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Icelandic (; is, íslenska, link=no ) is a
North Germanic language The North Germanic languages make up one of the three branches of the Germanic languages—a sub-family of the Indo-European languages—along with the West Germanic languages and the extinct East Germanic languages. The language group is also re ...

North Germanic language
spoken by about 314,000 people, the vast majority of whom live in
Iceland Iceland ( is, Ísland; ) is a Nordic Nordic most commonly refers to: * Nordic countries, written in plural as Nordics, the northwestern European countries, including Scandinavia, Fennoscandia and the List of islands in the Atlantic Ocean#No ...

Iceland
where it is the national language. As a West Scandinavian language, it is most closely related to
Faroese Faroese ( ) or Faroish ( ) may refer to anything pertaining to the Faroe Islands, e.g.: *the Faroese language * the Faroese people {{Disambiguation Language and nationality disambiguation pages ...
, extinct Norn, and western
Norwegian Norwegian, Norwayan, or Norsk may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Norway, a country in northwestern Europe *Norwegians, both a nation and an ethnic group native to Norway *Demographics of Norway *The Norwegian language, including the t ...
dialects. The language is more
conservative Conservatism is an aesthetic Aesthetics, or esthetics (), is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of beauty and taste (sociology), taste, as well as the philosophy of art (its own area of philosophy that comes out of aest ...
than most other Germanic languages. While most of them have greatly reduced levels of
inflection In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical obj ...
(particularly noun
declension In linguistics, declension is the changing of the form of a word, generally to express its syntactic function in the sentence, by way of some inflection. The inflectional change of verbs is called Grammatical conjugation, conjugation. Declensions ...
), Icelandic retains a four-
case Case or CASE may refer to: Containers * Case (goods), a package of related merchandise * Case, the metallic enclosure component in modern firearm cartridge (firearms), cartridges * Bookcase, a piece of furniture used to store books * Briefcase or ...
syntheticA synthetic is an artificial material produced by organic chemistry, organic chemical synthesis. Synthetic may also refer to: In the sense of both "combination" and "artificial" * Synthetic chemical or synthetic compress, produced by the process ...
grammar (comparable to
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language The German la ...
, though considerably more conservative and synthetic) and is distinguished by a wide assortment of irregular declensions. Since the written language has not changed much, Icelanders can read classic
Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic languages, North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and t ...
literature created in the 10th through 13th centuries (such as the ''
Edda "Edda" (; Old Norse ''Edda'', plural ''Eddur'') is an Old Norse term that has been attributed by modern scholars to the collective of two Medieval Icelandic literary works: what is now known as the ''Prose Edda'' and an older collection of poems ...

Edda
s'' and
saga Sagas are prose Prose is a form of written (or spoken) language that usually exhibits a natural speech, natural flow of speech and Syntax, grammatical structure—an exception is the narrative device stream of consciousness. The word "prose" fi ...

saga
s) with relative ease. Icelandic is closely related to
Faroese Faroese ( ) or Faroish ( ) may refer to anything pertaining to the Faroe Islands, e.g.: *the Faroese language * the Faroese people {{Disambiguation Language and nationality disambiguation pages ...
; the written forms of the two languages are very similar, but their spoken forms are not
mutually intelligible In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include p ...
. It is not mutually intelligible with the continental Scandinavian languages (Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish) and is more distinct from the most widely spoken Germanic languages,
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
and
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language The German la ...

German
, than are those three. Aside from the 300,000 Icelandic speakers in Iceland, it is spoken by about 8,000 people in Denmark, 5,000 people in the United States, Based on 2000 US census data. and more than 1,400 people in Canada, notably in the region known as
New IcelandNew Iceland ( is, Nýja Ísland ) is the name of a region on Lake Winnipeg in the Canadian province Manitoba which was named for settlers from Iceland Iceland ( is, Ísland; ) is a Nordic countries, Nordic island country in the Atlantic Ocea ...
in
Manitoba Manitoba ( ) is a at the of the country. It is Canada's , with a population of 1,278,365 as of 2016. The easternmost of the three , Manitoba covers of widely varied landscape, from and the coastline in the to dense , large freshwater , and ...

