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Icelandic (language)

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Icelandic is the North Germanic language spoken in Iceland. Written Icelandic has changed very little since the Viking era. As a result, people who speak modern-day Icelandic can still read the original sagas and Eddas that were written some eight hundred years ago. This old form of the language is called Old Norse.

Icelandic is notable for its retention of two old letters, , thorn and , edh, representing the voiceless and voiced "th" sounds. It also has letters in common with Scandinavian languages.

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


Icelandic phonology is somewhat unusual for European languages in having an aspiration contrast in its stops, rather than a voicing contrast. However, Icelandic non-stop phonemes exhibit regular voiced-vs.-unvoiced contrasts, including in nasals (rare in the world's languages). Additionally, length is contrastive for nearly all phonemes; voiceless sonorants (i.e. nasals & liquids) seem to be the only exception. The chart below was developed from data found at BRAGI (http://www2.hu-berlin.de/bragi/b0/b0_framburdur_de.htm) and related pages; refer to the SAMPA Chart article for information on values of the symbols.

  bilabial interdental dental palatal velar glottal
stops p / ph   t / th kj / kjh k / kh  
fricatives f / v T / D s C x / G h
nasals m / m.   n / n. J / J. N / N.  
semivowels w     j    
lateral     l / l.      
rhotic (trill)     r / r.      

highi / y u
mide / 2 o
low a 

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