Icelandic – a Language With a Strong He ritage (and a puristic language policy)

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Oct 8 12:59:14 UTC 2007

Icelandic – a Language With a Strong Heritage

Posted by EditorsChoice
Sunday, 07 October 2007

The popularity of Iceland's tourism sector is growing day by day and
this ever increasing popularity is encouraging more and more people to
turn towards this small country in northern Europe to spend their
summer and winter holidays. If you are planning to go in summer, which
is the best time to visit there, you must take care of necessary
reservations of flights and accommodations in hotels. Also do not
forget to book the tickets of cultural and art shows that take place
there in summer season only. Through these shows one can get the
closer view of Iceland and its language.

The most used language of Iceland is "the Icelandic" and it is one of
the very famous Nordic languages group. This group is the sub-group of
the Germanic languages. Normally, Germanic language is divided into
two groups i.e. North Germanic or Nordic languages and West Germanic.
Iceland was first inhabited in around 870 A.D and most of the first
visitors were from Norway [west Norway], Sweden and Ireland. Some
Celtics were also in the earliest arrivals to Iceland. The language
that became the most popular in Iceland was that of the people of
Norway. Some traces of Celtic language are also visible in Icelandic
language. The only words borrowed from Celtic language are some
personal names and some names of places. Till 14th century Icelandic
and Norwegian language was almost same. It was after 14th century that
they became totally different from each other. This change occurred
due to significant changes in the language of Norway. Icelandic
language didn't change and this was due to rich Icelandic literature
that was written in read in the same language in 12th and 13th
centuries. Now it is said that not even a single word has changed in
Icelandic language that's why the texts written in twelfth century can
be read by a ten year boy even now. Another quality of Icelandic
language is its uniformity i.e. the absence of dialects. But,
Icelandic language has seen a huge change in its phonetics.

Because of its closeness to North America Icelandic is quite popular
there. There are many in North America that speaks Icelandic language.
These communities came into existence because there was huge
immigration of people between Iceland, Canada and America right from
the final 25 years of nineteenth century and the initial years of
twentieth century. The first immigration is said to have started as
early as 1855 but it started on huge amount only after 1870. It is
said that first small colony of Icelanders was set around Lake
Michigan in Washington in 1870. In 1875, Icelanders reached Canada and
formed their first colony there on the west shore of Lake Winnipeg
"also called new Iceland". Many of same colonies were formed in
Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Till now also hundreds and
thousands of people there can still read, write and speak Icelandic

Since nineteenth century, language purism has been the national policy
of the government of Iceland. According to this policy, they have
decided that instead of using foreign words for new things they will
coin the new words [neologism] or will revive the old words and use
them after giving then new meanings. The Icelandic committee for
language is responsible to guide government and public in general
regarding the matters of language based on scholarly basis.

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