Manitoba
which was settled by Icelanders beginning in the 1880s. The state-funded
Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies The Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies (''Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum'') is an institute of the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture of Iceland Iceland ( is, Ísland; ) is a Nordic countries, Nordic i ...
serves as a centre for preserving the medieval Icelandic manuscripts and studying the language and its literature. The Icelandic Language Council, comprising representatives of universities, the arts, journalists, teachers, and the Ministry of Culture, Science and Education, advises the authorities on
language policy Language policy is an interdisciplinary academic field. Some scholars such as Joshua A. Fishman and Ofelia García consider it as part of sociolinguistics Sociolinguistics is the descriptive study of the effect of any and all aspects of socie ...
. Since 1995, on 16 November each year, the birthday of 19th-century poet is celebrated as Icelandic Language Day.


History

The oldest preserved texts in Icelandic were written around 1100 AD. Many of the texts are based on poetry and laws traditionally preserved orally. The most famous of the texts, which were written in
Iceland Iceland ( is, Ísland; ) is a Nordic Nordic most commonly refers to: * Nordic countries, written in plural as Nordics, the northwestern European countries, including Scandinavia, Fennoscandia and the List of islands in the Atlantic Ocean#No ...

Iceland
from the 12th century onward, are the
Icelandic Sagas The sagas of Icelanders ( is, Íslendingasögur), also known as family sagas, are one genre of Icelandic sagas. They are prose narratives mostly based on historical events that mostly took place in Iceland Iceland ( is, Ísland; ) is a N ...
, which encompass the historical works and the eddaic poems. The language of the sagas is
Old Icelandic Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia Scandinavia; : ''Skades ...
, a western dialect of
Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic languages, North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and t ...
. The
Dano-Norwegian Dano-Norwegian ( Danish and no, dansk-norsk) was a koiné/ mixed language that evolved among the urban elite in Norwegian cities during the later years of the union between the Kingdoms of Denmark and Norway (1536/1537–1814). It is from this ...
, then later Danish rule of Iceland from 1536 to 1918 had little effect on the evolution of Icelandic (in contrast to the Norwegian language), which remained in daily use among the general population. Though more archaic than the other living Germanic languages, Icelandic changed markedly in pronunciation from the 12th to the 16th century, especially in vowels (in particular, ', ', ', and ''/''). The modern
Icelandic alphabet Icelandic refers to anything of, from, or related to Iceland and may refer to: *Icelandic people *Icelandic language *Icelandic alphabet *Icelandic cuisine See also

* Icelander (disambiguation) * Icelandic Airlines, a predecessor of Icelandai ...
has developed from a standard established in the 19th century, primarily by the Danish linguist
Rasmus Rask Rasmus Kristian Rask (; born Rasmus Christian Nielsen Rasch; 22 November 1787 – 14 November 1832) was a Danish linguist Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by huma ...
. It is based strongly on an
orthography An orthography is a set of for a , including norms of , ation, , , , and . Most transnational languages in the modern period have a system of , and for most such languages a standard orthography has been developed, often based on a of the la ...
laid out in the early 12th century by a document referred to as '' The First Grammatical Treatise'' by an anonymous author, who has later been referred to as the First Grammarian. The later Rasmus Rask standard was a re-creation of the old treatise, with some changes to fit concurrent
Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic languages ** List of ancient Germanic peoples and tribes * Germanic languages :* Proto-Germanic language, a reconstructed proto-language of ...

