There are many interesting languages across the globe, but Icelandic stands out when it comes to languages spoken in Europe. Historically, it was the westernmost Indo-European language until the 14th century! It is still a rather mysterious language as well as culture. Let us take a look at some of the interesting facts about Icelandic!

…did you know?

  • Icelandic is a North Germanic language, further categorised as Insular Nordic, closely related to Faroese. Even though it belongs to the same language family as German and English, it is probably the farthest German language from those two.
  • It is spoken by over 300 000 persons inhabiting Iceland as well as several thousand in Denmark, USA and Canada. Nearly all citizens declare this language as their mother tongue.
  • The Icelandic Language Day is celebrated on 16 November. It is also the birthday of a prominent poet and naturalist, Jónas Hallgrímsson. His actions contributed to the Icelandic Independence Movement and appreciation of national values among Icelanders.
  • The language is so conservative, that modern speakers of Icelandic can rather effortlessly read classic literary works written in Old Norse, even from the 10th or 13th century!

Language peculiarities

  • Although Western European languages have a tendency of reducing inflection, Icelandic retains a four-case synthetic grammar system. It is similar to German, but much more conservative and synthetic.
  • Icelandic learners get real headaches from memorising a vast body of irregular declensions and many instances of oblique cases without any governing word.
  • When it comes to phonology, there are not too many dialectal differences. Voicing plays a paramount role in pronunciation of most consonants.
  • The dominant word order in Icelandic is subject–verb–object. However, the heavy inflection allows for many variations in the word order within a sentence.
  • The 19th-century language purism movement led to a reinvention of many modern words. Neologisms and borrowings were replaced by coined words or dated vocabulary with a new meaning.
  • The Icelandic alphabet is unique property is the presence of two old letters which no longer exist in the English alphabet: Þ, þ and Ð, ð, the voiceless and voiced “th” sounds respectively.

As you can see from such brief pieces of information, Icelandic is a very peculiar language. It deserves special attention, particularly in a year devoted to languages by the UN. If you would like to translate your documents into Icelandic or wish to understand Icelandic literary works, our translators will gladly assist you.

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