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Icelandic Profile

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Josquin
Heptaglot
Senior Member
Germany
Joined 4239 days ago

2266 posts - 3992 votes 
Speaks: German*, English, French, Latin, Italian, Russian, Swedish
Studies: Japanese, Irish, Portuguese, Persian

 
 Message 1 of 15
08 August 2012 at 7:22pm | IP Logged 
INTRODUCTION

Icelandic (íslenska) is a North-Germanic language, mainly spoken by the ca. 300,000 inhabitants of Iceland and another 15,000 people in Denmark, Canada, and the USA (so-called vestur-íslenskar). Icelandic is closely related to Faroese and, slightly less, to Nynorsk. To a somewhat lesser degree, Icelandic is also related to Swedish, Norwegian Bokmål, and Danish and - even less - to the other Germanic languages (English, Frisian, Dutch, German).

USEFULNESS

A working knowledge of Icelandic will only be useful in Iceland and in the Icelandic speaking communities of Canada and the USA. Icelandic children are taught English and Danish at school, and the Icelandic TV programme contains mainly English series and movies, so Icelanders tend to have a good proficiency in English as a second language – especially in the Reykjavík area. Icelanders are famous for answering in nearly perfect English when addressed in somewhat less perfect Icelandic.

Icelandic can be an interesting language, if you are also interested in Old Norse. Icelandic grammar is extremely conservative and nearly identical with Old Norse grammar. Prof. Arguelles states in his videos on Icelandic and Old Norse that "one can barely claim to speak two languages if you know both Icelandic and Old Norse". So, knowing Icelandic can be a stepping stone to the fascinating Viking culture and to famous literature as the Edda or the sagas.

CHIC FACTOR

There is a certain chic factor attributed to Icelandic. Iceland is a popular destination for tourists because of its spectacular landscape. Icelanders are very proud of their language, but only few foreigners speak Icelandic well, so mastering the language might gain you the respect and sympathy of Icelanders.

ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE

For many centuries, Iceland used to be a poor rural country, and the fishing industry is still an important economic branch. During the 20th century, however, Iceland developed into a wealthy, modern, and liberal society and used to be one of Europe’s flagship countries. The recent economic crisis hit the country hard and caused Icelandic banks to go bankrupt, but Iceland is back on its way to recovery.

TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES

- Reykjavík (capital and most cosmopolitan city of Iceland)
- Akureyri (second biggest city in the country and important port)
- Þingvellir (ancient meeting place of the Icelandic parliament, national park)
- Nature. Iceland is famous for its spectacular nature, which includes glaciers (Vatnajökull), geysers, lava fields, and waterfalls.

COUNTRIES

Iceland (official language), also spoken by immigrants in Denmark, Canada, and the USA.

SPEAKERS

About 320,000 native speakers worldwide.

VARIATIONS

There are no dialects of Icelandic, although there may be some minor differences in pronunciation between Northern and Southern Icelanders.

CULTURE

As already mentioned, Iceland used to be a rural society for centuries. There is only little traditional music and graphic art. The main Icelandic art form is the saga. The traditional Old Norse sagas were written down in the 13th century and handed down from one generation to the other. They are divided into the Kings' sagas (Konungasögur), Icelanders' sagas (Íslendinga sögur), Short tales of Icelanders (Íslendingaþættir), Contemporary sagas (Samtíðarsögur or Samtímasögur), Legendary sagas (Fornaldarsögur), and Chivalric sagas (Riddarasögur).

The Icelanders’ sagas are the most famous. They report stories from the time of the settlement of Iceland (landnám) in the 10th century and distinguish themselves by a terse, laconic, and very realistic narrative style that is unique in medieval literature. Other famous literary works from Viking times are the Edda and the works of Snorri Sturluson, such as the Heimskringla and the Prose Edda.