Germanic
conventions, such as the exclusive use of ' rather than '. Various archaic features, as the letter ', had not been used much in later centuries. Rask's standard constituted a major change in practice. Later 20th-century changes include the use of ' instead of ' and the removal of ' from the Icelandic alphabet in 1973. Apart from the addition of new vocabulary, written Icelandic has not changed substantially since the 11th century, when the first texts were written on vellum. Modern speakers can understand the original
sagas Sagas are prose stories and histories, composed in Iceland and to a lesser extent elsewhere in Scandinavia. The most famous saga-genre is the ''Íslendingasögur'' (sagas concerning Icelanders), which feature Viking voyages, migration to Iceland, ...
and
Edda "Edda" (; Old Norse ''Edda'', plural ''Eddur'') is an Old Norse term that has been attributed by modern scholars to the collective of two Medieval Icelandic literary works: what is now known as the ''Prose Edda'' and an older collection of poems ...

Edda
s which were written about eight hundred years ago. The sagas are usually read with updated modern spelling and footnotes but otherwise are intact (as with modern English readers of
Shakespeare William Shakespeare (bapt. 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English playwright, poet and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's national po ...

Shakespeare
). With some effort, many Icelanders can also understand the original manuscripts.


Legal status and recognition

According to an act passed by the
Parliament In modern politics and history, a parliament is a legislative body of government. Generally, a modern parliament has three functions: Representation (politics), representing the Election#Suffrage, electorate, making laws and overseeing the ...
in 2011, Icelandic is "the national language of the Icelandic people and the official language in Iceland"; moreover," blic authorities shall ensure that its use is possible in all areas of Icelandic society". Iceland is a member of the
Nordic Council The Nordic Council is the official body for formal inter-parliamentary Nordic cooperation among the Nordic countries. Formed in 1952, it has 87 representatives from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden as well as from the autonomous are ...

Nordic Council
, a forum for co-operation between the Nordic countries, but the council uses only Danish, Norwegian and Swedish as its working languages (although the council does publish material in Icelandic). Under the Nordic Language Convention, since 1987 Icelandic citizens have had the right to use Icelandic when interacting with official bodies in other Nordic countries, without becoming liable for any interpretation or translation costs. The convention covers visits to hospitals, job centres, the police and social security offices. It does not have much effect since it is not very well known, and because those Icelanders not proficient in the other Scandinavian languages often have a sufficient grasp of English to communicate with institutions in that language (although there is evidence that the general English skills of Icelanders have been somewhat overestimated). The Nordic countries have committed to providing services in various languages to each other's citizens, but this does not amount to any absolute rights being granted, except as regards criminal and court matters.Language Convention not working properly
, ''Nordic news'', March 3, 2007. Retrieved on April 25, 2007.
Helge Niska
"Community interpreting in Sweden: A short presentation"
International Federation of Translators The Fédération Internationale des Traducteurs (English: International Federation of Translators) is an international grouping of associations of translators, interpreters and terminologists. More than 100 professional associations are affiliate ...
, 2004. Retrieved on April 25, 2007.


Phonology

Icelandic has very minor
dialect The term dialect (from , , from the word , 'discourse', from , 'through' and , 'I speak') can refer to either of two distinctly different types of phenomena: * One usage refers to a of a that is a characteristic of a particular group of ...
al differences phonetically. The language has both
monophthong A monophthong ( ; , ) is a pure sound, one whose articulation at both beginning and end is relatively fixed, and which does not towards a new position of articulation. The monophthongs can be contrasted with s, where the vowel quality changes w ...
s and
diphthong A diphthong ( ; , ), also known as a gliding vowel, is a combination of two adjacent vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels are one of the two principal classes of spe ...
s, and consonants can be
voiced Voice or voicing is a term used in phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize i ...
or
unvoiced In linguistics, voicelessness is the property of sounds being pronounced without the larynx vibrating. Phonologically, it is a type of phonation, which contrasts with other states of the larynx, but some object that the word phonation implies voic ...
. Voice plays a primary role in the differentiation of most
consonant In articulatory phonetics The field of articulatory phonetics is a subfield of phonetics that studies articulation and ways that humans produce speech. Articulatory phoneticians explain how humans produce speech sounds via the interaction of d ...
s including the nasals but excluding the
plosives In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical ...
. The plosives ''b'', ''d'', and ''g'' are voiceless and differ from ''p'', ''t'', and ''k'' only by their lack of aspiration.
PreaspirationIn phonetics, preaspiration (sometimes spelled pre-aspiration) is a period of Voice (phonetics), voicelessness or Aspiration (phonetics), aspiration preceding the closure of a voiceless obstruent, basically equivalent to an -like sound preceding the ...
occurs before
geminate In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical p ...

