Modern Language: FAEROESE
Indo-European > Germanic > North Germanic > West Norse > FaroeseThe language of the Faeroe Islanders is descended from Old Norse, the language of the Vikings who settled there over a thousand years ago, many of whom had migrated from Norse settlements in the Irish Sea, bringing (philologists believe) some traces of Celtic vocabulary with them. While it closely resembles its West Norse cousin Icelandic, Faeroese (føroyskt; also spelled 'Faroese') shares more mutual intelligibilty with spoken nynorsk of Norway. It is the first tongue of approximately 45,000 islanders, plus about 20,000 or so in Denmark, which still nominally governs the isles. The Faeroes were for many centuries ruled by the kingdoms of Norway and Denmark, and the use of Faeroese for official purposes was suppressed in favour of Danish. For several centuries Faeroese was not written down, but in the mid-nineteenth century a new written standard was published by one Venceslaus Hammershaib. The new orthography was designed to resemble Old Norse, containing the letter ð (which is usually silent), but not the dental fricative þ (found in Icelandic). It also contains the æ and ø of Danish. Slowly the language gained official recognition, eventually replacing Danish in schools and in the media.Given the historical importance of Danish, Faeroese literature was non-existant until the past century or so. The medieval Færinga Saga (‘Saga of the Faeroes’) is Old Icelandic, while Faeroese ballads (kvæði) and tales (ævintyr) were passed down orally for centuries. With the revival of the written language more writers began to emerge, notably the poets Nólsoyar-Poul Poulson (19th C), William Heinesen and Rói R. Patursson (late 20th C). The first monolingual dictionary did not appear until 1998, but Faeroese writing has continued to grow with the advent of the internet. Vocabulary-wise it has, predictably, not given English many words, save 'skua', which is a type of gull.
examples of faeroese
Tú alfagra land mítt, mín dýrasta ogn!
á vetri so randhvítt, á sumri við logn,
tú tekur meg at tær so tætt í tín favn.
Tit oyggjar so mætar, Gud signi tað navn,
sum menn tykkum góvu, tá teir tykkum sóu.
Ja, Gud signi Føroyar, mítt land!
“Mítt Alfagra land”, Faeroes national anthem, by Símun av Skarði c.1906
(Translation: "My land, oh most beauteous, possession most dear,
Thou drawest me to thee, embracing me near;
becalmed in the summer, in winter snow covered,
magnificent islands, by God named beloved.
The name which men gave thee when they thee discovered,
Oh, God bless thee, Faeroes my land".)
Eg eri ein föroyskur nasjonalistur.
Undir fótunum túsund ára bonska heimlandið,
millum fingrarnar pennurin,
í munnklovanum ein sigarett og ein skón av tugdum orðum,
og eg havi ongar ætlanir um at stinga í sekkin.
Eg eri ein föroyskur nasjonalistur,
og tað sum pínir,
er at föroyingar sjálvir tola ikki gronina á sínum
frælstu landsmonnum."Eg eri ein föroyskur nasjonalistur", Joanes Nielsen, c.1980s ("I am a Faeroese Nationalist")
a short faeroese bibliography
some faeroese links
Modern Language: ICELANDIC
Indo-European > Germanic > North Germanic > West Norse > IcelandicCast adrift for centuries in the lonely North Atlantic, Icelandic has retained many features of its parent Old Norse that the continent-bound North Germanic relatives in Scandinavia have long lost. Spoken by over a quarter of a million people, íslenska is highly conservative, not least typographically – it still uses the dental fricative letters Þ (thorn) and ð (eth), once common in most Germanic alphabets, now reserved to Icelandic and its Atlantic neighbour, Faeroese.