Icelandic literature was revived during the 19th century. The most famous modern Icelandic writer is the 1955 Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxness. Other contemporary authors are Einar Már Guðmundsson and Arnaldur Indriðason. Famous exponents of modern pop culture are the singer Björk and the group Sigur Rós. The painter Erró is the best-known modern Icelandic artist.

DIFFICULTIES

Icelandic is known as a "hard" language. The main difficulties for a learner are the following:

1) Pronunciation
2) Vocabulary
3) Vowel shifts
4) Declension
5) Strong verbs
6) Impersonal constructions

SPELLING AND PRONUNCIATION

Icelandic orthography is rather conservative and reflects Old Norse pronunciation. Arguably, pronunciation is the point in which Icelandic has developed farthest from Old Norse, so there are a lot of rules to learn before the learner can pronounce Icelandic words correctly. However, Icelandic orthography and pronunciation are not as complicated as English, Danish, or Faroese spelling and pronunciation.

Icelandic uses a modified Latin alphabet:
a, á, b, d, ð, e, é, f, g, h, i, í, j, k, l, m, n, o, ó, p, r, s, t, u, ú, v, x, y, ý, þ, æ, ö.
C, q, w, and z are only used in foreign words and names. Icelandic has two unique letters: ð (eð) and þ (þorn). They both denote a 'th' sound. While ð is a voiced th like in 'there', þ is an unvoiced th like in 'thing'.

Icelandic has some uncommon consonant sounds such as devoiced l, m, n, ng, and r. Moreover, the pronunciation of ll and nn causes many learners problems, because these digraphs denote the unvoiced plosives [tl̥] and [tn̥]. Another problem is the pre-aspiration of certain consonants.

Stress in Icelandic is always fixed on the first syllable. Vowels can be long or short, but length is not denoted by the acute accent! The acute accent in Icelandic distinguishes between different vowel sounds, e.g. u [ʏ(:)] and ú [u(:)]. Consonants can be long or short as well.

Colloquial Icelandic is often spoken rather fast and syllables are slurred a lot. This can make it difficult for the beginner to follow conversations, TV programmes, or radio.

VOCABULARY

Generally speaking, Icelandic shares a lot of its basic vocabulary with the other North Germanic languages and – to a lesser extent – with the other Germanic languages. However, due to linguistic purism, Icelandic has taken virtually no loanwords from other languages. That means the international terms for many modern inventions such as telephone, computer, electricity, or democracy are not applicable in Icelandic. Instead, new terms have been coined out of Old Norse words, or simple Icelandic words have been combined to express a new concept.

Thus: sími ('telephone') from an Old Norse word for 'thread', tölva ('computer') from tala 'number' and völva 'prophetess', rafmagn ('electricity') from raf 'amber' and magn 'power', lýðræði ('democracy') from lýður 'people' and ráða 'to decide'. So, Icelandic abstract expressions are very logical and easily understandable for Icelanders, but unfortunately hard to understand for language learners.

GRAMMAR

Icelandic is famous for its complex, archaic, and highly irregular grammar, which preserves all the complexities of Old Norse.

Nouns are divided into three genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter). They are declined in four cases (nominative, accusative, dative, genitive) and two numbers (singular and plural) according to 13 declension paradigms with several subgroups and exceptions (irregular nouns). Several paradigms show umlaut (vowel shift), which can make it hard to identify a noun. Some feminine nouns even have umlaut in the nominative case, so finding them in a dictionary is especially difficult.

Adjectives and pronouns are declined in the same genders, cases, and numbers as nouns, but according to different paradigms. Adjective declension distinguishes between strong and weak declension depending on whether the noun is definite or indefinite, similar as in German or Swedish. A speciality of Icelandic pronoun and adjective declension is the fact that all three genders are distinguished even in the plural, so 'they' can be either þeir (m.), þær (f.), or þau (n.). A group of persons with mixed sex is always referred to in the neuter, i.e. by þau.

