Icelandic is a Northern Germanic language with about 300,000
speakers in Iceland (Ísland), Canada (Kanada)
and the USA (Bandaríki Norður-Ameríku).
Icelandic is the closest of the Northern Germanic languages to Old
Norse and it is possible for Icelandic speakers to read the Old Norse
sagas in the original without too much difficulty.
The first permanent settlement in Iceland was established by Vikings
from Norway and Celts from the British Isles in 870 AD. The main language
of the settlers was Old Norse or the Dǫnsk tunga (Danish
tongue). A number of great literary works - the sagas - were written
by Icelanders during the 12th and 13th centuries. These sagas, many
of which were the work of unknown authors, were written in a language
very much like Old Norse. The greatest known authors from this period
were Ari the Learned (1068-1148) and Snorri Sturlson (1179-1241).
From 1262 until the 15th century, Iceland was governed by Norway, then
the Danes took over. During the periods of Norwegian and Danish rule,
Norwegian and Danish were used in Iceland, to some extent.
In 1944 Iceland gained its independence and Icelandic was revived as
an official and literary language. Today there is a flourishing publishing
industry in Iceland and Icelanders are probably the keenest readers
and writers in the world.
The letters C (se), Q (kú) and W (tvöfalt vaff) are also
used but only in foreign loanwords. The letter Z (seta) is no longer
used in Icelandic, except in the newspaper Morgunblaðið
Stressed vowels are long:
- in one-syllable words where the vowel is word-final;
- before a single consonant;
- before the consonant clusters pr, tr, kr, sr, pj, tj, sj, tv or kv
Elsewhere stressed vowels are short
Unstressed vowels are always short
nn = [tn] after an accented vowel or a diphthong
Sample text in Icelandic
Hver maður er borinn frjáls og jafn öðrum að virðingu og
réttindum. Menn eru gæddir vitsmunum og samvisku, og ber
þeim að breyta bróðurlega hverjum við annan.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)