Can anyone recommend a good comparative grammar of the Germanic languages -- or, failing that, good historical grammars specifically for Old English and Old Norse?

Ideally, what I want is a historical grammar that gives a comparative overview of the Germanic languages from the Proto-Germanic period (or even from PIE). But since I'm mostly interested in Old English and Old Norse, specific historical grammars for those languages would be useful too. Preferably written in English, but any western European language is good.

I have Prokosch's Comparative Germanic Grammar, but it's from 1939, and is obviously idiosyncratic in some of its views even for that period. I've read Ringe's recent monograph on Proto-Germanic, but that doesn't (yet) go beyond the PGmc stage. Suggestions?

  • 1
    Can you read in German or Russian?
    – Alex B.
    Mar 28, 2014 at 12:59
  • 1
    @AlexB. German yes, Russian no. (Should have mentioned this in the post - updating now.)
    – TKR
    Mar 28, 2014 at 17:48

3 Answers 3


My standard reference manual has always been Hans Krahe's "Germanische Sprachwissenschaft". The seventh and last edition is from 1969, which Wolfgang Meid edited.

Apart from that I'd recommend Streitberg's "Urgermanische Grammatik" from 1896 and Hermann Hirt's "Handbuch des Urgermanischen" from 1931-1934.


I'd imagine you've seen by now the books that hadn't been published when you asked: Fulk's open access (FREE!) "A Comparative Grammar of the Early Germanic Languages" https://www.jbe-platform.com/content/books/9789027263131 Also Ringe's second volume "Proto-Germanic to Old English". If you just want a quick one on just OE & ON then there's this short intro, "Old English And Old Norse: An Introduction to West and North Germanic" which traces their development and points out the differences and similarities https://pdfcookie.com/documents/introduction-to-old-english-and-old-norse-libre-52e195e915v8

  • Fulk has a focus on inflectional morphology and historical phonology. If Syntax is an important focus, you need to expand your syllabus. See the Review by N. Goering which is generally positive.
    – vectory
    May 16, 2021 at 22:49
  • what do you recommend for syntax? Other than Walkden 2012 / 2014, and Salaberri 2017?
    – pancake
    May 21, 2021 at 9:00

I believe you are best served with the following volume:

Nordic Languages: An International Handbook of the History of the North Germanic Languages (Handbücher zur Sprach- Und Kommunikationswissenschaft). De Gruyter. 2005.

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