There are two forms of the definite article: A suffixed and a freestanding article. Normally, only the suffixed article is used, but in formal language, the freestanding article may occur as well. The article is declined according to the same criteria as nouns, but in its own paradigm. There is no indefinite article.

Icelandic verbs are divided into two main groups: weak and strong verbs. They are conjugated in three persons, two numbers (singular and plural), three moods (indicative, subjunctive, imperative), three voices (active, middle, passive), and four tenses (present, perfect, past, pluperfect). The present tense is also used for denoting actions in the future. Additionally to the four official tenses, there may occur other constructions with auxiliary verbs that have the function of expressing tenses. Icelandic verbs can be affected by two types of umlaut (vowel shifts), moreover strong verbs show ablaut in the past tense and the past participle, similar to other Germanic languages. However, Icelandic verbs can change their appearance dramatically, so they may be hard to identify. E.g. vinna ('to win') becomes unnið ('won') in the past participle, because the initial v is assimilated by the stem vowel, which has undergone ablaut from i to u.

Icelandic abounds in impersonal constructions. While English sentences always require a subject to denote who is doing something, Icelandic can express action without denoting the subject by using passive constructions: Það er ekki flogið þangað ('There are no flights (to) there', literally: 'It is not flown to there'). Additionally, some verbs are constructed in a way that the logical subject of the sentence is in the accusative or dative case instead of the usual nominative. In this case, the verb appears in the third person singular, so there is no grammatical subject in the sentence: Mig langar í ís ('I long for ice-cream'/'I would like an ice-cream') is constructed as follows: Mig ('me', acc.) langar ('to long', 3rd pers. sg. pres.) í ('in') ís ('ice-cream', acc.). A literal translation might be something like: "To me is a longing for ice-cream."

BOOKS

1) Colloquial Icelandic (Daisy L. Neijmann)
- I have used this course and can highly recommend it. It comes with 2 CDs and a textbook.

2) Beginner’s Icelandic (Helga Hilmisdóttir, Jacek Kozlowski)

3) Teach Yourself Complete Icelandic (Hildur Jónsdóttir)

4) Learning Icelandic (Auður Einarsdóttir et al.)

5) Icelandic. Grammar, Text, and Glossary (Stefan Einarsson)
- Somewhat outdated, but still recommendable.

6) Langenscheidts Praktisches Lehrbuch Isländisch (Rita Duppler, Astrid van Nahl)

7) Lehrbuch der isländischen Sprache (Magnús Pétursson)

8) Isländische Grammatik (Bruno Kress)
- The best grammar of Icelandic. Unfortunately only in German and out of print.

9) Íslensk-Ensk orðabók (Sverrir Hólmarsson)
- The best Icelandic-English dictionary available

10) PONS Kompaktwörterbuch Deutsch-Isländisch
- German-Icelandic dictionary

11) Íslensk orðabók (Mörður Árnason)
- Monolingual Icelandic dictionary

LINKS

Icelandic-English online dictionary
Icelandic-Danish-Norwegian-Swedish online dictionary
Icelandic-German/German-Icelandic online dictionary
Free online course in Icelandic
Online audio course in Icelandic
Icelandic educational TV programme
Icelandic newspaper
Icelandic radio and TV
Icelandic sagas, stories, and Bible
Icelandic online bookshop

Edited by Josquin on 15 August 2012 at 4:37pm

16 persons have voted this message useful



Josquin
Heptaglot
Senior Member
Germany
Joined 4239 days ago

2266 posts - 3992 votes 
Speaks: German*, English, French, Latin, Italian, Russian, Swedish
Studies: Japanese, Irish, Portuguese, Persian

 
 Message 2 of 15
08 August 2012 at 7:24pm | IP Logged 
I have created a new profile for Icelandic. I have saved a copy of it on my PC just in case the forum should go down again. Everybody interested in Icelandic is welcome to add some information to the profile. I intend to add more resources for learners in the future.
2 persons have voted this message useful



a3
Triglot
Senior Member
Bulgaria
Joined 4651 days ago

273 posts - 370 votes 
Speaks: Bulgarian*, English, Russian
Studies: Portuguese, German, Italian, Spanish, Norwegian, Finnish

