Icelandic language

Native toIceland
Native speakers
358,000 (2013)[1][2]
Early forms
Latin (Icelandic alphabet)
Icelandic Braille
Official status
Official language in
Regulated byÁrni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies in an advisory capacity
Language codes
isl (T)
ISO 639-3isl
Idioma islandés.PNG
The Icelandic-speaking world:
  regions where Icelandic is the language of the majority
  regions where Icelandic is the language of a significant minority
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Icelandic (k/ (About this soundlisten); Icelandic: íslenska pronounced [ˈistlɛnska] (About this soundlisten)) is a North Germanic language spoken in Iceland. Along with Faroese, Norn, and Western Norwegian it formerly constituted West Nordic; while Danish, Eastern Norwegian and Swedish constituted East Nordic. Modern Norwegian Bokmål is influenced by both groups, leading the Nordic languages to be divided into mainland Scandinavian languages and Insular Nordic (including Icelandic).

Most Western European languages have greatly reduced levels of inflection, particularly noun declension. In contrast, Icelandic retains a four-case synthetic grammar comparable to German, though considerably more conservative and synthetic. Icelandic is distinguished by a wide assortment of irregular declensions. Icelandic also has many instances of oblique cases without any governing word, much like Latin. The conservatism of the Icelandic language and its resultant near-isomorphism to Old Norse (which is equivalently termed Old Icelandic by linguists) means that modern Icelanders can easily read the Eddas, sagas, and other classic Old Norse literary works created in the tenth through thirteenth centuries.

Icelandic is closely related to, but not mutually intelligible with, the Faroese language. It is not mutually intelligible with the continental Scandinavian languages, and is farther away from the most widely spoken Germanic languages English and German than those three are.

The vast majority of Icelandic speakers—about 320,000—live in Iceland. More than 8,000 Icelandic speakers live in Denmark,[4] of whom approximately 3,000 are students.[5] The language is also spoken by some 5,000 people in the United States[6] and by more than 1,400 people in Canada,[7] notably in the province of Manitoba. While 97% of the population of Iceland consider Icelandic their mother tongue,[8] the language is in decline in some communities outside Iceland, particularly in Canada. Icelandic speakers abroad represent recent emigration in almost all cases except Gimli, Manitoba, which was settled from the 1880s onwards.

The state-funded Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies serves as a centre for preserving the medieval Icelandic manuscripts and studying the language and its literature. The Icelandic Language Council, comprising representatives of universities, the arts, journalists, teachers, and the Ministry of Culture, Science and Education, advises the authorities on language policy. Since 1995, on 16 November each year, the birthday of 19th-century poet Jónas Hallgrímsson is celebrated as Icelandic Language Day.[8][9]


A page from the Landnámabók, an early Icelandic manuscript.

The oldest preserved texts in Icelandic were written around 1100 AD. Many of the texts are based on poetry and laws traditionally preserved orally. The most famous of the texts, which were written in Iceland from the 12th century onward, are the Icelandic Sagas. They comprise the historical works and the eddaic poems.

The language of the sagas is Old Icelandic, a western dialect of Old Norse. The Dano-Norwegian, then later Danish rule of Iceland from 1536 to 1918 had little effect on the evolution of Icelandic (in contrast to the Norwegian language), which remained in daily use among the general population. Though more archaic than the other living Germanic languages, Icelandic changed markedly in pronunciation from the 12th to the 16th century, especially in vowels (in particular, á, æ, au, and y/ý).

The modern Icelandic alphabet has developed from a standard established in the 19th century, primarily by the Danish linguist Rasmus Rask. It is based strongly on an orthography laid out in the early 12th century by a mysterious document referred to as The First Grammatical Treatise by an anonymous author, who has later been referred to as the First Grammarian. The later Rasmus Rask standard was a re-creation of the old treatise, with some changes to fit concurrent Germanic conventions, such as the exclusive use of k rather than c. Various archaic features, as the letter ð, had not been used much in later centuries. Rask's standard constituted a major change in practice. Later 20th-century changes include the use of é instead of je and the removal of z from the Icelandic alphabet in 1973.[10]

Apart from the addition of new vocabulary, written Icelandic has not changed substantially since the 11th century, when the first texts were written on vellum.[11] Modern speakers can understand the original sagas and Eddas which were written about eight hundred years ago. The sagas are usually read with updated modern spelling and footnotes but otherwise intact (as with modern English readers of Shakespeare). With some effort, many Icelanders can also understand the original manuscripts.

Other Languages
Адыгэбзэ: Ислэндбзэ
Afrikaans: Yslands
አማርኛ: አይስላንድኛ
aragonés: Idioma islandés
asturianu: Idioma islandés
azərbaycanca: İsland dili
تۆرکجه: ایسلند دیلی
Bân-lâm-gú: Peng-tó-gí
беларуская: Ісландская мова
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Ісьляндзкая мова
български: Исландски език
Boarisch: Isländisch
bosanski: Islandski jezik
brezhoneg: Islandeg
català: Islandès
Чӑвашла: Исланд чĕлхи
čeština: Islandština
Cymraeg: Islandeg
davvisámegiella: Islánddagiella
dolnoserbski: Islandšćina
Esperanto: Islanda lingvo
estremeñu: Luenga islandesa
euskara: Islandiera
Fiji Hindi: Icelandic language
føroyskt: Íslendskt mál
français: Islandais
Frysk: Yslânsk
Gaelg: Eeslynnish
Gàidhlig: Innis-Tìlis
贛語: 冰島語
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Pên-tó-ngî
հայերեն: Իսլանդերեն
hornjoserbsce: Islandšćina
hrvatski: Islandski jezik
Bahasa Indonesia: Bahasa Islandia
isiZulu: Isi-Icelandic
íslenska: Íslenska
עברית: איסלנדית
kalaallisut: Islandimiusut
қазақша: Исланд тілі
kernowek: Islandek
Kiswahili: Kiiceland
Кыргызча: Исланд тили
Lëtzebuergesch: Islännesch
lietuvių: Islandų kalba
Limburgs: Ieslandjs
Lingua Franca Nova: Islansce (lingua)
Livvinkarjala: Islandien kieli
македонски: Исландски јазик
Malagasy: Fiteny islandey
მარგალური: ისლანდიური ნინა
Bahasa Melayu: Bahasa Iceland
Nederlands: IJslands
Nedersaksies: Ieslaans
Nordfriisk: Isluns
norsk: Islandsk
norsk nynorsk: Islandsk
occitan: Islandés
олык марий: Исланд йылме
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Island tili
پنجابی: آئیسلینڈی
ភាសាខ្មែរ: ភាសាអាយឡែន
Piemontèis: Lenga islandèisa
Tok Pisin: Tok Aislan
Plattdüütsch: Ieslannsche Spraak
português: Língua islandesa
qırımtatarca: İsland tili
Runa Simi: Islandya simi
Seeltersk: Iesloundsk
sicilianu: Lingua islannisa
Simple English: Icelandic language
slovenčina: Islandčina
slovenščina: Islandščina
српски / srpski: Исландски језик
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Islandski jezik
svenska: Isländska
татарча/tatarça: Исланд теле
Türkçe: İzlandaca
українська: Ісландська мова
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: ئىسلاندىيە تىلى
vepsän kel’: Islandijan kel'
Tiếng Việt: Tiếng Iceland
吴语: 冰岛语
粵語: 冰島文
Zazaki: İslandki
žemaitėška: Islandu kalba
中文: 冰岛语