geminate
(long or double consonants) ''p'', ''t'', and ''k''. It does not occur before geminate ''b'', ''d'', or ''g''. Pre-aspirated ''tt'' is analogous etymologically and phonetically to
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language The German la ...

German
and
Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () *Dutch language , spoken in Belgium (also referred as ''flemish'') Dutch may also refer to:" Castle * Dutch Castle Places * ...
''cht'' (compare Icelandic ', ' with the
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language The German la ...

German
', ' and the Dutch ', ').


Consonants

* are laminal
denti-alveolar In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ph ...
, is apical alveolar,, cited in are alveolar non-sibilant fricatives; the former is laminal, while the latter is usually
apical Apical means "pertaining to an Apex (disambiguation), apex". It may refer to: *Apical ancestor, refers to the last common ancestor of an entire group, such as a species (biology) or a clan (anthropology) *Apical (anatomy), an anatomical term of loc ...
. * The voiceless continuants are always constrictive , but the voiced continuants are not very constrictive and are usually to approximants than fricatives . * The rhotic consonants may either be trills or
taps "Taps" is a bugle call plays the bugle during the Gulf War, in March 1991. A bugle call is a short melody, tune, originating as a military Military communications, signal announcing scheduled and certain non-scheduled events on a military inst ...
, depending on the speaker. * A phonetic analysis reveals that the voiceless lateral approximant is, in practice, usually realised with considerable friction, especially word-finally or syllable-finally, i. e., essentially as a
voiceless alveolar lateral fricative The voiceless In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguisti ...

voiceless alveolar lateral fricative
. includes three extra phones: . Word-final voiced consonants are devoiced pre-pausally, so that ''dag'' ('day (acc.)') is pronounced as and ''dagur'' ('day (nom.)') is pronounced . Many competing analyses have been proposed for Icelandic phonemes. The problems stem from complex but regular alternations and mergers among the above phones in various positions.


Vowels


Grammar

Icelandic retains many grammatical features of other ancient
Germanic languages The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the northern Indian sub ...

