(Disclaimer: I am not a linguist.)

I am learning Norwegian now, and they have some verb form when you attach -s to the end. It is often called passive voice (used in Present tense and in infinitive only, I guess). For example:

  • å møte 'to meet': vi møter 'we meet (someone else)', vi møtes 'we meet (each other)'
  • å kalle 'to call (by name)': jeg kaller 'I call (someone or something)', jeg kalles 'I am called'

I know that similar construction exists in Swedish.

I am a native Slavic speaker and we have the verbs ending with -ся (się in Polish) which have almost the same meaning. In Slavic languages, the origin of this kind of endings is clear, it means 'oneself'. For example, учиться 'to study' literally means учить себя 'to teach oneself'. So I started thinking that Norwegian and Swedish verbs maybe have some similar origins.

But does anyone know for sure?

  • 1
    Indeed the same: "self" (seg).
    – user6726
    Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 2:30
  • 1
    @user6726 but do you know some kind of trusted reference? Or, better, some article with more discussion of this? Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 2:57
  • 2
    Old Norse had a passive in -sk, which lends credence to the theory.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 11:11
  • 2
    "Att lära sig" is very literally "to teach (one)self", there aren't other murkier possibilities about what the sig may come from, since it changes depending on the actual person: jag lär dig svenska (I teach you Swedish), jag lär mig svenska (I learn Swedish, lit. I teach me/myself Swedish).
    – LjL
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 20:58
  • 3
    @user6726 IMO there is no PIE sigmatic mediopassive, so -s < -sk < -sik < sik looks fairly plausible and attested in other languages.
    – Eleshar
    Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 12:27

1 Answer 1


Well, my guess is that it comes from the -sk ending in Old Norse (modern Icelandic -st ending). As found in the famous Vǫlospá verses:

Brœðr munu BERJASK (Modern Icelandic: Bræður munu BERJAST),

Meanining "Brothers will fight EACH OTHER".

Indeed, Swedish and Norwegian are related, both come from Old Norse, which divided itself in two branches:

• Old West Norse (Icelandic, faroese, norwegian);

• and Old East Norse (Swedish, Danish);

Norwegian, however, was very influenced by Denmark for a long time, leading the language to become more similar to its East Norse cousins.

I hope it answer you well! :)

  • 2
    I think OP asks about the relation to Slavic (and Baltic) reflexive suffixes -ся, -сь, -się, -s. Not just Scandinavian ones.
    – J-mster
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 18:45
  • 3
    @J-mster I think they're making a comparison and a (widely held, actually) hypothesis that both may come from an original reflexive pronoun, but I don't think they're wondering whether they're actually related to the Slavic equivalents.
    – LjL
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 21:00

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