TIED Home | Verbix Main Site
The Icelandic language

Group Germanic (with English, German, Gothic etc.), North Germanic (with Danish, Faroese etc.)
Geography The island of Iceland only
History The direct descendant of the Old Norse language which is also called Old Icelandic. Vikings from Norway and Denmark settled on the island since 874. In about 930 the country was fully colonized by them. After three centuries of independence Iceland falls under the rule of Norway, later becomes a Danish territory. The modern Icelandic tongue forms in the 16th century, though it is very difficult to draw the exact line.
Phonetics Comparing to the Old Icelandic language, there are some slight changes in phonology: short vowels became long when stressed; several vowels lost their labialization (y > [i]). The ending -r acquired a prothetic vowel -u- before it (vegr > vegur 'way'). Icelandic possesses a rare feature called preaspiration: initial consonants have an aspiration before them (ntt [nouht] 'night').
Nominal Morphology The noun has 2 numbers, 4 cases, and 3 genders. The number of types of declension, including the individual peculiarities of some nouns, reaches 20. Icelandic does not have an indefinite article, the only article is definite and is situated after the noun. The adjectival declension is also interesting, for in the plural of adjectives each gender has its endings, so when saying goodbye to a few men one says blessair, to women blessaar, to a company of both blessu (a neuter form). 
Verbal Morphology The verb has a rich system of conjugation: 3 persons, 2 numbers, 3 moods, 3 voices. All of them are formed flectively. Verbs can be strong, weak and preterite-present (the same three groups in Old English). The mutations in the root are very important (taka 'to take' - tekur 'you take').
Lexicon The main peculiarity of the Icelandic vocabulary is that it remains extremely rich - Icelanders read quite a lot, plenty of ordinary people in the country are fond of writing verse. This is why the ancient lexicon of sagas is preserved in mind of the people. The second trait is the purity of the language - no words are borrowed, modern terms are made up using the Icelandic elements.
Writing Runic alphabets, later Latin alphabet
Close Contacts Very close to Norwegian, even more to Faroese.
Sample .


Picture Iceland
More info