Icelandic language

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Icelandic (íslenska)

Spoken in

speaker About 310,000
Official status
Official language in IcelandIceland Iceland Nordic Council
North symbol.svg
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2 ( B ) ice ( T ) isl
ISO 639-3


Icelandic (Icelandic íslenska ) is a language from the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family . It is the official language in Iceland . Icelandic is currently spoken by a little over 300,000 people.


Today's Icelandic goes back to Old Icelandic , which was spoken and written in the High and Late Middle Ages. The settlers of Iceland came to a large extent from the southwest coast of Norway , which is why Old Icelandic and Old Norwegian differed only marginally and today there is still the comparatively closest proximity between the south-west Norwegian dialects, Icelandic and Faroese . However, the isolation of Iceland has led to the fact that (together with Faroese) it has hardly changed in the field of form theory ( morphology ) over the last thousand years and thus still resembles Old Norse today . Grammatical peculiarities that were reduced or completely abandoned in other languages ​​in the course of their development have largely been retained in Icelandic, whereas the sound system - especially vowelism - has changed considerably.

In the course of the early modern period, Icelandic was subject to many influences from Danish and Low German . Such was the translation of the New Testament of oddur gottskálksson 1,540 strong Danish-German influences (many with for- präfigierte verbs such forheyra, forganga, forlíkja, fornema, forblinda, forlíta etc., then about blífa, skikka, Bitala, Dara, slekti etc.). The translation of Corvinus Postilla (1546) introduced other Teutonisms such as bíkenna, innplantaður, fortapaður . The correspondence of Bishop Gissur Einarsson von Skálholt (16th century) also shows numerous Low German influences such as hast, forskulda, fornægilse, bilæti, hýra and befalning . Only the translation of the Bible by Bishop Guðbrandur Þorláksson from 1584 shows less foreign influence. Halldór Hermannsson describes the 17th century as the “steady decline of the language”. At the same time, however, the collection of old writings began, and three dictionaries (1650, 1654/83, 1691) and the grammar of Runólfur Jónsson (1651) indicate the first counter-movements. Reports from Eggert Ólafsson and Björn Pálsson, who traveled to Iceland in the 18th century with the support of the Danish Academy of Sciences , and from Árni Magnússon and Páll Vídalín said that “best, purest” Icelandic is spoken in the east of the island, and good in the north too whereas the south was "completely corrupted" under the influence of the traders, the Latin school in Skálholt and the Reformation. In the north, on the other hand, the press in Hólar supports the custom of reading the old saga literature aloud, the old language. Eggert Ólafsson showed great commitment to the Icelandic language, but had to publish a glossary for his works to explain his archaic vocabulary and spelling. On the other hand, the Rector von Skálholt pleaded for the full introduction of Danish at this time. On the part of Denmark, however, there were never any attempts to danish Iceland; Rather, several royal rescripts (1743 on the school, 1751 on the bilingualism of laws, 1753 on the use of Icelandic in petitions) aimed to establish the rights of Icelandic - intentions which, of course, were often insufficiently implemented in practice.

The turning point came around 1800: In 1779 the Icelandic Literature Society (Hið íslenzka Lærdómslistafélag) was founded; In 1811 Rasmus Christian Rask - who on his previous visit to the island had wondered about the Icelandic-Danish mixed language in Reykjavík - published his Old Icelandic grammar (Vejledning til det islandske eller gamle nordiske Sprog), in 1814 Björn Halldórsson his trilingual Lexicon Islandico-Latino-Danicum , and in 1814/18 Rask won the Royal Danish Academy's prize question on Old Norse with his writing Undersøgelse om det gamle nordiske eller islanske Sprogs Oprindelse ("Investigation into the origin of the old Nordic or Icelandic language"). During a visit to Iceland he was appalled by the state of the language in the south of the island, whereupon he founded the Icelandic Literary Society in 1816. In the same year the Icelandic Bible Society published a new, linguistically accurate translation of the Holy Scriptures, which was followed by further revisions at short intervals. In 1835 the language care publication Fjölnir was founded. From 1844, Danish officials in Iceland had to master the national language, and in 1848 a professorship in Icelandic was established at the University of Copenhagen. On the other hand, there was a long argument about the orthography: After the capitalization of nouns and the letter combination aa for old á had spread in connection with the translation of the Bible according to the Danish model , there was a return to the old Icelandic spelling in the early 19th century : For example, in 1827 the Íslenzka Bókmentafélag reintroduced the letter ð . Other attempts, for example by Konráð Gíslason and on the journalistic side, to adapt the spelling to the real pronunciation, however, could not prevail, and pronunciation-related spelling as ever was replaced in the 19th century by the etymologizing old Icelandic é . In general, as part of the increasing efforts to detach itself, ideas for language maintenance also emerged: In order to cleanse one's own language from the influences of the Danish rulers, Icelandic was reconstructed using old written sources. Finally, in 1918, the spelling was officially established by means of an official government dictionary that was valid for administration and schools.