Germanic languages
, and resembles
Old Norwegian nn, gamalnorsk , region = Kingdom of Norway (872–1397) The term Norwegian Realm (Old Norse: ''*Noregsveldi'', Norwegian Bokmål, Bokmål: ''Norgesveldet'', Norwegian Nynorsk, Nynorsk: ''Noregsveldet'') and Old Kingdom of Norway refer ...
before much of its fusional inflection was lost. Modern Icelandic is still a heavily inflected language with four cases:
nominative In grammar, the nominative case (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ), subjective case, straight case or upright case is one of the grammatical cases of a noun or other part of speech, which generally marks the subject (grammar), subject o ...
,
accusative The accusative case (abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full version of the word or phrase ...
,
dative In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as we ...
and
genitive In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as ...
. Icelandic nouns can have one of three
grammatical gender In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langua ...
s: masculine, feminine or neuter. There are two main declension paradigms for each gender: strong and weak nouns, and these are further divided into subclasses of nouns, based primarily on the ''genitive singular'' and ''nominative plural'' endings of a particular noun. For example, within the strong masculine nouns, there is a subclass (class 1) that declines with ''-s'' (') in the genitive singular and ''-ar'' (') in the nominative plural. However, there is another subclass (class 3) of strong masculine nouns that always declines with ''-ar'' (') in the genitive singular and ''-ir'' (') in the nominative plural. Additionally, Icelandic permits a quirky subject, i.e. certain verbs have subjects in an oblique case (i.e. other than the nominative). Nouns, adjectives and pronouns are declined in the four cases and for number in the singular and plural.
Verb A verb () is a word (part of speech) that in syntax conveys an action (''bring'', ''read'', ''walk'', ''run'', ''learn''), an occurrence (''happen'', ''become''), or a state of being (''be'', ''exist'', ''stand''). In the usual description of E ...
s are conjugated for tense, mood,
person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is ...
,
number A number is a mathematical object A mathematical object is an abstract concept arising in mathematics. In the usual language of mathematics, an ''object'' is anything that has been (or could be) formally defined, and with which one may do deduct ...
and
voice The human voice consists of sound Voice production, made by a human being using the vocal tract, including Speech, talking, singing, Laughter, laughing, crying, screaming, shouting, humming or yelling. The human voice frequency is specifically a ...
. There are three voices: active, passive and middle (or medial), but it may be debated whether the middle voice is a voice or simply an independent class of verbs of its own (because every middle-voice verb has an active ancestor but concomitant are sometimes drastic changes in meaning, and the middle-voice verbs form a conjugation group of their own). Examples are ' ("come") vs. ' ("get there"), ' ("kill") vs. ' ("perish ignominiously") and ' ("take") vs. ' ("manage to"). In each of these examples, the meaning has been so altered, that one can hardly see them as the same verb in different voices. Verbs have up to ten tenses, but Icelandic, like English, forms most of them with
auxiliary verb An auxiliary verb (abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full version of the word or phrase; ...
s. There are three or four main groups of weak verbs in Icelandic, depending on whether one takes a historical or a formalistic view: ', ', and ', referring to the endings that these verbs take when conjugated in the first person
singular Singular may refer to: * Singular, the grammatical number In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verb agreement (linguistics), agreement that expresses count distinctions (such as "one", ...
present. Some Icelandic
infinitive Infinitive (abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full version of the word or phrase; for exa ...
s end with the '
suffix In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languag ...
, some with ', two with ' (', ') one with ' (': "wash") and one with ' (the Danish borrowing ' which is probably withdrawing its presence). Many transitive verbs (i.e. they require an
object Object may refer to: General meanings * Object (philosophy), a thing, being, or concept ** Entity, something that is tangible and within the grasp of the senses ** Object (abstract), an object which does not exist at any particular time or pl ...
), can take a
reflexive pronoun In general linguistics, a reflexive pronoun, sometimes simply called a reflexive, is an anaphoric pronoun In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is a word or a group of words that one may subs ...
instead. The case of the pronoun depends on the case that the verb governs. As for further classification of verbs, Icelandic behaves much like other Germanic languages, with a main division between weak verbs and strong, and the strong verbs, of which there are about 150 to 200, are divided into six classes plus reduplicative verbs. They still make up some of the most frequently used verbs. (', "to be", is the example ''par excellence'', having two subjunctives and two imperatives in addition to being made up of different stems.) There is also a class of auxiliary verbs, called the ' verbs (4 or 5, depending who is counting) and then the oddity ' ("to cause"), called the only totally irregular verb in Icelandic although every form of it is caused by common and regular sound changes. The basic word order in Icelandic is
subject–verb–object In linguistic typology Linguistic typology (or language typology) is a field of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for ...
. However, as words are heavily inflected, the word order is fairly flexible, and every combination may occur in poetry; SVO, SOV, VSO, VOS, OSV and OVS are all allowed for metrical purposes. However, as with most Germanic languages, Icelandic usually complies with the
V2 word order In syntax In linguistics, syntax () is the set of rules, principles, and processes that govern the structure of Sentence (linguistics), sentences (sentence structure) in a given Natural language, language, usually including word order. The t ...
restriction, so the conjugated verb in Icelandic usually appears as the second element in the clause, preceded by the word or phrase being emphasised. For example: * ' (''I'' know it not.) * ' (''Not'' know I it. ) * ' (''It'' know I not.) * ' (I went to Britain when I was one year old.) * ' (To ''Britain'' went I, when I was one year old.) * ' (When I was one year old, went I to Britain.) In the above examples, the conjugated verbs ' and ' are always the second element in their respective clauses, see verb-second word order. A distinction between formal and informal address (
T–V distinction The T–V distinction is the contextual use of different pronouns that exists in some languages, and serves to convey formality or familiarity. Its name comes from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic lan ...
) had existed in Icelandic from the 17th century, but use of the formal variant weakened in the 1950s and rapidly disappeared. It no longer exists in regular speech, but may occasionally be found in pre-written speeches addressed to the bishop and members of parliament.


