Is Icelandic a stable language?

18.12.2008 - (idw) Schwedischer Forschungsrat - The Swedish Research Council

Icelandic is often cited as a typical example of a stable language. At the same time, recent research suggests that Icelandic is currently undergoing changes more rapidly than previously, and this also seems to be the perception among the Icelandic public in general. Finnur Friğriksson has conducted research into whether Icelandic can still be characterised as a stable language and - if this is the case - which factors in the language community are contributing to this stability. Islandic can still be characterised as a stable language. Very few examples of the alleged changes were discovered in the recorded conversations, and the same was the case for the written material. It also appears that the minor variations that do exist are relatively stabile, i.e. the pattern is largely the same in all age groups. Younger speakers do not display any clear indications of deviating from the standard language to a greater extent than older speakers, however, a pattern such as this is usually regarded as a sign of ongoing change.

When it comes to the informants' attitudes to linguistic change, they appear to be both highly aware of the variations that were studied, and in general negative towards the alleged changes. This attitude also appears to be a major contributory factor to language stability. A clear connection emerged between attitudes and language use, namely that the informants who expressed negative attitudes towards the relevant non-standard forms were less inclined than the other informants to use them.
The informants' interview responses also suggest that other factors, such as a strong linguistic nationalism and a language policy that promotes stability, are contributing to the stability of Icelandic. Finnur Friğriksson considers that in general these factors serve to bolster language stability, even though other factors, which can have specific effects in other language communities, should be included in the calculation.

Title of the thesis: Language Change vs. Stability in Conservative Language Communities. A case study of Icelandic.
The thesis will be public defended on Friday 19 December at 9.15
Location: Lilla hörsalen, Humanisten, Renströmsgatan 6
Opponent: Associate Professor Natalie

contact Finnur Friğriksson
Tel. +00 354-4608575 (work), +00 354-4615610 (home), mobile +00 354-8464353,
e-mail: finnurf@unak.is
The thesis is also available digitally: http://hdl.handle.net/2077/18713
Weitere Informationen: http://hdl.handle.net/2077/18713