Icelandic has little dialect variety, in contrast to Faroese, which has a large number of different dialects . Regional differences can be identified in Faroese in all linguistic subsystems, especially in morphology, while the differences in Icelandic are almost exclusively limited to the phonetic-phonological level and only appear to a minor extent in morphology, syntax and lexicons . However, at first glance, the conditions for both languages ​​are similar in terms of external circumstances such as the number of inhabitants and geographical and political situation, which are important for language development in Iceland and the Faroe Islands. However, factors such as the different influence of Danish on Iceland and the Faroe Islands, the early establishment of an Icelandic orthography as opposed to the late development of a Faroese orthography and different social conditions that prevailed on Iceland and the Faroe Islands can be possible causes a different dialectal expression apply.

The oldest preserved original document in Icelandic is the Reykjaholtsmáldagi . Even before the Edda and other poetic works were written (probably from the 12th century), there was a special poetic language in Iceland and other parts of the Nordic world , in which highly formal poems were often written according to certain rules. The poets who wrote and recited these poems in the Old West Norse (Old Icelandic) language were called “ skalds ”. They used poetic paraphrases ( Kenninge and Heiti ) that alluded to characters and their deeds from (North) Germanic heroic sagas and (North) Germanic mythology .


Rich differentiations

Icelandic offers rich differentiations in many areas. For example, the translation of the word “speckled” - depending on which animal the word refers to - is skjöldóttur (cow), flekkóttur (sheep) or skjóttur (horse). The Icelandic differs further seal between males (brimill) and females target (urta) , male lamb (gimbill) and female lamb (gimbur) etc.

Foreign words

One consequently takes care to keep the use of foreign words as low as possible. New terms are usually created from the existing vocabulary. This is how the word for “computer”, tölva , came from the words tala , “number”, and völva , “fortune teller, seer”. The term for “AIDS”, alnæmi , was formed from al- , “all-”, and næmi , “sensitivity”. A similar word is skrifstofa ("writing room ") for office.

Yet there are a considerable number of older loanwords such as hótel ("hotel") or prestur ("priest"); a swelling of Anglicisms , similar to that in German, has also been noticeable in Iceland since the 1950s. This is why Iceland has had its own committee since 1964, which finds purely Icelandic expressions for new terms.


The Icelandic alphabet (first table) has 32 letters , most of which correspond to the Latin alphabet . The regular vowel signs (including y, but excluding æ and ö) come in a second accented form . The letters C , W , Q and Z do not appear in Icelandic words. In the case of the letter Z , this is the result of a spelling reform in the 20th century that was not followed by every writer. In addition to the Latin, there are the letters Ð / ð ( voiced , like "soft" English th , such as in English "this" - but with the tip of the tongue bent down, likewise the following), Þ / þ (this letter comes from the runic alphabet and is pronounced voiceless like a “hard” English th as in thing [ θ ]), Æ / æ (like German ei [ ai̯ ]) and Ö / ö (like German ö [ ø ]). Please note that the letters þ , æ and ö are only placed after the ý at the end of the alphabet . The second table shows the Unicode numbers and the keyboard shortcuts under Windows and X11 for the specific Icelandic letters.

