1. Compare and contrast the language you have chosen to study and your native language (and any other languages you have studied, if you like). Consider each languages' syntax and grammar, as well as vocabulary matters, such as cognates, derivatives or borrowed words. (minimum 300 words)

The language I have decided to study is modern Icelandic.  While studying Icelandic, I have found that the overall syntax is familiar to me as a speaker of English.  There are differences though.

The first major difference that I noticed was the use of letters that are not used in the English language: eth (Ð/ ð), thorn (Þ/þ), and the grapheme of a and e (Æ/æ).  There is also the use of accented vowels that we just do not use in English: Á/á, Í/í, Ó/ó, Ö/ö, Ú/ú, Ý/ý.

Comparing the two languages grammatically, I see many similarities, but there are definitely many differences.  If we first look at the grammatical cases, English does not use them heavily and when used only the subjective, objective, and possessive cases are used (English Grammar).  Icelandic on the other hand use four cases, nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive (Neijmann 73).

Articles are also somewhat different.  The indefinite article ‘a/an’ is not found in Icelandic.  As a result nouns can be translated as both with and without the article.  An example of this would be the noun dagur.  This can be translated as both ‘day’ and ‘a day’.  The definite article ‘the’ is appears, but is not a separate word as in English.  In Icelandic the definite article is denoted by the ending of the noun (Neijmann 15).

Verbs are somewhat simpler than in English.  In English we have seventeen tenses for the verbs: present simple, present progressive, present perfect, present perfect progressive, past simple, past progressive, past perfect, past perfect progressive, future simple, future progressive, future perfect, future perfect progressive, conditional (past subjunctive), conditional perfect (past-perfect subjunctive), conditional perfect progressive, present subjunctive, and imperfect subjunctive (English Verb).  Icelandic has many fewer tenses: present simple, present continuous, present perfect, present subjunctive, past simple, past continuous, past perfect, past subjunctive, conditional, and future (Icelandic Grammar).

Adverbs are similar in both languages where in general you add an ending to a verb, such as ‘-ly’ in English and ‘-lega’ in Icelandic (Neijmann 204).  Adjectives also follow the same ideas as English in that they must agree with the noun in gender and number (Icelandic Grammar).

Word order is the same as in English which to me makes it somewhat easier to learn to speak the language.  For statements is subject – verb – object.  Questions are also the same where it is verb – subject – object (Neijmann 21).

As both English and Icelandic both share a Germanic ancestry, there are many cognates, or words that come from the same origin.  These tend to be spelled similar, and pronounced rather similar too.  A couple examples of these are: house/hús, mother/móðir, and that/það.

One can also find loan words in Icelandic.  There was a movement though in the 17th century to remove the loan words from Icelandic, and this really culminated in the late 19th/early 20th century.  Since then, Icelandic has picked up many loan words.  Some loan words are: akkúrat ‘precisely’(Danish akkurat), edrú ‘sober’ (Danish ædru), fatta ‘grasp, notice’ (Danish fatte), jeppi ‘jeep’(English), rúta ‘bus’ (English ‘route’), partí ‘party’ (English) and bissness ‘business’(English) (On Icelandic).

  1. Based on what you understand about the language studied, linguistics in general, and your knowledge of the associated culture(s), briefly describe how the characteristics of the language may reflect the attributes, history or values of the associated culture(s). (minimum 300 words)

Icelandic is a relatively young language.  It came about after the Vikings started exploring the north Atlantic and settled the island in the late 9th to early 10th century (On Icelandic).  It should be quite apparent, considering it was the Norse who settled the island, Icelandic descends from Old Norse.  If we keep following the language back, we go through a Germanic root that is common with modern Dutch, English, and German.  We can then trace that root back to the Proto-Indo-European language (IE-Language tree).  Being at the end of the language tree, and a relatively modern language, there has been relatively little influence on the world by Icelandic, and being that it’s a rather isolated island, there has been little influence on Icelandic by the world.

Iceland was a society on the frontier of the Norse world.  A common thing that happens to people located on the frontier is the preservation of their culture as much as they can.  The result of this was that the Icelandic people maintained the myths and sagas of the Norse people.  As a result of Iceland being settled in the 9th/10th century and writing coming to them shortly thereafter, the tales were still fresh in their memory and were written down.  Most of the important works, i.e. the sagas and eddas, were written down between the end of the 12th and 13th centuries. (Byock 3).  This preservation of the Norse tales is to me by far the most valuable thing the Icelandic people and language did.

Another interesting thing that happened with Icelandic was the purification of it starting in the 17th century and lasting through the start of the 20th century.  This purification lead to the removal of many loan words that were added up to that point, and as a result left us with a language that was very similar to the language that it comes from, Old Norse.  As a result of this, modern speakers of Icelandic are able to read the Icelandic sagas and eddas in the original language (On Icelandic).