Vocabulary

Early Icelandic vocabulary was largely
Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic languages, North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and t ...
. The introduction of Christianity to Iceland in the 11th century brought with it a need to describe new religious concepts. The majority of new words were taken from other
Scandinavian languages The North Germanic languages make up one of the three branches of the Germanic languages—a sub-family of the Indo-European languages—along with the West Germanic languages and the extinct East Germanic languages. The language group is also r ...
; ' ("church"), for example. Numerous other languages have had their influence on Icelandic: brought many words related to the court and knightship; words in the
semantic field In , a semantic field is a lexical set of words grouped (by ) that refers to a specific subject.Howard Jackson, Etienne Zé Amvela, ''Words, Meaning, and Vocabulary'', Continuum, 2000, p14. The term is also used in ,Ingold, Tim (1996). ''Key deba ...
of trade and commerce have been borrowed from
Low German : : : : : , minority = (70,000) (30,000) (8,000) , familycolor = Indo-European , fam2 = Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic langua ...
because of trade connections. In the late 18th century, language purism began to gain noticeable ground in Iceland and since the early 19th century it has been the linguistic policy of the country (see linguistic purism in Icelandic). Nowadays, it is common practice to
coin A coin is a small, flat, (usually, depending on the country or value) round piece of metal A metal (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hell ...
new compound words from Icelandic derivatives. Icelandic personal names are
patronymic A patronymic, or patronym, is a component of a based on the of one's father, grandfather (avonymic), or an earlier male ancestor. A component of a name based on the name of one's mother or a female ancestor is a . A name based on the name of ...
(and sometimes
matronymic A matronymic is a personal name Image:FML names-2.png, 300px, First/given, middle and last/family/surname with John Fitzgerald Kennedy as example. This shows a structure typical for the Anglosphere, among others. Other cultures use other struct ...
) in that they reflect the immediate father or mother of the child and not the historic family lineage. This system, which was formerly used throughout the Nordic area and beyond, differs from most
Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Western Creek, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western Junction, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western world, countries that ide ...

Western
systems of
family name In some cultures, a surname, family name, or last name is the portion of one's personal name A personal name, or full name, in onomastic Onomastics or onomatology is the study of the etymology, history, and use of proper names. An ''wikt ...
. In most Icelandic families, the ancient tradition of patronymics is still in use; i.e. a person uses their father's name (usually) or mother's name (increasingly in recent years) in the genitive form followed by the morpheme -son ("son") or -dóttir ("daughter") in lieu of family names. In 2019, changes were announced to the laws governing names. Icelanders who are officially registered with
non-binary gender Non-binary or genderqueer is an umbrella term for gender identities Gender identity is the personal sense of one's own gender.''Sexual Orientation and Gender Expression in Social Work Practice'', edited by Deana F. Morrow and Lori Messinger ...
will be permitted to use the suffix ("child of") instead of or .


Cognates with English

As Icelandic shares its ancestry with
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
and both are
Germanic languages The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the northern Indian sub ...

Germanic languages
, there are many
cognate In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Itali ...
words in both languages; each have the same or a similar meaning and are derived from a common root. The possessive, though not the plural, of a noun is often signified with the ending ', as in English.
Phonological Phonology is a branch of that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sign system of any particular language variety. At on ...

