Icelandic language

From Academic Kids

Icelandic (slenska)
Spoken in: Iceland
Region: Iceland
Total speakers: 300,000
Ranking: Not in top 100
Genetic classification: Indo-European
  North Germanic
   West Scandinavian
Official status
Official language of: Iceland
Regulated by: slensk mlst (The Icelandic Language Institute) (
Language codes
ISO 639-1is
ISO 639-2isl
See also: LanguageList of languages

Icelandic (slenska) is a North Germanic language spoken in Iceland. It is an inflected language with four cases: nominative, accusative, dative and genitive.

While most Western European languages have reduced greatly the extent of inflection, particularly in noun declension, Icelandic retains an inflectional grammar comparable to that of Latin, Ancient Greek, or more closely, Old English.

Written Icelandic has changed relatively little since the 13th century. As a result of this, and of the similarity between the modern and ancient grammar, modern speakers can still read, more or less, the original sagas and Eddas that were written some eight hundred years ago. This old form of the language is called Old Icelandic, but also commonly equated to Old Norse (an umbrella term for the common Scandinavian language of the Viking era).

Icelandic orthography is notable for its retention of two old letters which no longer exist in the English alphabet: (thorn) and (eth or edh), representing the voiceless and voiced "th" sounds as in English thin and this respectively. The complete Icelandic alphabet is: Aa Bb Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Xx Yy

The preservation of the Icelandic language is taken seriously by the Icelanders — rather than borrow foreign words for new concepts, new Icelandic words are diligently forged for public use.

Icelandic does not have any appreciable dialect differences.



Template:IPA notice Icelandic phonology is somewhat unusual for European languages in having an aspiration contrast in its stops, rather than a voicing contrast (though, in fact, English exhibits some characteristics of such a contrast). However, Icelandic continuant phonemes exhibit regular contrasts in voice, including in nasals (rare in the world's languages). Additionally, length is contrastive for nearly all phonemes; voiceless sonorant consonants seem to be the only exception. The chart below was developed from data found at BRAGI ( and related pages; refer to the IPA article for information on the sounds of the following symbols:


  Bilabial Interdental Dental Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive (Stop) p / pʰ   t / tʰ c / cʰ k / kʰ  
Nasal m / m.   n / n. ɲ / ɲ. ŋ / ŋ.  
Rhotic (Trill)     r / r.      
Fricative f / v θ / s x / ɣ h
Lateral Fricative     ɬ / ɬ.      
Semivowel w     j    
Lateral Approximatant     l / l.      



  Front   Back
Close i   u
    ɪ • ʏ  
Close-mid e* • *   o*
Open-mid ɛ • œ   ɔ
Open a    

Where symbols appear in pairs, the one to the right represents a rounded vowel.

(*only as first member in diphthongs ei, i/y, ou)


Many German speakers will find Icelandic morphology familiar. Almost every morphological category in one language is represented in the other. Nouns are declined for case, number and gender, adjectives for case, number, gender and comparison, and there are two declensions for adjectives, weak and strong. Icelandic possesses only the definite article, which can stand on its own, or be attached to its modified noun (as in other North-Germanic languages). Verbs are conjugated for tense, mood, person, number and voice. There are three voices, active, passive and medial, but it may be debated, whether the medial voice is a voice or simply an independent class of verbs of its own. There are only two simple tenses, past and present, but to make up for that there are a number of auxiliary constructions, some of which may be regarded as tenses, other as aspects to varying degrees.


Icelandic is SVO, generally speaking, but the inflectional system allows for quite some freedom in word order.

Icelandic sign language

The icelandic sign language is based on the Danish sign language (in fact, until 1910, deaf Icelandic people were sent to school in Denmark), but has changed and developed, so it is not the same anymore today. It is regulated by a national committee.

Also see

External links


cs:Islandština de:Islndische Sprache el:Ισλανδική γλώσσα es:Idioma islands eo:Islanda lingvo fr:Islandais gl:Islands id:Bahasa Islandia is:slenska it:Lingua islandese la:Lingua Islandensis lt:Islandų kalba li:Ieslands nl:IJslands ja:アイスランド語 nb:Islandsk sprk nn:Islandsk sprk pl:Język islandzki pt:Lngua islandesa ro:Limba islandeză ru:Исландский язык se:Islnddagiella simple:Icelandic language sl:Islandščina fi:Islannin kieli sv:Islndska zh:冰岛语


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