Icelandic alphabet
A / a Á / á B / b D / d Ð / ð E / e É / é F / f
G / g H / h I / i Í / í Y / y K / k L / l M / m
N / n O / o Ó / ó P / p R / r S / s T / t U / u
Ú / ú V / v X / x Y / y Ý / ý Þ / þ Æ / æ Ö / ö
Specifically Icelandic letters
Surname character Unicode Windows X11 ( Linux ) HTML Latex
Eth , great Ð U + 00D0 Alt+ 209or
Alt Gr+ Shift+ Dor
Compose, Shift+ D, Shift+H
Eth, little ð U + 00F0 Alt+ 208or
Alt Gr+ DOr
Compose, D,H
ð \dh
Thorn , great Þ U + 00DE Alt+ 232or
Alt Gr+ Shift+ Por
Compose, ⇧Shift+ T, Shift+H
Thorn, little þ U + 00FE Alt+ 231or
Alt Gr+ POr
Compose, T,H
þ \th
AE - ligature , great Æ U + 00C6 Alt+ 146or
Alt Gr+ Shift+ Aor
Compose, Shift+ A, Shift+E
ae ligature, small æ U + 00E6 Alt+ 145or
Alt Gr+ AOr
Compose, A,E
æ \ae


See also: Icelandic pronunciation


The plosives Iceland's sound system has more of an aspiration - contrast as a contrast to the voicing. Pre-aspirated voiceless plosives are also encountered. The Icelandic fricatives and sonorants show regular contrasts in voicing. This also applies to the nasals , which is a rare phenomenon in the languages ​​of the world. In addition, length is contrastive for all phonemes with the exception of voiceless sonorants. The table of consonant phonemes and their allophones follows the presentation in Scholten (2000, p. 22).

Icelandic consonants (in IPA phonetic transcription )
  bilabial labio-
dental alveolar palatal velar glottal
Plosives p   t   c k ʔ
nasal m   n   ɲ̊ ɲ ŋ̊ ŋ  
Fricatives   f v θ ð s ç j x ɣ H
Trills       r      
Lateral       l   ɬ ɮ  

The voiced fricatives [⁠ v ⁠] , [⁠ ð ⁠] , [⁠ j ⁠] and [⁠ ɣ ⁠] often appear more open than approximants.

The status of [⁠ c ⁠] and [C] as phonemes or allophones of / ⁠ k ⁠ / and / k / is the subject of discussion. On the other hand, the presence of minimal pairs like gjóla [couːla] "light wind" versus góla [kouːla] "scream" and kjóla [cʰouːla] "clothes" versus kóla [kʰouːla] "cola" implies that the palatal plosives have phoneme status. Only the palatal, not the velar plosives, can appear before anterior vowels, and some linguists (cf. Rögnvaldsson 1993) therefore advocate the underlying forms [couːla] and [cʰouːla] for / kjoula / and / kʰjoula / as well as a phonological one Process that converts / k (ʰ) j / to [c (ʰ)] . Whether this approach, which conforms to orthography and linguistic history, represents a synchronous reality is disputed, since the underlying forms in linguistics are speculative and not measurable.

The dental fricatives [⁠ .theta ⁠] and [⁠ ð ⁠] are allophones of a phoneme. [⁠ .theta ⁠] appears word initial, such as in Thak [θaːk] "roof", and before voiceless consonants, as in maðkur [maθkʏr] "worm". [⁠ ð ⁠] is between vowels, such as in Iða [ɪːða] "strudel" and final as in bað [PAD] "Bad", but can at the end of the phrase also [⁠ .theta ⁠] are entstimmt.

Only appears from the voiceless nasals [⁠ N ⁠] in word-initial position, such as in Hné [n̥jɛː] "knee". Lately there has been a tendency, especially among young people, to remove voicelessness here (example hnífur [nivʏr] "knife" instead of [n̥ivʏr] ). The palatal nasal stands before the palatal plosive, the velar before the velar plosive. [⁠ ŋ ⁠] also faces [⁠ l ⁠] and [⁠ s ⁠] , because of the failure of [⁠ k ⁠] in the consonant compounds [NKL] and [NCP] .

