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View Diary: ÍslensKos: The Icelandic Language, Or, What's So Scary About Super-Long Words? (109 comments)

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  •  i know a smattering (7+ / 0-)

    of Finnish and Hungarian, and I have to say this is one of the greatest diaries I have ever read. If I wasn't a musician I would have been a linguist even though I had no desire until I moved to Berkeley and started hearing languages all around me.

    I used to read a Hungarian dictionary even though I had no idea of what most of it meant, I could still pick out patterns.

    For example, it appears the word for pear is perur and pearl is perlur? I wonder if there are other combinations where changing the spelling of the english word is identical to changing the spelling in Icelandic?

    I remember my Finnish friend telling me that in Finnish you have to decline? many parts of a sentence, her example was; if you want to say 'I left my book on the desk on the 152nd floor' in Finnish you have to say ' I left my book on the desk of the 100th, on the desk of the 50th, on the desk of the 2nd floor'. or something like that. This is so fascinating.

    They say Bobby Fischer learned Icelandic when he played his World Championship match in Iceland. I learned one word, skyr, some kind of ice cream dessert. Anyway, this bar I started going to was owned by some Icelandic guys and one day I asked if I could get a free beer if I knew some Icelandic. I said skyr and they were so shocked that I got free beer just for saying it all the time!

    Also there is a TV program about this guy that memorized 10,000 digits of pi and he described how he saw numbers as colorscapes in his mind. He took Icelandic lessons for a week then was interviewed on Icelandic TV, they said he spoke well.

    I am amazed how many words I could pick out that have latin roots; sol=sun, draum=dream,etc. Must have a common proto-European root or something.

    Lastly, I cannot believe I am a innipuki, how insulting!

    The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. - Elbert Hubbard -9.62/-8.15

    by GustavMahler on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 07:50:21 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for the nice words. :) (5+ / 0-)

      And the nominative singular form of pearl is "perla".  "Perlur" is the nominative and accusative plural.

      Haha, that's an awesome story about the bar.  Bet you could have really blown them away if you had started talking in full sentences with them.  There was a case a while back of a guy in... I think it was the former Soviet state of Georgia, who on his own taught himself fluent Icelandic, having never been to Iceland but wanting to translate things.  It actually made some news in Iceland and he ultimately ended up getting offered a free trip to Iceland, free lodgings, etc.  ;)

      People here are getting more and more used to foreigners speaking Icelandic, but it's still the exception, not the rule.  Most native English speakers who move to Iceland never bother, and even a lot of non-native English speakers who move here still just rely on their English.  I even know an Icelandic woman whose daughter doesn't speak Icelandic.  No kidding!  She and her then-husband got divorced when her daughter was very young, and while she saw her daughter regularly, the daughter grew up in the US with the father, never learned Icelandic, and while she's lived in Iceland for several years now, she's never bothered to learn the language.  Her mother has tried to get her too, but she's too shy to use it and not willing to put forth the effort to study it, and all her friends just talk English with her.

      And outside of Iceland?  You pretty much never find people who speak Icelandic unless you specifically set out to meet them on purpose.

      Now, don't let that trick you into thinking that everyone in Iceland is a bunch of pasty-faced white folk - far from it.  It's actually surprisingly diverse.  For example, I think I mentioned in some comment in some thread somewhere, the first person I met when moving onto my street was a little black girl, who spoke only Icelandic, having grown up here and not yet being old enough to start to learn English.

      Note that actually sól is the new word for sun; the older word for sun, which can be seen in some compounds like sunnudagur (sunday) is "sunna".  Which should also look familiar.  "Moon" changed too, from "máni" to "tungl".  I don't know why.  Speaking of days of the week, I find it funny that in English we use days of the week mostly derived from the names of Norse gods, while here in Iceland, where people and streets actually are named after Norse gods and a small percent of the population still even worships them, the days of the week are not.

      •  Worship Norse gods.... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:


        We take for granted the Christians' Sunday wafer-cannibalism, so this can't be any more far-out. Or can it?

        What an idea!

        On a different tack, what does Icelandic do about cases, per se? A zillion? Or relatively few like English?

        Since nouns are declined for any reason that seems to have come to mind, it sounds like this could be a language with 5,000,000 words in common use.

        You'd study hard, get that last set of ablative qualifiers down pat on your 94th birthday, then forget the middle 4,687,000 word-items in a snap! The-perfect-great-cleansing-moment.

        (Lovely, lovely diary. An example of why I come to dkos instead of the benighted-huff-poo.)

        •  I see the comment about cases was (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bontemps2012, Kimbeaux, FarWestGirl

          answered to your satisfaction below, so just for the rest.  Yep, a couple percent of the population still worships the old gods, and there's even an official revived old norse paganism church (Ásatrúarfélagið) to which nearly one percent of the population is officially enrolled in.  Paganism in general is in the ballpark of 10% of the population.  And even among non-pagans there's still a lot of belief in old pagan concepts like the álfur / huldufólk (elves / hidden people).  About 10-15% are absolutely convinced they exist and a little over half willing to consider their existence.  Now, most people these days don't think that they're actual physical beings running around; it's more like the Japanese concept of kami, that places in nature can have a spirit and they don't like being f'ed with.

          Note that Iceland also has one of the highest percentages of atheists and agnostics in the world, too.  And while a majority are still Christian, it's a very liberal, live-and-let-live Christianity - it's important to them in their personal lives, but they usually don't feel the need to push it on other people (at least not like in America).  For example, I've not once seen a single Jesus-fish or Jesus bumper sticker - I'm not sure there's one in the whole country.  Christians here generally also do not reject science (world's highest rate of acceptance of evolution, for example) or reject other people for their lifestyles / beliefs / attitudes (for example, gay pride is one of the largest annual festivals in Iceland, with a third of the population attending).

          Again, to reiterate, that doesn't mean that there's no pushy Christians, or no bigotry.  And remember that there's a state church (although 75% of the population wants to change that, so it'll probably change some time in the next decade, probably sooner rather than later) and the official national anthem is a hymn (although it's not a very popular song here - actually saw a standup comedian making fun of it last Friday).  But this sort of stuff comes from an earlier time, when religion exerted a more dominant influence on the country than it does today.

          BTW, back to Ásatrúarfélagið - in case you ever want to attend, they welcome outsiders to their ceremonies, especially the blót feasts.  :)

          •  Beginning with "We have a ghost in the house" (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            as an indicator of our lack of orthodoxy, googling this "Ásatrúarfélagið" sounds interesting.

            The blót feasts have to have interesting recipes!

            Naming cats for Norse gods -- first step toward paganism. We can do that.

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