (e.g. prepositions, conjunctions, subjunctions) up to six in the verbs. The contents of these categories have been listed in ch. 11.5 above. We recommend following these, but would like to suggest a few specifications:

Abbreviation Word Class Comment
xPE pronouns, personal person (p1, p2, p3, pU), gender (gM, gF, gN, gU) and number (ns, nP, nU) are inherent in personal pronouns, so need not be used; only case (cN, cG, cD, cA, cU) is relevant
xVB verbs inflectional class is not relevant and should be left out; it will be covered by the disambiguation procedure explained in ch. 11.6.1 above
xAV adverbs only some adverbs are inflected for grade (e.g. “oft”), while others have no comparation (e.g. “hér”); we recommend that the first group is analysed for grade (rP, rC, rS), while the second group receive the encoding rU
xAP prepositions prepositions are not inflected and only encoded for word class; in texts from Gammelnorsk Ordboksverk, they have also been encoded for the category of government, yA (governing accusative, yD (governing dative), yG (governing genitive); this encoding should not be used anymore
xCS subjunctions subjunctions are not inflected and only encoded for word class; in texts from Gammelnorsk Ordboksverk, they have also been encoded for the category of government, yIN (governing indicative, ySU (governing subjunctive); this encoding should not be used anymore

11.6.5 Sample words

As stated above, we recommend that words are mapped to a single word class, even if they have rather diverse syntactical properties. The table below contains some of the problematic words, organised by word classes. The list is based on Haugen and Øverland 2014, pp. 23–40. Many of the words below are discussed in some detail in these guidelines.

Abbreviation Word class Participants
xPE pronouns, personal ek | vit | vér | þú | þit (it) | þér (ér) | hann | hon
xPR pronouns, reflexive sik
xPQ pronouns, interrogative hver (hvat, hví, hveim) | hvílíkr
xPI pronouns, indefinite báðir | hvatki | hvatvetna | manngi
xDD determiners, demonstrative hinn | inn (enn) | sá | sjá (þessi)
xDQ determiners, quantifiers allr | annarr | annartveggi | annarrtveggja | báðir | einn | einnhverr | engi | fyrstr (fyrsti) | hvárgi | hvárr | hvárrtveggi | hvárrtveggja | hvergi | hverr | nøkkurr (nǫkkurr) | samr | sumr
xAQ adverbs, interrogative hvar | hvárt | hvert | hvaðan | hversu | hvé (hve) | hví | hvernig

While the inflected forms “þat” and “þeir/þǽr/þau” might be analysed as personal pronouns in the 3rd person, we recommend to regard them as determiners, i.e. as instances of “sá” (xDD).

11.6.6 Multi-word expressions

There are quite a few prepositions and subjunctions consisting of two or even three words, e.g. á bak ‘behind’ and þó at ‘even though’. In the Menotec guidelines, they have mostly been analysed as single entries, but ONP prefers to treat each word on its own. We recommend following ONP, even if there may be some inconsistency in the assignment of word classes:

Complex preposition 1st word 2nd word
á bak á (xAP) bak (xNC)
á hǫnd á (xAP) hǫnd (xNC)
á hendr á (xAP) hǫnd (xNC)
á meðal á (xAP) meðal (xAP)
á milli á (xAP) milli (xAP)
á millum á (xAP) millum (xAP)
á mót á (xAP) mót (xNC)
á móti á (xAP) mót (xNC)
á samt á (xAP) samr (xAJ)
af hendi af (xAP) hǫnd (xNC)
at baki at (xAP) bak (xNC)
í gegn í (xAP) gegn (xNC)
í gegnum í (xAP) gegn (xNC)
í hjá í (xAP) hjá (xAP)
í meðal í (xAP) meðal (xAP)
í milli í (xAP) milli (xAP)
í millum í (xAP) millum (xAP)
í mót í (xAP) mót (xNC)
í móti í (xAP) mót (xNC)
fyrir austan fyrir (xAP) austan (xAV)
fyrir innan fyrir (xAP) innan (xAV)
fyrir norðan fyrir (xAP) norðan (xAV)
fyrir sakir fyrir (xAP) sǫk (xNC)
fyrir sunnan fyrir (xAP) sunnan (xAV)
fyrir útan fyrir (xAP) útan (xAV)
fyrir vestan fyrir (xAP) vestan (xAV)
til handa til (xAP) hǫnd (xNC)
um fram um (xAP) fram (xAV)