The pre-aspirated [hp ht hc hk] (for example löpp [lœhp] "foot") do not appear as word initial. The geminates [pp tt cc kk] are usually no longer than the simple consonants [ptck] ; but they cause a shortening of the preceding vowel. However, depending on the situation, they can be spoken for a long time, for example when speaking to small children.


Icelandic has 13 vowel phonemes: 8 monophthongs and 5 diphthongs . All vowels, including the diphthongs, can be long or short. The length of the vowel depends on the context and is therefore not distinctive.

Monophthongs of Icelandic
  front central back
closed i   u
almost closed ɪ ʏ    
medium ɛ œ   ɔ
open   Ä  

The diphthongs are [ai], [au], [ei], [øy], [ou] .

The vowels often differ from their German equivalents:

  • a [ ä ]: similar to German a
  • á [ au ]: similar to German au
  • e [⁠ ɛ ⁠] : as dt. ä
  • é [ ]: as ever in German ever tzt
  • i / y [⁠ ɪ ⁠] : = (see next section )
  • í / ý [⁠ i ⁠] : = (see next section )
  • o [⁠ ɔ ⁠] : as dt. o G o tt
  • ó [ ou ]: like English o in r o se
  • u [⁠ ʏ ⁠] : as dt. ü in k ü SEN
  • ú [⁠ u ⁠] : as dt. u
  • au [ øy ]: like Dutch ui , similar to German eu / äu
  • æ [ ai ]: similar to German ei / ai
  • ei [ ei ]: similar to nl. ei / ij .

Vowel length is predictable in Icelandic (Orešnik and Pétursson 1977). Stressed vowels or diphthongs are generally longer than unstressed ones. However, only stressed vowels can be phonologically long. Long vowels occur:

Stressed vowels are short before other consonant connections as well as the pre-aspirated sounds [hp ht hk] and the geminates. Examples:

The i-vowels

If you carefully analyze the pronunciation of the first three syllables in the German expression "hold him in honor", you will notice that the second i-sound is not only shorter than the first, but also sounds different - the short i is less tense (" laxer ”) and acoustically occupies a middle position between the long i and the e (“ honor ”). In German, all long i are tense, all short i are not; in Icelandic all four possibilities exist here. The script distinguishes the tense i by the accent mark.

Morphology (theory of forms)

Icelandic has a rich variety of forms in the inflected parts of speech pronoun , noun , verb , adjective, and numeral , which can be quite a difficult language to learn. The following are examples of inflections for all relevant word classes.

Personal pronouns

In Icelandic, as in German, personal pronouns are inflected by four cases. In the third person, a distinction is made between three genders (genera), which are additionally supplemented by a gender-neutral pronoun. This gender-neutral hán was copied from the Swedish hen . It is not yet clear to what extent the word will catch on. An overview of the inflection of personal pronouns:

Singular 1st person 2nd person 3rd person (m) 3rd person 3rd person (s) 3rd person (gender neutral)
nom: ég (me) þú (you) hann (he) hún (she) það (es) hán
battery: mig (me) þig (you) hann (him) hana (she) það (es) hán
dat: mér (me) þér (dir) honum (him) henni (her) því (him) háni
gene: min (mine) þín (yours) hans (his) hennar (her) þess (his) Hans

Unlike in German, there is also a distinction between the sexes in the plural of the third person. The masculine form þeir is only used in purely male groups, the feminine form þær only in purely female groups, while the neuter form þau is used for mixed groups of people and is gender-neutral (and therefore most common).