Phonological
and orthographical changes in each of the languages will have changed spelling and pronunciation. A few examples are given below.


Language policy

A core theme of Icelandic language ideologies is grammatical, orthographic and lexical purism for Icelandic. This is evident in general language discourses, in polls, and in other investigations into Icelandic language attitudes. The general consensus on Icelandic language policy has come to mean that language policy and language ideology discourse are not predominantly state or elite driven; but rather, remain the concern of lay people and the general public. The Icelandic speech community is perceived to have a protectionist language culture; however, this is deep-rooted ideologically primarily in relation to the forms of the language, while Icelanders in general seem to be more “pragmatic” as to domains of language use.


Linguistic purism

During the 19th century, a movement was started by writers and other educated people of the country to rid the language of foreign words as much as possible and to create a new vocabulary and adapt the Icelandic language to the evolution of new concepts, thus avoiding the use of borrowed
neologism A neologism (; from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appro ...
s as are found in many other languages. Many old words which had fallen into disuse were recycled and given new senses in the modern language, and neologisms were created from Old Norse roots. For example, the word ' ("electricity"), literally means "amber power",
calquing In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...

calquing
the derivation of the
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
root "electr-" from Greek ' ("amber"). Similarly, the word ' ("telephone") originally meant "cord", and ' ("computer") is a
portmanteau A portmanteau (, ) or portmanteau word (from "portmanteau (luggage) A portmanteau is a piece of luggage Baggage or luggage consists of bags, cases, and containers which hold a travel Travel is the movement of people between distant ...

portmanteau
of ' ("digit; number") and ' ("seeress").


Writing system

The Icelandic alphabet is notable for its retention of two old letters that no longer exist in the
English alphabet The modern English alphabet is a Latin alphabet The Latin alphabet or Roman alphabet is the collection of letters originally used by the ancient Romans In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ...
: Þ, þ (, modern English "thorn") and (, anglicised as "eth" or "edh"), representing the
voiceless In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
and
voiced Voice or voicing is a term used in phonetics Phonetics is a branch of that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of s, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study th ...
"th" sounds (as in English ''thin'' and ''this''), respectively. The complete Icelandic alphabet is: The letters with diacritics, such as ' and ', are for the most part treated as separate letters and not variants of their derivative vowels. The letter ' officially replaced ' in 1929, although it had been used in early manuscripts (until the 14th century) and again periodically from the 18th century. The letter ', was once in the Icelandic alphabet, but officially got removed in 1973.


See also

* Basque–Icelandic pidgin (''a pidgin that was used to trade with basque people, Basque whalers'') * Icelandic exonyms * Icelandic literature * Icelandic name


References


Bibliography

* * * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* ''Icelandic: Grammar, Text and Glossary'' (1945; 2000) by Stefán Einarsson. Johns Hopkins University Press, .


External links


The Icelandic Language
an overview of the language from the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
BBC Languages – Icelandic, with audio samples

Icelandic: at once ancient and modern
a 16-page pamphlet with an overview of the language from the Icelandic Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, 2001.
The ''New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures'' in Icelandic
the modern bible translation, published by Jehovah's Witnesses, both printed and online versions, 2019.
Íslensk málstöð (The Icelandic Language Institute)
*
Lexicographical Institute of Háskóli Íslands / Orðabók Háskóla Íslands


Dictionaries


Icelandic-English Dictionary / Íslensk-ensk orðabók
Sverrir Hólmarsson, Christopher Sanders, John Tucker. Searchable dictionary from the University of Wisconsin–Madison Libraries
Icelandic – English Dictionary
from Webster's The Rosetta Edition, Rosetta Edition.
Collection of Icelandic bilingual dictionaries


by Richard Cleasby and Gudbrand Vigfusson {{DEFAULTSORT:Icelandic Language Icelandic language, West Scandinavian languages North Germanic languages Languages of Iceland Subject–verb–object languages Verb-second languages