Some of the multi-word prepositions can appear with the second word only. In line with ONP, they are analysed as instances of this word (typically a noun), even if the syntactic property is that of a preposition:

Complex preposition Single form Lemma
á/í mót mót mót (xNC)
á/í móti móti mót (xNC)
í gegn gegn gegn (xNC)
í gegnum gegnum gegn (xNC)

The list of multi-word subjunctions is shorter. They are analysed in the same way as multi-word prepositions, each word by itself:

Complex subjunction Lemma 1st word Lemma 2nd word Lemma 3rd word
fyrir því fyrir (xAP) sá (xDD)
fyrir því at fyrir (xAP) sá (xDD) at (xCS)
sakir þess at sǫk (xNC) sá (xDD) at (xCS)
svá at svá (xAV) at (xCS)
þá er þá (xAV) er (xCS)
þegar er þegar (xAV) er (xCS)
þó at þó (xAV) at (xCS)
því at sá (xDD) at (xCS)

11.6.7 Contracted multi-word expressions

Some of the multi-word subjunctions appear in contracted forms. In line with ONP, they can be analysed as follows:

Complex subjunction Contracted form Lemma
svá at svát svá (xAV)
þegar er þegars þegars (xAP)
þó at þótt þótt (xAV)
því at þvít sá (xDD)

Alternatively and probably more appropriately, they can be analysed in line with enclitic verb forms such as “fórtu” for “fórt þú” ‘you travelled’, as explained in ch. 5.3.2 above. In the following example, the first part of the contracted form, “því”, is mapped to the determiner “sá”, and the remaining part, “t” to the subjunction “at”:

<seg type="enc">
  <w lemma="sá" me:msa="xAV">
  <w lemma="at" me:msa="xCS">

Thanks to the <seg> encoding, the two constituents can be displayed as a single graphical word, “þvít”, in an encoded text.

11.7 Lemmatisation of non-Nordic material

The dominant language in a transcription should be specified as an attribute to the <text> element. For a Menota transcription, that will typically be one of the Medieval Nordic languages. In this example, the text is specified as Swedish (“swe”):

<text xml:lang="swe">
  <body>The whole text of the source comes here.</body>

If there is only one language in the text, no further specification is needed. If there are words, phrases or passages in another language, they should be set out by the @xml:lang attribute, preferably one for each word. Since the other language most likely will have a different morphology from Medieval Nordic (in the case of Latin and Greek, a more complex one) we recommend a simplified morphosyntactical analysis, perhaps only identifying the word class. For example, the phrase “per omnia saecula saeculorum” might be encoded in this manner:

<w lemma="per" me:msa="xAP" xml:lang="lat">per</w>
<w lemma="omnis" me:msa="xPD" xml:lang="lat">omnia</w>
<w lemma="saeculum" me:msa="xNC" xml:lang="lat">saecula</w>
<w lemma="saeculum" me:msa="xNC" xml:lang="lat">saeculorum</w>  

See ch. 11.7.1 below on additional categories needed for a full morphological annotation of Latin.

If there is a lengthy passage in another language, the attribute can also be given at a higher level in the encoding, e.g. to a <div> element.

All @xml:lang attributes should be defined in the header. This is part of the <profileDesc> element, which must contain a list of all languages referred to in the encoded text. We recommend this standard set of Nordic languages plus Greek and Latin:

  <language ident="dan">Danish</language>
  <language ident="isl">Icelandic</language> 
  <language ident="nor">Norwegian</language>
  <language ident="swe">Swedish</language> 
  <language ident="lat">Latin</language>
  <language ident="grc">Ancient Greek</language>

The three-letter language codes used here are conformant with the ISO 639-3:2017 standard.

