Some info about ICELANDIC
Who speaks Icelandic?
Íslenska is a Germanic language spoken mostly in Iceland. There are about 8,000 speakers of Icelandic living in Denmark, of whom approximately 3,000 are students. The language is also spoken by 5,000 people in the USA and by 2,100 in Canada (mostly in Gimli, Manitoba). Ninety-seven percent of the population of Iceland consider Icelandic their mother tongue, but in communities outside Iceland the usage of the language is declining. Extant Icelandic speakers outside Iceland represent recent emigration in almost all cases except Gimli, which was settled from the 1880s onwards.
Which family does Icelandic belong to?
It constitutes, together with Norwegian, the Western branch of the Nordic group. Brought to the island by the Norwegian settlers (the Vikings) at the end of the 9th century, it was initially identical to Old Norse; later it had its own evolution that differentiated it more and more from the original language. Icelandic, in its isolation, has kept most of the original features of Old Norse and has absorbed only marginally the changes that have occurred later in the other Nordic languages.
Although the Icelandic today is not fundamentally different from the Medieval language, insomuch as today's Icelandic schoolchildren read the texts of the Medieval literature without difficulty, it is possible to distinguish three different evolutionary stages: an Ancient phase (X-XIV cent.), divided in turn in an Archaic phase (X – mid XII cent.) and a Classical one (mid XII – mid XIV cent.), a Medium phase (mid XIV – mid XVI cent.) and a Modern one (since mid XVI cent.).
It was initially written in Runic characters, like Norwegian, but from the 12th century it adopted the Latin alphabet.
What are the main linguistic features of Icelandic?
The occupation of the island by Denmark led some innovation in the language, but almost exclusively in phonetic, while the influence in the morphological and syntactic structure were almost nonexistent. The phonetic evolution coincides with that of the Ancient Nordic until about 1350; later there was only one important change that is indeed common to almost all the Nordic languages: the unification of syllabic quantity consisting of the loss of the distinction between long syllables and short syllables traced all the long type.
Where does Icelandic come from?
- Enciclopedia Grolier