Ancient and contemporary
Though Old Icelandic and modern Icelandic sound very different, the written versions of the language retain a high number of similarities, with less variation than one sees between many other ancient and contemporary dialects.
The earliest known Icelandic texts date back to around 1100 AD, when laws, poems and stories that had previously been passed orally from generation to generation were written down for the first time. Due to the similarities between Old Icelandic and the version of the language in use today, it is possible (though not easy) for many Icelanders to read the original documents.
Translating documents from Icelandic to English is a skilled practice. Notes of relevance in this field include:
- The modern Icelandic alphabet contains a total of 32 letters, including both Latin and runic letters, 14 of which are vowels.
- Handwritten and typed Icelandic can differ slightly as the language’s glyphs are often simplified when written by hand.
- Icelandic allows for the linguistic phenomenon of quirky subjects. This means that the subjects of certain verbs are in a case other than the nominative.