Plural 1st person 2nd person 3rd person (m) 3rd person 3rd person (s) 3rd person (gender neutral)
nom: við (we) þið (you) þeir (she) þær þau
battery: okkur (us) ykkur (you guys) þá (she) þær þau
dat: okkur (us) ykkur (you guys) þeim (them)
gene: okkar (our) ykkar (yours) þeirra (their)

The pronoun þú is always used to address a person in Icelandic , so - as is common in Scandinavian countries today - it is always used (and everyone is addressed by their first name). Only the president or bishop of the country is addressed on festive occasions with the otherwise outdated politeness pronoun þér (gen .: yðar , dat. And akk .: yður ). Furthermore, in poems or in the national anthem there is still the form vér "we" (gen .: vor , dat. And akk .: oss ) instead of við (meaning "both of us" in Old Norse).

reflexive pronouns

Unlike the German distinguishes the Icelandic during reflexive (Dt .: itself ) different case forms:

case Reflexive
battery sig
dat. sér
gene. sín

Another peculiarity of the Icelandic reflexive that does not exist in German is the logophoric use of this pronoun (for details see the linked article).

Question pronouns and adverbs

There are three genera in question pronouns:

masculine (who? m. sing.) feminine (who? f. sing.) neutral (who? n. sing.) neutral (what?)
nom: hver hver hvert hvað
battery: hvern hverja hvert hvað
dat: hverjum hverri hverju hverju
gene: hvers hverrar hvers hvers

Other important question adverbs are: hvar “where”, hvenær “when”, hve “how”, hvernig “how, in what way”, af hverju “why”, hvert “where”, hvaðan “where from”.


The numerals for 1 to 4 are inflected in Icelandic and must match the respective noun in gender and case:

"one" "two" "three" "four"
masculine feminine neuter masculine feminine neuter masculine feminine neuter masculine feminine neuter
nom: an a eitt tveir tvær tvö þrír þrjár þrjú fjórir fjórar fjögur
battery: an a eitt tvo tvær tvö þrjá þrjár þrjú fjóra fjórar fjögur
dat: once one au tveim (ur) þrem (ur) fjórum
gene: one einnar one tveggja þriggja fjög (ur) ra

When counting etc. Icelanders usually use the masculine forms of Numeralia. However, house numbers are given in the neuter.

An overview of the most important inflexible cardinal numbers:

5 to 12 13 to 20 30 to 100 200+
5 fimm 13 þrettán 30th þrjátíu 200 tvö hundruð
6th sex 14th fjórtán 40 fjörutíu 300 þrjú hundruð
7th sjö 15th fimmán 50 fichtíu Etc.
8th átta 16 sextán 60 sextíu 1000 (eitt / ein) þúsund (n / f)
9 níu 17th sautjan 70 sjötíu 2000 tvö þúsund (n) /
tvær þúsundir (f)
10 tíu 18th átján 80 áttatíu
11 ellefu 19th nítján 90 níutíu Etc.
12 tólf 20th tuttugu 100 (eitt) hundrað (n) 1000000 milljón (f)

A more detailed overview of the numbers can be found in the wiki dictionary ( Icelandic , German ).


Icelandic nouns, like German nouns, are divided into three genera , namely masculine, feminine and neuter. In contrast to German, these three genera are also distinguished in the plural. Each word is inflected according to its gender; there are also different classes of inflection within the genera.

Within the paradigm of a noun there are four cases ( case ) that correspond to the four German cases nominative , genitive , dative and accusative ; these are formed by adding an inflected ending to the word stem. In the plural there are uniform inflectional endings for dative (-um) (almost always) and genitive (-a) (without exception), regardless of the gender they belong to.

The word hestur "horse" serves as an example for a masculine of the strong inflection class M1 :

M1 Singular Plural Singular Plural
nom: hest ur hest ar hest ur inn hest ar nir
battery: hest hest a hest inn hest a na
dat: hest i hey around hest i num hest u num
gene: hest s hest a hest s ins hest an nna

In the left half of the table the word is inflected without an article, in the right half with a definite article , which corresponds to the German “das Pferd, des Pferd etc.”. There is no indefinite article in Icelandic.

