Icelandic

Litli Prinsinn — in Icelandic.

The Icelandic language, íslenska, is a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Iceland. It has the distinction of being one of the closest languages to Old Norse, the common Scandinavian language spoken by the Vikings, making it an important language for understanding historical Norse culture and literature. Despite Iceland’s relatively small population, Icelandic has maintained a strong presence, thanks in large part to vigorous language preservation efforts and the country’s deep cultural pride.

Icelandic originated from Old Norse, brought to Iceland by Norse settlers in the late 9th and early 10th centuries. Over the centuries, while other Scandinavian languages underwent significant changes, Icelandic retained many features of Old Norse, due in part to Iceland’s geographical isolation and its strong literary tradition.

Icelandic’s sound system includes distinctions between aspirated and unaspirated plosives (e.g., /pʰ/ vs. /p/) and a variety of vowel sounds, including nasal and rounded vowels. Notably, Icelandic uses pre-aspiration in some contexts, a rare feature globally. Icelandic is known for its complex grammar, characterized by four noun cases (nominative, accusative, dative, genitive), three genders (masculine, feminine, neuter), and strong and weak verb conjugations. The language has maintained the use of synthetic forms to express grammatical relationships, making it more inflectional than many other Indo-European languages.

The Icelandic alphabet is derived from the Latin alphabet, supplemented with some characters from Old Norse, including eth (Ð, ð) and thorn (Þ, þ), as well as letters for unique sounds like æ and ö.

Icelandic is the official language of Iceland and is used in all aspects of public life, including education, media, and government. The language is a critical element of Icelandic national identity, and there is widespread support for language preservation efforts. This includes policies aimed at protecting Icelandic from the encroachment of English, especially in technology and international business.