Note that the Profile Description may list more languages than actually referred to in the text.

See ch. 14.5 for more details on language codes.

11.7.1 Additional categories for Latin

A full morphological annotation for Latin requires additional categories for case (in nouns, adjectives, pronouns, etc.) and tense (in verbs). The tables below show the full set of values:

Case Value
cN nominative
cV vocative
cA accusative
cG genitive
cD dative
cB ablative
cU unspecified

The abbreviation B has been chosen for “ablative” since A is already used for “accusative”.

Tense Value
tPS present
tIP imperfect
tFS future simple
tPF perfect
tPP pluperfect
tFP future perfect
tU unspecified

The Medieval Nordic languages have the very simple distinction between tPS for “present” and tPT for “past”.

Voice Value
vA Active
vP Passive
vD Deponent
vU Unspecified

With respect to the category of Voice, the main distinction in Latin is between “active”, encoded as vA, and “passive”, encoded as vP. Verbs which have passive inflection but active meaning are referred to as deponent verbs, and might optionally be encoded with vD. Deponent verbs do not have active forms, so for these verbs there is just a single value of the voice category.

Finally, the category of “species” is relevant for the Nordic langauges in nouns, adjectives, numerals and articles. In Latin, this category does not apply. So, for example, the Latin noun “dominus” would receive the encoding xNC gM nS cN and nothing more.

11.8 Syntactic annotation

While morphological annotation is quite straight-forward (apart from, to some extent, the orthography of the lemmata and the word class), there are many and rather different models for syntactic annotation. Since syntactic annotation for the time being is not part of texts in the Menota archive, we believe it suffice to point to a couple of external projects for syntactic annotation.

The Icelandic Parsed Historical Corpus (IcePaHC) is a treebank for Icelandic containing approx. 1 million words dating from the 12th to the 21st century. The project was developed by, among others, Eiríkur Rögnvaldsson and Joel C. Wallenberg. See further information on this web site:

The PROIEL project was initiated by Dag T.T. Haug in Oslo, and originally covered the five oldest broadly attested Indo-European langauges, using the New Testament as a common source text. PROIEL has been extended over the years to include several other classical or medieval languages, and in conjunction with the Norwegian Menotec project and the Icelandic Greinir skáldskapar project, the PROIEL treebank now offers approx. 250,000 words from Old Norse sources of the 13th and 14th centuries. These resources are in the course of being moved to the Syntacticus open source website.

The texts in PROIEL have been annotated using dependency structure analysis, which is regarded as particularly helpful in languages of a comparatively free word order. Guidelines for the annotation of Old Norwegian have been published by Odd Einar Haugen and Fartein Th. Øverland in parallel versions in Norwegian nynorsk, Retningslinjer 2014, and in English, Guidelines 2014.

In a project at Språkbanken in Göteborg, The MAÞIR treebank, Old Swedish texts have been annotated according, by and large, to the Guidelines for Old Norwegian referred gto above. This and other PROIEL-related projects have been presented in Hanne Eckhoff et al. 2017.

Updates to ch. 11

On 22 September 2023, ch. 11.6 was extensively revised and updated. The Dictionary of Old Norse Prose (ONP) in Copenhagen was defined as the ultimate reference for dictionary entries and their orthography, i.e. for the selection and spelling of the @lemma attribute. However, with respect to word classes, the chapter follows the guidelines of the Menotec project. This should not create any conflict with ONP as long as the orthography of the lexical entries is identical to the one in ONP.

On 4 October 2023, many more examples were added to the list of complex prepositions and subjunctions in ch. 11.6.6. These lists are now intended to be exhaustive.

On 11 October 2023, ch. 11.6.7 on contracted forms of multi-word expressions was added.

On 12 October 2023, the category of inflectional class was removed from the encoding examples in ch. 11.5.8.