Icelandic Quotation Marks

Icelandic quotation marks are unique and play a crucial role in distinguishing and properly formatting dialogues and quotations within written works in the Icelandic language. Different languages have varying conventions when it comes to quotation marks, and understanding the specific forms used in Icelandic is essential for those looking to write correctly in the language.

In Icelandic, the primary set of quotation marks used are the so-called Dutch style, which include the lower and upper guillemets („ “). These marks are different from the conventional English quotation marks (” “) and set Icelandic text apart as they emphasize the quoted content clearly and distinctly.

It is worth noting that with the advent of digital communication and global platforms, some Icelandic writers may occasionally employ English-style quotation marks or other variations. Nevertheless, for those aiming to adhere to traditional Icelandic writing conventions, using the correct Icelandic quotation marks is of paramount importance.

History of Icelandic Quotation Marks

Icelandic quotation marks, also known as „double low-9“ quotation marks, have their origins in ancient times. These marks have evolved over the centuries and have been influenced by various European typographic traditions. They are primarily used in Icelandic, though they can also be found in Dutch and a few other languages.

The first recorded use of quotation marks dates back to the works of ancient Greek scholars, where they took the form of arrows or dips (angled lines) called diple. These marks were used to indicate quotations or citations from other authors. However, the modern form of Icelandic quotation marks, „“, was not yet in use during this time.

It wasn’t until the late 16th century that the first instances of the now-familiar Icelandic quotation marks appeared. In a book of cautionary poems called The Mirour for Magistrates, Icelandic quotation marks were used to indicate direct speech for the first time.

Over time, Icelandic quotation marks have become an integral part of the language’s written expression. They can be found in various types of text, such as literature, newspapers, and academic works. The consistent use of these quotation marks has helped to distinguish Icelandic from other Scandinavian languages, which often use different forms of quotation marks.

Usage and Rules

Direct Speech

Icelandic quotation marks, also known as Dutch quotation marks, are used to represent direct speech or exact language from someone else. They are written as „ and “, where the opening quotation mark appears at the bottom („) and the closing quotation mark appears at the top (“). For example:

„Ég elska þig“ sagði hann.

Which translates to:

“I love you” he said.

Nested Quotations

To indicate a quote within a quote, Icelandic uses the single quotation marks ‘ and ’ as inner quotes. The standard order is the double quotation marks followed by single quotation marks when quoting a statement that includes a quotation:

„Hann sagði, ‘Við verðum að vinna,’ og ég samþykkti“ sagði hún.

Which translates to:

“He said, ‘We have to win,’ and I agreed” she said.

Punctuation Inside or Outside Quotation Marks

In Icelandic, punctuation marks are generally placed inside the quotation marks when they belong to the quoted material, and outside when they belong to the sentence as a whole:

  • „Ég skil þig ekki“ sagði hún spyrjandi.
  • Hann spurði, „Viltu taktu þátt?“
  • „Hvar er hann“ spurði hún, „og hvenær kemur hann heim?“

It is important to follow these guidelines when using Icelandic quotation marks to ensure clarity and correct formatting.

Contemporary Usage and Trends

In modern digital communication such as emails and social media, it is not uncommon to see the usage of English-style quotation marks (“these”). This may be attributed to the prevalence of English and its influence on global communication, and the familiarity of these marks on standard keyboards.

Despite this shift in informal communication, the proper Icelandic-style quotation marks remain the standard for formal writing, including journalism, literature, and academic works. It is essential for writers in these domains to adhere to the proper Icelandic quotation mark usage to maintain the standard and integrity of their language.

Here is again a comparison of Icelandic and English quotation marks:

LanguageOpening Quotation MarkClosing Quotation Mark

When writing in Icelandic, it is essential to maintain an awareness of the correct quotation mark usage and its context, as it can impact the perception and readability of the text.