The Icelandic language

The Icelandic language. Since the early nineteenth century, language purism has been the linguistic policy in the country. Icelandic-language-sign-Reykjanes-IcelandInstead of adopting foreign words for new concepts, new words (neologisms) are coined or old words revived and given a new meaning.

Neologisms are most often formed by joining existing words or parts of words together in a new way. A couple of examples:

• From the words veður and fræði (weather + science), the
neologism ‘veðurfræði’ (meteorology) was formed.
• From the words bíll and skúr (car + shed), the neologism
‘bílskúr’ (garage) was formed.


Culture fact :
The letter ‘Þ’ has been used continuously in Icelandic from the beginning. Icelanders adopted
the letter for manuscript writing, based on an English model, but the letter was also known in
the runic alphabet used by Nordic people before they adopted the Latin alphabet. The letter
‘Ð’ also originates in English writing. At least, it was used in Old English and Old Saxon and
is found in Icelandic manuscripts from the 13th century.

Icelandic belongs to the northern branch of Germanic languages within the Indo-European family of languages. Icelandic language is most closely related to Faroese and various West Norwegian dialects and more distantly related to Danish and Swedish. Other Germanic languages related to Icelandic include English, Dutch and German.

Cheers!: Skál!
Thank you: Takk
Sorry: Fyrirgefðu
Can I have .. : Get ég fengið

I don’t understand: Ég skil ekki
Bon apetit: Verði þér að góðu.
Do you speak English? Talarðu ensku?
Have a nice day: Eigðu góðan dag.
How much is this: Hvað kostar þetta?
Please say that again: Gæturðu sagt þetta aftur?
Please speak more slowly: Gæturðu talað hægar?
How do you say this in Icelandic? Hvernig segirðu þetta á íslensku?

As you have surely noticed, the Icelandic alphabet has several additional letters compared to the English.
The Icelandic alphabet:
Aa Áá Bb Dd Ðð Ee Éé Ff Gg Hh Ii Íí Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn
Oo Óó Pp Rr Ss Tt Uu Úú Vv Xx Yy Ýý Þþ Ææ Öö


Fun fact :
You will have truly mastered the Icelandic language when you can sip “kaffi” from a saucer through a “molasykur” between your teeth while saying: “Það er gott að sjá þig”.*

* kaffi = coffee – molasykur = sugar cube
Það er gott að sjá þig = It is nice to see you

Robert Asgeirsson


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