 
 Message 3 of 15
08 August 2012 at 8:56pm | IP Logged 
I knew I wouldn't be able to help opening this thread from the moment I saw its name, yet now I regret doing so, since it sparks a strong wanderlust. Conservative spelling, showing the state of the language some hundred years ago and a conservative morphology in step with this is not found in everylanguage. Add to this the fact that Icelandic is the single closesmost language to ProtoGerman and its neologisms with virtually no borrowed words (if the profile is correct) and you got me into wanderlust. I guess now I'll spend the next few days reading about íslenska.
1 person has voted this message useful



vermillon
Triglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 4073 days ago

602 posts - 1042 votes 
Speaks: French*, EnglishC2, Mandarin
Studies: Japanese, German

 
 Message 4 of 15
09 August 2012 at 1:54am | IP Logged 
How would you comopare the different books you mentioned? I'd be particularly interested in a comparison of the English ones versus the German ones.

As to the chic factor, I completely disagree. Even among my non-language-learning friends, Iceland is a country they dream of and speaking Icelandic sounds completely cool to them.
1 person has voted this message useful



Josquin
Heptaglot
Senior Member
Germany
Joined 4239 days ago

2266 posts - 3992 votes 
Speaks: German*, English, French, Latin, Italian, Russian, Swedish
Studies: Japanese, Irish, Portuguese, Persian

 
 Message 5 of 15
09 August 2012 at 3:42pm | IP Logged 
vermillon wrote:
How would you comopare the different books you mentioned? I'd be particularly interested in a comparison of the English ones versus the German ones.

As to the chic factor, I completely disagree. Even among my non-language-learning friends, Iceland is a country they dream of and speaking Icelandic sounds completely cool to them.

Thanks for your comment! Of the books mentioned I have only used Colloquial Icelandic, so I am not in the position to compare them. It would be very welcome if someone else could report about his experiences with different Icelandic courses.

I will rework the section about the chic factor. Thanks for your input!

Edited by Josquin on 09 August 2012 at 4:20pm

1 person has voted this message useful



Ari
Heptaglot
Senior Member
Norway
Joined 5977 days ago

2314 posts - 5695 votes 
Speaks: Swedish*, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Cantonese
Studies: Czech, Latin, German

 
 Message 6 of 15
09 August 2012 at 3:57pm | IP Logged 
Oh god damnit. Now I have to learn Icelandic.
4 persons have voted this message useful



Josquin
Heptaglot
Senior Member
Germany
Joined 4239 days ago

2266 posts - 3992 votes 
Speaks: German*, English, French, Latin, Italian, Russian, Swedish
Studies: Japanese, Irish, Portuguese, Persian

 
 Message 7 of 15
09 August 2012 at 5:40pm | IP Logged 
Little update: I have added some dictionaries and online resources. Additionally, I have reworked the section about Icelandic's "chic factor".

EDIT: I had to repair some links.

Edited by Josquin on 09 August 2012 at 7:02pm

1 person has voted this message useful



vermillon
Triglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 4073 days ago

602 posts - 1042 votes 
Speaks: French*, EnglishC2, Mandarin
Studies: Japanese, German

 
 Message 8 of 15
09 August 2012 at 8:43pm | IP Logged 
You may want to add "Learn Icelandic", which is produced in Iceland and targets an English speaking audience. As far as I can tell (that's the only book I've used to taste Icelandic), it is quite nice but probably doesn't get very far.

It's a two book pack, one contains texts the other grammar exercices.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Learning-Icelandic-Lessons-997932284 5-9979323175/dp/190494552X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1344537662 &sr=8-2


1 person has voted this message useful



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