Languages with Few Speakers Icelandic

About the language Icelandic spoken in Iceland, history, trivia, and examples.

RARELY HEARD LANGUAGES

ICELANDIC

Pott pu langforull legoir

serhvert land undir fot,

bera hugur og hjarta

sampt pins heimaland mot,

fraenka eldfjalls og ishafs,

sifji arfoss og hvers,

dottir langholts og lyngmos,

sonur landvers og skers.

Yfir heim eoa himin

hvort sem hugar pin ond,

skreyta fossar og fjallshlio

oll pin framtioarlond.

Fjarst i elifoar utsae

vakir eylendan pin:

nottlaus voraldar verold,

par sem viosynio skin.

Pao er oskaland islenzkt,

sem ao yfir pu byr--

Aoeins blomgroin bjorgin,

serhver baldjokull hlyr.

Fraenka eldfjalls og ishafs,

sifji arfoss og hvers,

dottir langholts og lyngmos,

sonur landvers og skers.

Though you wayfaring wander

all the world to explore,

yet your mind has been molded

by your Motherland's shore,

kin of ice and volcano,

child of stream and defile,

daught'r of lava and ling-moor,

son of inlet and isle.

Over earth, over heaven,

though your heart may aspire,

yet will cascades and mountains

stud the land you desire.

In the ocean eternal

lies your isle, grit with brine:

nightless world of spring's wonders

where the grand vistas shine.

For the land of your wishes

has an Icelandic form,

but the rocks grow with flowers

and the glaciers are warm,

kin of ice and volcano,

child of stream and defile,

daught'r of lava and ling-moor,

son of inlet and isle.

--Stephan G. Stephansson,

From A Speech on Icelanders' Day

Icelandic is spoken by the 200,000 inhabitants of Iceland. It is one of the Scandinavian languages, which form a branch of the Germanic languages, in turn a part of the Indo-European family.

Icelandic is remarkably similar to Old Norse, the language of the Vikings, which was brought to Iceland from Norway in the 9th century. Whereas the other Scandinavian languages have been strongly influenced by those of neighboring countries, Icelandic, insular and isolated, has retained its pristine character over the centuries. As a result Icelandic schoolchildren today have no difficulty reading the Eddas and the sagas, the great epics written in Old Norse. Their language is a sort of parent tongue to the other modern Scandinavian languages. It also has many features in common with Old English, the result of the Viking invasions of Britain in the 9th century.

Another factor behind the purity of Icelandic is the absence of international words. Wherever possible, Icelanders prefer to coin their own purely Icelandic words instead. Thus "telephone" in Icelandic is simi, an old Icelandic word for "thread" or "wire." The word for "radio" is utvarp ("broadcast"). "Automobile" is bill, but may also be bifreio ("moving ride"). "Electricity" is rafmagn ("amber power").

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