Icelandic – a language with a strong heritage

Icelandic – a language with a strong heritage

Icelandic – a language with a strong heritage

Article by Asberg Jonsson

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 language.

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.

About the Author

Asberg Jonsson is the manager of Iceland Visitor, a company specializing in packages for Vacation in Iceland and day tours in Iceland. For more information visit

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