Similarly, dalur inflects "valley" from M2, the so-called i-class:

M2 Singular Plural Singular Plural
nom: dal ur dal ir dal ur inn dal ir nir
battery: dal dal i dal inn dal i na
dat: dal döl around dal num döl u num
gene: dal s dal a dal s ins dal a nna

An example of the declination of strong feminines is borg "Stadt":

F1 Singular Plural Singular Plural
nom: borg borg ir borg in borg ir nar
battery: borg borg ir borg ina borg ir nar
dat: borg borg um borg inni borg u num
gene: borg ar borg a borg ar innar borg a nna

The following regularities apply to most declinations:

  • the accusative singular of a masculine corresponds to its stem
  • Nominative and accusative singular are - as in all Indo-European languages ​​- identical in neuter of all word classes
  • Nominative and accusative plural are identical for feminine and neuter, but not for masculine
  • the dative plural always ends in -um ; with the definite article this ending is merged to -unum . There are exceptions when the vowel is "wide". Examples are kýr (cow) with dative plural kúm , á (river) with dative plural ám or kló (claw) with dative plural klóm .
  • the genitive plural always ends in -a , with certain articles ending in -anna
  • the article inflection is always identical within a gender (except for i- insertions, if too many consonants would meet)

Another example from the class of strong neutrals is borð "table":

N1 Singular Plural Singular Plural
nom: borð borð borð borð in
battery: borð borð borð borð in
dat: borð i borð um borð i nu borð u num
gene: borð s borð a borð s ins borð a nna

There are similarities in the flexion of strong masculine and neuter:

  • the ending for the genitive or dative singular is -s or -i . (The masculine however can have the genitive ending -ar , and the -i in the dative cannot be counted with masculine either).
  • Both in the singular and in the plural, nominative and accusative are identical for a neuter (as in all Indo-European languages).


The u- umlaut occurs in Icelandic nominal inflection . This applies to nouns with a stem vowel -a- regardless of their gender; the stem vowel is converted to -ö- if it is followed by -u- in the unstressed syllable (i.e. in the case ending) ; However, since this -u- may have disappeared in the course of Icelandic language history, remember the following rule:

The umlaut a> ö occurs

  • in the entire singular of the strong feminine except in the genitive
  • in the nominative and accusative plural of the neuter
  • in the dative plural for all genera

Examples of a strong feminine class previously shown F1, Vör "lip" and a strong neuter category N1 country "country" are as follows (umlauts are highlighted in bold):

Singular Plural Singular Plural
nom: v ö r var ir country l ö nd
battery: v ö r var ir country l ö nd
dat: v ö r v ö r um country i l o nd around
gene: var ar var a country s country a

Since u-umlaut occurs in feminine in the nominative singular and this form also forms the lemma in the dictionary , this is particularly important when using inflection.


As in German, the Icelandic verb system is divided into a group of strong verbs and a group of weak verbs . However, there are some verbs that fluctuate between the two groups. There are four groups within the weak verbs, the largest of which is W4, the so-called a-class. As an example, the paradigm of hjálpa "help" is listed: its subject vowel -a- , the endings after it appear in italics :

W4 Pres. Sg. Pres. Pl. Prät. Sg. Prät. Pl.
1) ég hjálp a við hjálp around ég hjálp i við hjálp um
2) þú hjálp a r þið hjálp þú hjálp ir þið hjálp
3) hann hjálp a r þeir hjálp a hann hjálp i þeir hjálp u

By the way, Hjálpa (Old Icelandic hjalpa ) was originally a strong verb like in German. A remainder of it is in the adjective (originally the perfect past tense) hólpinn , rescued , salvaged .

In the left half of the column are the indicative forms of the present tense , in the right half of the past tense , which is formed in verbs of class W4 with the suffix -að- (singular) or -uð- (plural).

