Icelandic language

(redirected from Modern Icelandic)
Also found in: Acronyms.

Icelandic language,

member of the North Germanic, or Scandinavian, group of the Germanic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages. Spoken chiefly in Iceland, where it is the official language, it stems from Old Norse, the language of the Vikings who settled the island in the 9th cent. (see Germanic languagesGermanic languages,
subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages, spoken by about 470 million people in many parts of the world, but chiefly in Europe and the Western Hemisphere.
..... Click the link for more information.
; NorseNorse,
another name for the North Germanic, or Scandinavian, group of the Germanic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Germanic languages). The modern Norse languages—Danish, Faeroese, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish—all stem from an earlier
..... Click the link for more information.
). The beginning of the modern period of the Icelandic language may be said to date from the translation of the New Testament in 1540 by Oddur Gottskálksson. Before that date the language is considered Old Icelandic, which is classified as belonging to the western branch of Old Norse. Unlike the other Scandinavian languages, Icelandic is noted for its conservatism in grammar, vocabulary, and spelling. For instance, it still has three genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter) and four cases for nouns (nominative, genitive, dative, and accusative), which survive from Viking times. Verbs have a highly developed inflectional system. In matters of vocabulary, there has been a strong purist movement for several centuries. For example, instead of directly adopting modern scientific terms, Icelandic renders them by translations or by newly created compounds and expressions formed from native words. Actually, Modern Icelandic has changed so little from its parent language, Old Norse, in the course of the centuries that Icelanders today read the Eddas and sagas of Old Norse literature more easily than the English and the Americans read Shakespeare. One reason for the relative stability and purity of Icelandic is that its speakers lived for centuries in comparative isolation on an island and thus were not much influenced by other languages. The Roman alphabet came to Iceland c.1000, along with Christianity. To it have been added several symbols, including the edh (pronounced as the th in then) and the thorn (pronounced as the th in think). In addition, six letters may take the acute accent: á, é, í, ó, ú, and ý.


See S. Einarsson, Icelandic: Grammar, Texts, Glossary (1949); S. R. Anderson et al., ed., Modern Icelandic Syntax (1990).

Icelandic Language


the language of the Icelanders, related to the West Scandinavian subgroup of the Scandinavian group of Germanic languages.

Icelandic is spoken in Iceland (by about 200,000 persons) and among the Icelandic settlers in North America (about 40,000 persons). The oldest linguistic records are the skaldic poems of the ninth century, written down in the 13th century, and the oldest manuscripts date from the late 12th century. The Icelandic language of the 12th and 13th centuries was almost indistinguishable from Old Norwegian. Since then important phonetic changes have occurred in Icelandic, for example, the disappearance of nasal vowels, diphthongization of long vowels, transformation of length from a quality of vowels to a quality of syllables, and the appearance of preaspiration; its morphology—rich in inflectional forms—has remained almost unchanged. The modern orthography, developed in the early 19th century, is very similar to that of Old Icelandic. Its rich literary tradition enabled Icelandic to remain a literary language even in the period of Danish rule lasting from the late 14th to the early 20th century. The first printed books appeared in the 16th century. There are almost no loanwords in modern Icelandic; new concepts are expressed by means of word-building, suffixal word-formation, and the use of old words in a special modern sense. The language has almost no dialect differences.


Wessen, E. Skandinavskie iazyki. Moscow, 1949. (Translated from Swedish.)
Steblin-Kamenskii, M. I. Istoriia skandinavskikh iazykov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1953.
Steblin-Kamenskii, M. I. Drevneislandskii iazyk. Moscow, 1955.
Steblin-Kamenskii, M. I. Kul’tura Islandii. Leningrad, 1967.
Berkov, V. P., and A. Bodvarsson. Islandsko-russkii slovar’. Moscow, 1962,
Einarsson, S. Icelandic: Grammar, Texts, Glossary, 2nd ed. Baltimore, 1956.
Heusler, A. Altislandisches Elementarbuch, 4th ed. Heidelberg, 1950.
Cleasby, R., and G. Vigfusson. An Icelandic-English Dictionary, 2nd ed.Oxford, 1957.


References in periodicals archive ?
Heather O'Donoghue describes aspects of Norse mythology in the work of modern English and Scots poets, and Chiari Benati and Carolyne Larrington each discuss modern Icelandic murder/detective genre novels by, respectively, Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson and Arnaldur Indri[eth]ason, both of whom have produced plots concerned with Norse manuscripts in the twentieth century.
Ober, Bibliography of Modern Icelandic Literature in Translation 1981-1992.
The claim found in all synchronic descriptions of Modern Icelandic which we repeated above, i.e.
The well-known phenomenon of preaspiration in Modern Icelandic places what is normally regarded as the segment [h] before specified consonant combinations.
Phonetic descriptions (Kress 1982: 36; Gislason and prainsson 1993: 120) make it clear that long [1:] has a restricted distribution in Modern Icelandic. It appears in recent borrowings, e.g.: ball [pal:] 'ball', galla(buxur) [kal:a] 'blue jeans', or in hypocoristics, e.g.: Palli [[p.sup.h]al:I], Valla [val:a].
Our discussion of the dental preterite suffix in Modern Icelandic has forced us to clarify a few imprecise assumptions and to articulate several phonological regularities.
She was the first person to introduce me to both Old and Modern Icelandic and the present paper is dedicated to her memory with special gratitude.
One of the great figures in modern Icelandic literature, Laxness passed through several spiritual stages during the course of his literary career.
Specialists in skaldic poetry within such disciplines as English and other Germanic language and literature, and Medieval studies set out the Old Norse verses followed by modern Icelandic and English prose translations, and provide notes and commentary.
For the hero of Ovinafagnaour ("something that makes your enemy happy"), Einar Karason has chosen one of Sturla's grandchildren, Poror (Porour in modern Icelandic) Sighvatsson, who is known to us through the Porcoar saga kakala, a part of the Sturlunga saga.
Sigurdhur Palsson's latest collection of poems, Ljodhlinudans (Verse Line Dance), offers plenty of magical enjoyment, merriment, curious paradox, and lyric beauty to the reader of modern Icelandic verse.