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The Little Book of Icelandic: On the idiosyncrasies, delights and sheer tyranny of the Icelandic language Kindle Edition
|Length: 164 pages||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled||Page Flip: Enabled|
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Like the book on Icelanders, the strength of this book is the fact that the author is bi-cultural is also the weakness. Her view is that of a member of the culturally dominating Anglo-American culture and language. The strength of this is, her perspective is so transparent for anyone who are aquainted with this culture, as we all are, knowing it or not. The problem is, she at times portrays features of Icelandic language (and culture) as the norm, while a somewhat wider perspective might open up for that English is more irrational.
For instance, spelling. Icelandic spelling is not that difficult, especially compared to English (or for instance French). Another example is the way Icelandic allows creating new words and meaning by joining words (concatenation). This actually is not a special feature of Icelandic. All the Norse languages do, and more important, German does so too. (Google Rhabarberbarbara for an entertaining demonstration.) German also still have most of the cases that in the other North-Germanic languages are mostly lost. And there are languages (Finnish for instance) that are very, very much more dependent on cases.
That said, the author is not a linguist, but journalist, and what she does, she does very well. The book is entertaining, funny and this book adds to her series of books that will give the reader deep insight into the life and ways of Icelanders.
So, while not useful for learning Icelandic, for anyone travelling to Iceland and otherwise interesting in Iceland and the culture, this is a must read! Well written, and funny too.
Consider the peculiarities of English -- the plural of "dog" is "dogs", but the plural of "sheep" is still "sheep". Why is that? I have no idea. Maybe some deep cultural wisdom is contained in it.
Anyway, Icelandic has quite a lot of that sort of thing where making a word plural changes it, but so does the reason you are saying the word. If you merely name a place it gets one spelling and sounding; but if you are going there it gets a different spelling and sounding, and so on. The complexity is fascinating.
I was pleased to confirm an observation I had made while there; Icelandic can unambiguously answer a negatively phrased question. Do you want to see a movie? Ja (yes). Don't you want to see a movie? (Do you NOT want to see a movie?) Ju (yes; negates the negative and affirms the object).
My interest is in human nature; an ancient language carefully preserved has such things as negatively phrased questions but also a way to answer such things unambiguously.
Throughout the book Alda Sigmundsottir maintains a delightful and lighthearted sense of humor.
All of Sigmundsdottir's books are a great introduction to a beautiful country.