Furthermore, an example verb of the i-class with subject-vowel -i- in the present singular: reyna "try". The preterital suffix here shows the form -d- :

W3 Pres. Sg. Pres. Pl. Prät. Sg. Prät. Pl.
1) ég reyn i við reyn um ég reyn d i við reyn d um
2) þú reyn i r þið reyn þú reyn d ir þið reyn d
3) hann reyn i r þeir reyn a hann reyn d i þeir reyn d u

The so-called zero class of weak verbs belongs to telja “count”, which shows e> a / ö in the past tense back umlaut . These verbs have no subject vowel, but show j suffix in the present plural:

W1 Pres. Sg. Pres. Pl. Prät. Sg.
(Back umlaut)
Prät. Pl.
(Back umlaut)
1) ég tel við tel j um ég valley d i við töl d um
2) þú tel ur þið tel j þú tal d ir þið töl d
3) hann tel ur þeir tel j a hann tal d i þeir töl d u

Strong verbs inflect like class W1 in the present tense, but show umlaut in the singular if possible (a> e, o> e, ó> æ, ú> ý). The past tense is not formed by means of a dental suffix, but (as in German) by the pronunciation of the stem vowel - as an example taka "taking" from the 6th group ( ablaut series ) of strong verbs:

S6 Pres. Sg.
Pres. Pl. Prät.Sg.
Prät. Pl.
1) ég t e k við tök um ég t ó k við t ó k um
2) þú t e k ur þið tak þú t ó k st þið t ó k
3) hann t e k ur þeir tak a hann k þeir t ó k u

The subjunctive forms of the individual verb classes are not listed .

A more detailed overview of the weak and strong verbs can be found in the Icelandic Wiktionary .


In Icelandic there are strong and weak adjective declinations, the choice of which depends on the determination of the noun resp. depends on the predicative position of the adjective. Case, number and gender of the adjective are congruent with those of the noun .

The strong declension can be demonstrated using the example of the adjective veik- " Krank " in all three genera:

Singular masculine feminine neuter
nom: veik ur veik veik t
battery: veik on veik a veik t
dat: veik around veik ri veik u
gene: veik s veik rare veik s

As with personal pronouns, a distinction is also made between the genera for adjectives in the plural; However, there are unified endings in the genitive and dative:

Plural masculine feminine neuter
nom: veik ir veik ar veik
battery: veik a veik ar veik
dat: veik around veik around veik around
gene: veik ra veik ra veik ra

The weak declension in the singular corresponds to the weak noun declinations and can be shown using the example of the adjective rík- "reich":

Singular masculine feminine neuter
nom: rík i rík a rík a
battery: rík a rík u rík a
dat: rík a rík u rík a
gene: rík a rík u rík a

The unified plural ending of all genera in the weak adjective inflection is u .

The appendix on adjectives in the Icelandic dictionary can be mentioned in more detail.


Word order

Like all Scandinavian languages, Icelandic is a verb-second language based on a subject-verb-object sequence. In contrast to the mainland Scandinavian languages, the second form of the verb is also found in most subordinate clauses (except for embedded interrogative sentences).

In comparison with German you can see that the second rule of the verb is present in main clauses as in German, only that in Icelandic the unprecedented remainders form a sequence "S-Aux-VO-Adv" ("Aux" stands for the auxiliary verb), whereas the German inside the sentence shows a remaining sequence “S-Adv / OV-Aux” after the first two positions. Compare the following examples, where the V2 position is taken by the auxiliary verb ("Aux"), since this is the finite verb :

Icelandic German
Main clause: V2 introduced with subject Nokkrir stúdentar Höfðu séð þessa mynd í fyrra. "Some students had seen this film last year."
S - Aux - [V - O - Adv] S - Aux - [Adv - O - V]
Main clause: V2 introduced with adverbial Í fyrra Höfðu nokkrir stúdentar séð þessa mynd "Last year had seen some students this film"
Adv - Aux - [S - V - O] Adv - Aux - [S - O - V]
Main clause: V2 introduced with object Þessa mynd Höfðu nokkrir stúdentar séð í fyrra "This movie had some students last year saw"
O - Aux - [S - V - Adv] O - Aux - [S - Adv - V]
Subordinate clause with conjunction + V2: Jón almost um að [á morgun fari María snemma á fætur]. (svw .: "Hans doubts that [ Mary will get up early tomorrow ].")
Conj. - Adv - Aux - [S - V - (Adv)] (not possible in German)

Special uses of the case

A special feature of the Icelandic language is the fact that sentences can be formed in which there is no nominative, but only accusative or dative supplements, or where a nominative as a lower-ranking argument follows the dative or accusative. In such cases, dative or accusative supplements in Icelandic can sometimes have subject properties; in linguistics this is also referred to as a "quirky case". The Icelandic term for such sentences without nominative subject is ópersónuleg sögn, which means “impersonal verb”.

