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a language that existed until the mid-14th century. Old Icelandic was a direct continuation of those Norwegian dialects spoken by the emigrants from Norway who settled in Iceland in the ninth and tenth centuries. Old Icelandic belongs to the Western Scandinavian subgroup of the Germanic languages. Originally, there was no difference between Old Icelandic and Old Norwegian, which was also callednorrønt mat, or “northern speech.” Only through the course of time did the two languages become differentiated.
Old Icelandic has been studied better than other Old Germanic languages, since it manifested a rich and distinctive literature (the Icelandic sagas composed between the ninth and mid-11th centuries and written down mainly in the 13th century). The linguistic importance of Old Icelandic, not only for Scandinavian but also Germanic philology, lies in the fact that Old Icelandic (especially its grammatical structure) preserved features inherited from the Germanic parent language (for example, types of noun declension and special verbal governing features). The phonetic structure of Old Icelandic also contains a relatively large number of innovations; thus, the Old Icelandic sound system includes phonemes and diphthongs that originated as a result of positional phonetic changes (vowel mutations and vowel fractures).
The overwhelming majority of the Old Icelandic literary records were written in the 12th and 13th centuries in the Latin alphabet, which was supplemented by several new letters (such as æ, ø, Þ) borrowed from the Anglo-Saxon alphabet. The runic inscriptions found in Iceland are not numerous and belong primarily to a later period of time.
REFERENCESteblin-Kamenskii, M. I.Drevneislandskii iazyk. Moscow, 1955.
O. A. SMIRNITSKAIA