Icelandic vs. Norwegian

Icelandic and Norwegian are part of the Nordic and Scandinavian language families that are widely spoken in Northern Europe. While the two languages share some similarities, they have significant differences in structure and pronunciation.

Language Families

The Nordic and Scandinavian language families consist of several related languages spoken across Northern Europe, including Danish, Swedish, Icelandic, and Norwegian.

Icelandic and Norwegian languages are both rooted in Old Norse, with similar grammar and vocabulary.

Both, the Icelandic and Norwegian languages have evolved over time through contact with other languages, especially English.

Old Norse and Nordic mythology provided a significant influence on the development of both, the Icelandic and the Norwegian language.

Written Language

When it comes to grammar structures, both the Icelandic and Norwegian languages are known for their complexity. It is worth noting, however, that the Icelandic language boasts a more intricate morphology when compared to its Norwegian counterpart. This means that Icelandic words have more inflections, which can result in multiple word forms. Icelandic has also retained several archaic structures from Old Norse, giving it a unique flavor that sets it apart from other Nordic languages.

Spoken Language

When listening to Icelandic and Norwegian, you can easily tell the two languages apart. Icelandic boasts a larger number of vowel sounds than Norwegian, allowing for a more varied and nuanced language. By contrast, Norwegian’s pronunciation is simpler, with fewer vowel sounds. Therefore, if you are looking for a language with a diverse range of sounds, Icelandic is the right fit for you.

Is Icelandic the same as Old Norse?

Icelandic has evolved from Old Norse, which was the language spoken by Vikings in the early medieval period. While Icelandic shares many similarities with Old Norse, it is not an exact replica of the language. Icelandic has developed its own unique grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation, setting it apart from its old Norwegian counterpart. Icelandic is, however, still considered to be the language closest to Old Norse and serves as a valuable resource for scholars researching the Viking age.

Can Norwegians understand Icelandic?

While Norwegians may be able to get the general meaning of Icelandic sentences, it becomes significantly more challenging for them to grasp the finer nuances and context of the language.

Can Icelandic Speakers understand Norwegian?

It is easier for people speaking Icelandic to understand Norwegian than the other way round. This is also due to the fact that Icelandic television and media in general often shows content in Norwegian which means many people in Iceland are very much used to at least listen to Norwegian.