The language I am creating is derived from East Norse and heavily influenced by Slavic. It has a quite complex grammatical structure - for example, it has not only taken over the two additional cases from Russian but also developed several own ones.

One unique aspect is the dual noun form, which is avaliable for describing things that usually occur in complementary pairs. There are dual-only nouns for things that only occur in the described pairs (such as a romantic couple) and dual forms of ordinary nouns in “natural” couple forms (a pair of shoes, the poles of a magnet, my eyes - not two houses or a couple of road signs). Some features are either identic to either singular and plural. A part of the pronouns - most notably all second-person pronouns - are however unique (somewhat similar to the dialect of Bavarian spoken in Munich).

I am wondering how I can “trace back” such a development. According to my knowledge, (correct me if I am blatantly wrong) neither East Norse nor Old East Slavic had the aforementioned features, and just “inventing it by accident somewhere around 1100” would sound like a too handwaved explanation.

  • Does your question include the new cases in "aforementioned features" or is it solely about the dual?
    – Cecilia
    Oct 8, 2018 at 21:18
  • Solely about dual for the scope of this question, but it would be good if the explanation also fit the cases. Oct 8, 2018 at 22:54

2 Answers 2


Both Proto-Germanic and Proto-Slavic had the dual grammatical number. So you could just say that your conlang retained it the whole time. Alternatively you could say that it lost it and then subsequently borrowed it again from one of the Slavic languages which retained it.

If you were after a specific source, Old Church Slavonic could be ideal because it could have a wider influence than other Slavic languages through its religious prestige status. If the religious traditions of the Slavonic Orthodox churches were very highly valued by your conlang's speakers then that would help to explain why the dual number was retained by them even though the other languages of the region had lost it.

  • I think (correct me if not) the Indo-European dual was not the kind of dual OP has in his language, so loss and borrow is probably be better to explain the change of usage than full retain.
    – Cecilia
    Oct 9, 2018 at 9:00
  • Yes, that’s a good idea. Actually, Medwedia (my country) is Orthodox, so OCS influence would probably happen no matter what. Oct 9, 2018 at 9:29
  • @Richard How would it be different?
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 9, 2018 at 10:45
  • @curiousdannii I think borrowing the dual has a higher probability of entirely changing the usage than retaining it has. Of course, I could be wrong here.
    – Cecilia
    Oct 9, 2018 at 15:09

I think taking the dual retained in old Indo-European languages is a good idea. However, if your language is settled in Skandinavia, you could attribute it to contact with an Uralic language.

While the dual was lost in some (e.g. Finnish), dual pronouns are present in Sami languages that go pretty far south and have been in that region for a long time. After that, extending the usage of the dual to nouns would be a far easier natural development.

Additionally, that contact could explain the cases your language developed, as Uralic languages all have complex case systems (depends on exactly which cases you have though).

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