The history of the Icelandic language

The Icelandic language is spoken by about 300,000 people worldwide. It belongs to the Indo-European language family and is the official government and standard common language in Iceland.

It probably evolved from Old Norse dialects spoken in the early Middle Ages in Scandinavia, which are regarded as the languages of the Vikings. Since then, Icelandic has changed very little and is, therefore, still similar to Old Norse.

The grammar of Old Norse remained almost completely unchanged, while only the pronunciation is different. Because of Iceland’s remote and inhospitable location, it’s a very well-preserved language that had few influences for centuries.

Do you have business documents that must be translated into or from Icelandic from one of our other 150 languages? We can find the best translator for your project – a native speaker with appropriate knowledge of your subject matter and the ability to speak fluently in your originating language.

Preserved language

The proportion of loanwords in the rich and diverse Icelandic language is small. Only the part of Iceland that was held by Denmark seems to have been influenced much by other languages. In recent times, interactions with the English language are clear because a few Anglicisms have now become part of the Icelandic language. Still, the number of Anglicisms is small.

The Icelandic alphabet is mostly the same as the Latin alphabet. There are, however, some historical characters that are mainly used to indicate diphthongs or typical Icelandic long vowels. In the 20th century, Icelandic underwent a spelling reform that was designed to contribute to harmonization and simplification. Also, the grammar is as varied and colorful as the vocabulary.

This makes Icelandic particularly challenging for foreigners. By using native speakers who have grown up with the language and know all the linguistic subtleties, we can guarantee accurate translations.

Linguistic purism

In recent times, attempts have been made to rid the Icelandic language from foreign influences and loanwords. The Icelandic Language Commission was established in the mid-20th century to oversee the purity of the Icelandic language. It publishes catalogs of new word creations and allowed terminology. Language is the ultimate symbol of national identity in Iceland.

If you have texts that need to be translated into Icelandic or from Icelandic into another language, you can count on us for high quality, easy-to-understand translations that are faithful to the original. Just give us a call, or use the form to send us your text.

If you have multiple documents, you can send them all at once via email. A no-obligation quote from us will help you decide if you want to start a business relationship with us. We’re confident that if you try us, you’ll use our service again and again!


Mariana Mellor
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