See also



  • Höskuldur Thráinsson: Icelandic. In: The Germanic Languages. Edited by Ekkehard König and Johan van der Auwera. Routledge, London / New York 1994, ISBN 0-415-05768-X , pp. 142-189.



  • Hans Ulrich Schmid: Dictionary Icelandic-German . Buske, Hamburg 2001, ISBN 3-87548-240-9 .


Scientific literature

  • Robert Nedoma: Small grammar of old Icelandic . 3. Edition. Winter, Heidelberg 2010, ISBN 978-3-8253-5786-3 .
  • Janez Orešnik, Magnús Pétursson: Quantity in Modern Icelandic . In: Arkiv för Nordisk Filologi 92 (1977), pp. 155-171.
  • Eiríkur Rögnvaldsson: Íslensk hljóðkerfisfræði . Reykjavík: Málvísindastofnun Háskóla Íslands, 1993, ISBN 9979-853-14-X .
  • Höskuldur Thráinsson: The Syntax of Icelandic . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (UK) 2007, ISBN 978-0521597906 .
  • Sten Vikner: Verb movement and expletive subjects in the Germanic languages . Oxford University Press, Oxford 1995.
  • Betty Wahl: Icelandic: Language Planning and Language Purism . Winter, Heidelberg 2008, ISBN 978-3-8253-5513-5 .

Individual evidence

  1. ^
  2. Andreas Heusler: Altisländisches Elementarbuch (= Germanistic library. First row: Linguistic textbooks and elementary books). 5th, unchanged edition. Carl Winter, Heidelberg 1962, p. 7.
  3. Cf. Klaus-Christian Küspert: Vowel systems in Western Nordic: Icelandic, Faroese, Western Norwegian. Principles of differentiation (= linguistic work. 198). Niemeyer, Tübingen 1988.
  4. ^ Kurt Braunmüller: An overview of the Scandinavian languages . Francke, Tübingen / Basel 1991, ISBN 3-7720-1694-4 . Sections: Icelandic, short profile and Faroese, short profile .
  5. Magnús Pétursson: Drög að hljóðkerfisfræði. Iðunn, Reykjavík 1978, p. 35 f.
  6. a b The following after Halldór Hermannsson: Modern Icelandic (= Islandica. XII). Cornell, New York 1919, reprinted by Kraus, New York 1966, passim.
  7. ^ Oskar Bandle : Scandinavia's hidden cultures. In: unizürich. Bulletin of the Rectorate of the University of Zurich 3, 1988, p. 4.
  8. The essay by Betty Wahl provides information on the development of language maintenance in Iceland and its current tendencies: Can one "keep a language pure"? The example of Icelandic. In: Der Sprachdienst, 54, Heft 2, 2010, pp. 42–54.
  9. ^ Kurt Braunmüller: An overview of the Scandinavian languages. Tübingen and Basel: A. Francke Verlag, 1991, ISBN 3-7720-1694-4 , p. 224
  10. Hán - Kynhlutlaus persónufornöfn on (accessed on January 28, 2019).
  11. Vikner, Sten (1995): Verb movement and expletive subjects in the Germanic languages . Oxford University Press.
  12. Examples of the Icelandic V2 main clauses here from Höskuldur Thráinsson (2007), p. 23, partly slightly simplified; last example with embedded V2 from Vikner 1995, p. 72

Web links

Wiktionary: Icelandic  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Category: Icelandic  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Icelandic Language  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Commons : Icelandic Pronunciation  - Collection of pictures, videos, and audio files
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on May 26, 2006 .