Since World War II there has been a resurgence of loan words brought into Icelandic, many of which are from English and deal with things that have come from the Industrial revolution to present (On Icelandic).  Icelandic also has given English a couple of loan words with probably the most recognizable being saga and geyser (Borrowed Words by Language). 

Culture wise though, from what I can tell there has historically been little influence on or by the Icelandic language since the settlement of the island.  That being said, in recent times, Iceland has become more of a tourist destination and has become well known for their hot springs, specifically the Blue Lagoon (Blue Lagoon), and in recent years are known to be very tech savvy and have a very active nightlife scene in Reykjavík (Reykjavík).

  1. Create a tape recording and accompanying "phrase-book" of a minimum of 25 phrases or sentences in the Indo-European language of your choice. Try to choose phrases and sentences that will a) be useful to you in your studies and/or spiritual practices; and b) reflect the cultural uniqueness of the native speakers of that language.

1    Behold the Waters of Life!  Sjáið vatn lífsins! 

2    May the Gods and Ancestors bless: Guð og forfeður blessi hann

3    May the blessings of the Gods, Ancestors and the Spirits of Nature be upon us: Blessi okkur Guðirnir, forfeðurnir og Vættirnar 

4    Gods be with you (plural).  And also with you (singular).: Guð veri með ykkur. Og með þínum anda.

Thank you:

5          Semi-formal: þakka þér

6          Informal: takk

7    Ancestors, we thank You!: Forfeður, við þökkum ykkur! 

8    Nature Spirits, we thank You!: Vættir, við þökkum ykkur! 

9    Gods (Deities), we thank You!: Guðir, við þökkum ykkur! 

10  So be it.: Verði það svo. 

11  Behold the: Sjáið

Terms to fill in the blanks:

12        This Cup: Þessi bolli 

13        This Well: Þessi brunnur 

14        Pole: Staur  

15        Tree: Tré  

16        Stone: Steinn

17        Pit: Gryfja 

18        Tribe: Ættbálkur 

19        this man: þessi maður

20        this woman: Þessi kona 

21        this child: þetta barn 

22        This Sacred Place/Nemeton: Þessi heilagi staður/helgidómur 

23        This place (mundane places): þennan stað 

24        This object: þennan hlut 

25        This water: þetta vatn 

26        Sacred Fire: heilaga eldinn 

27        The Gates: Hliðin

28  Let the Gates be opened!: Látið opna hliðin!

29  Let the Gates be closed!: Látið loka hliðunum! 

30  Protection of the Gods upon: Guðirnir verndi

31  May the Gods be honored: Dýrð sé Guðunum. 

32  We are here to honor the Gods.  : Við erum hér saman komin til heiðra Guðina. 

33  We are here to reverence (pay homage to) the Gods.: Við erum her komin til að sýna Guðunum okkar djúpa virðingu. 

34  We are here to worship the Gods.: Við eru komin til að tilbiðja Guðina. 

35  Ancestors, accept our offering!:  Forfeður, takið á móti fórnargjöfum okkar! 

36  Ancestors, accept our sacrifice!:  Forfeður, takið á móti fórnum okkar! 

37  Nature Spirits, accept our offering!:  Vættir, takið á móti fórnargjöfum okkar! 

38  Nature Spirits, accept our sacrifice!: Vættir, takið á móti fórnum okkar!

39  Gods (Deities), accept our offering!  Guðir, takið á móti fórnargjöfum okkar! 

40  Gods (Deities), accept our sacrifice! Guðir, takið á móti fórnum okkar!

41  Sacred Well, flow within us!:  Heilagi brunnur, streymdu innra með okkur! 

42  Sacred Tree, grow within us!:  Heilaga tré, vaxaðu innra með okkur! 

43  Sacred Fire, burn within us!: Heilagi eldur, brenndu innra með okkur! 

44  Gods, give us the Waters!: Guðir, gefið okkur Vatnið!

45  Gods, give us the Waters of Life!: Guðir, gefið okkur Vatn Lifsins!


46  Bright blessings: Verið blessuð og sæl

47  Bright blessings be upon you.: Megi blessun fylgja ykkur

48  Every blessing.: Verið þið ævinlega blessuð



Works Cited

Blue Lagoon. 25 July 2008 <http://www.bluelagoon.com/&gt;.

Borrowed Words by Language. 25 July 2008 <http://www.krysstal.com/display_borrowlang.php?lang=Icelandic&gt;.

Byock, Jesse, trans. Saga of the Volsungs. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

English Grammar. 25 July 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_grammar&gt;.

English Verb. 25 July 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_verb&gt;.

Icelandic Grammar. 25 July 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icelandic_grammar&gt;.

IE-Language tree. 25 July 2008 <http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/0d/IndoEuropeanTreeA.svg&gt;.

Neijmann, Daisy L. Colloquial Icelandic. New York: Routledge, 2004.

On Icelandic. 25 July 2008 <http://www.hum.uit.no/a/svenonius/lingua/structure/about/about_is.html&…;.

Reykjavík. 25 July 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reykjavik#Culture&gt;.