Icelandic (// (listen); Icelandic: íslenska pronounced [ˈi:s(t)lɛnska] (listen)) is a North Germanic language spoken by about 314,000 people, the vast majority of whom live in Iceland where it is the national language. As a West Scandinavian language, it is most closely related to Faroese, extinct Norn, and western Norwegian dialects.
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|Latin (Icelandic alphabet)|
Official language in
| Iceland |
|Regulated by||Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies in an advisory capacity|
Iceland, where Icelandic is the language of the majority
The language is more conservative than most other Germanic languages. While most of them have greatly reduced levels of inflection (particularly noun declension), Icelandic retains a four-case synthetic grammar (comparable to German, though considerably more conservative and synthetic) and is distinguished by a wide assortment of irregular declensions. Since the written language has not changed much, Icelanders can read classic Old Norse literature created in the 10th through 13th centuries (such as the Eddas and sagas) with relative ease.
Icelandic is closely related to Faroese; the written forms of the two languages are very similar, but their spoken forms are not mutually intelligible. It is not mutually intelligible with the continental Scandinavian languages (Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish) and is more distinct from the most widely spoken Germanic languages, English and German, than those three are.
Aside from the 300,000 Icelandic speakers in Iceland, it is spoken by about 8,000 people in Denmark, 5,000 people in the United States, and more than 1,400 people in Canada, notably in the region known as New Iceland in Manitoba which was settled by Icelanders beginning in the 1880s.
The state-funded Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies serves as a centre for preserving the medieval Icelandic manuscripts and studying the language and its literature. The Icelandic Language Council, comprising representatives of universities, the arts, journalists, teachers, and the Ministry of Culture, Science and Education, advises the authorities on language policy. Since 1995, on 16 November each year, the birthday of 19th-century poet Jónas Hallgrímsson is celebrated as Icelandic Language Day.