The Icelandic language belongs to the group of Germanic languages (see Germanic, peoples: Languages) and is precisely the continuation of the western Nordic dialect, imported to the island by the Norwegian settlers who came to populate it in the last thirty years of the century. IX and in the first decades of the following. Old Icelandic has in common with Old Norse the characteristics that distinguish Western North from Eastern North (Danish and Swedish), but on the other hand it has its own characteristics that differentiate it from its sister language.
In the oldest documented phase of the two languages the main differences are as follows: 1. The mutation of i into e and of u into o, which already in the most ancient Icelandic texts is usually in the endings and in most of the suffixal syllables, in Norwegian (excluding southwestern dialects) is conditioned by the vowel of the preceding syllable: so in the isl. spurthe “questioned”, 3. plur. spurtho, the norv. responds with spurdhi, spurdhu, ma isl. and norv. lodde “was attached”, 3. plur. loddo. 2. The reaction of u on the vowel of the previous syllable it occurs in Icelandic also in many cases in which Norwegian (at least Eastern) ignores it: p. ex. isl. b ǫ rnom “to the children”, f ǫ llom “we fall”, but norveg. barnum, fallum. 3. Icelandic retains in word principle the groups hl, hn, hr from which Norwegian (excluding the dialects of the Orkney and Shetland Islands) eliminates h: p. e.g., isl. hlutr (German. Los), hníga (German. neigen), hringr (German. Ring), norv. lutr, níga, thank you. 4. The simultaneous use of the postponed article and the preposition article, rare in Icelandic, is frequent in Norwegian: p. e.g., isl. that skip, norv. also that skipit “this ship”. 5. The pronominal forms mér “we” and mit “we two” are frequent in Norwegian, rare in Icelandic, instead of vér, vit.
The history of Icelandic, like that of the other Nordic languages, is usually divided into two periods, of which the age of the Reformation (around 1530) is taken as a limit. In ancient times we can distinguish: an archaic period (about 900-1150) in which Icelandic is just beginning to differentiate itself from Norwegian and almost only for the particularities just mentioned; the classical period (around 1150-1350) in which the language undergoes important changes for which it properly acquires a particular physiognomy; and a middle – Icelandic period(circa 1350-1530) in which some of the phenomena that characterize the modern Icelandic are already revealed. The first attestations of the Icelandic language consist of a good number of personal names, dating from the 10th-11th centuries, mentioned in the so-called Reichenau Obituary.
The oldest document of certain date would be a text of law fixed in writing in the winter of 1117-18, which, however, is known to us only from later compilations. The beautiful and varied literature of medieval Iceland is preserved in numerous manuscripts, none of which date back beyond the mid-century. XII, written in the Latin alphabet adapted to the needs of the language. It should be noted that often the most ancient linguistic forms are not found in the most ancient codices, but in poetic compositions which have come down to us in manuscripts of the century. XIII, in which these forms could be preserved because they were protected by the needs of metrics. The inscriptions in runic characters have no importance for the linguistic history of Iceland being few in number (just over 40) and relatively late in date (the oldest,
In the modern phase Icelandic has undergone a rapid evolution, especially phonetic, which has given it a remarkably different aspect from the ancient one. The modern era opens with the translation of the New Testament (1540) by Oddur Gottskálksson, followed in chronological order but surpassed in linguistic value by the version of the other parts of the Bible edited by Bishop Gudhbrandur Thorláksson (1584). Icelandic is currently spoken by 110,000 people in Iceland and a few thousand emigrants to America. Iceland is said to have no dialects. This is only true in the sense that there are no such differences as to hinder the conversation between the residents of different regions. However, there is no lack of phonetic and also lexical peculiarities, which take on the character of true dialectal variations. We also remember the Flandramál, a seafaring language or rather jargon formed by the mixture of Dutch, English, French and of course Icelandic elements, which serves as a means of communication with foreign fishermen, especially French, who frequent the coasts of Iceland.
The Icelandic colony founded in Greenland in 986 ceased to exist around 1450. Only an insignificant memory of its language remains in two runic inscriptions found in Kingittorsuaq and Napassut, the date of which is around 1300.