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Norwegian is descended from Old West Norse, but over the centuries it has been heavily influenced by East Norse, particularly during the Denmark–Norway union.Among these, Icelandic and the closely related Faroese have changed the least from Old Norse in the last thousand years, although with Danish rule of the Faroe Islands, Faroese has also been influenced by Danish.Another term, used especially commonly with reference to West Norse, was norrǿnt mál ("Nordic/Northern speech").

The Old Gutnish dialect was spoken in Gotland and in various settlements in the East.Most speakers spoke Old East Norse in what is present day Denmark and Sweden.Old Gutnish, the more obscure dialectal branch, is sometimes included in the Old East Norse dialect due to geographical associations.It developed its own unique features and shared in changes to both other branches.The 12th century Icelandic Gray Goose Laws state that Swedes, Norwegians, Icelanders, and Danes spoke the same language, dǫnsk tunga ("Danish tongue"; speakers of Old East Norse would have said dansk tunga).

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