Icelanders themselves are proud of their isolation, and have made many efforts to preserve the traditional nature of Icelandic. They have avoided many modern terms and foreign borrowings, preferring home-spun coinages. For example, ‘electricity’ is rafmagn (“amber power”), and ‘radio’ is útvarp (“broadcast”). This purism has been taken a few steps further by some, such as those who promote háfrónska (“High Icelandic”), an artificial form which aims to create a language free of all non-Icelandic words, even to the point where painstakingly literal translations are used for place-names (such as Góðviðra for ‘Buenos Aires’).
Most surnames in Iceland also follow a conservative fashion, usually being patronymic: a son or daughter will usually take their father’s first name as their last, adding ‘–son’ or ‘–dóttir’ to the end (depending on if they are the son or daughter). Thus, Prime Minister Halldór Ásgrímsson’s father’s first name was Ásgrim, but they did not share a surname. This means that in Iceland it is common for people to be addressed formally by their first and not their last name.
While Old Norse was an enormous influence upon the English, Icelandic has given us but a few words, most notably geyser and eider. It also gave us Saga, the great epic tales of Norse myth and heroism. The grand-daddy of Icelandic literature was perhaps Snorri Sturluson, who recorded many of the great Eddic tales that had been passed down over the centuries. Perhaps its most notable writer of the modern age was the Nobel-prize winning novelist Halldór Laxness, but culturally the most famous Icelander today is probably the singer Björk. .
examples of icelandic
Kringla heimsins, sú er mannfólkið byggir, er mjög vogskorin. Ganga höf stór úr útsjánum inn í jörðina. Er það kunnigt að haf gengur frá Nörvasundum og allt út til Jórsalalands. Af hafinu gengur langur hafsbotn til landnorðurs er heitir Svartahaf. Sá skilur heimsþriðjungana. Heitir fyrir austan Asía en fyrir vestan kalla sumir Evrópu en sumir Eneu. En norðan að Svartahafi gengur Svíþjóð hin mikla eða hin kalda. .
From Snorri’s ‘Heimskringla: Ynglinga Saga' c.13th C (Old Icelandic/West Norse) (transl: 'It is said that the earth's circle which the human race inhabits is torn across into many bights, so that great seas run into the land from the out-ocean. Thus it is known that a great sea goes in at Narvesund, and up to the land of Jerusalem. From the same sea a long sea-bight stretches towards the north-east, and is called the Black Sea, and divides the three parts of thee arth; of which the eastern part is called Asia, and the western is called by some Europa, by some Enea. Northward of the Black Sea lies Swithiod the Great, or the Cold.')
'Maður er nefndur Sigvaldi, hann var Árnason, Sigurðarsonar, Hjaltasonar, Gunnarssonar glænefs , úr Grafningi. Móðir Gunnars glænefs var Þorgerður í rauðum sokkum, Eyjólfsdóttir hins digra, Jónssonar, Finnssonar, Bjarnasonar skyrbelgs; hann dó í svartadauða og andaðist, eftir að hann hafði étið í einu átta merkur af ólekju. Þessi ætt verður ekki lengur rakin, því að fáar ættartölubækur ná fram yfir svartadauða.’.
From ‘Maður og Kona', by Jón Thoroddsen (elder), c. 1876.
Það er óskaland íslenzkt,
Sem að yfir þú býr –
Aðeins blómgróin björgin,
Sérhver baldjökull hlýr.
Frænka eldfjalls og íshafs,
Sifji árfoss og hvers,
Dóttir langholts og lyngmós,
Sonur landvers og skers.
"From a speech on Icelanders' Day", Stephan G. Stephansson (transl: "For the land of your wishes has an Icelandic form, but the rocks grow with flowers and the glaciers are warm, kin of ice and volcano, child of stream and defile, daughter of lava and ling-moor, son of inlet and isle.")
a short icelandic bibliography
Snæbjorn Jónsson, APrimer of Modern Icelandic (Oxford: 1927)
Sigfrid Valfells & James E Cathey, Old Icelandic: An Introductory Course (Oxford: 1981)
more to follow...
some icelandic links