Icelandic/Alphabet and Pronunciation

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Stafróf og framburður

Alphabet and pronunciation


The Icelandic alphabet consists of 32 letters. There are also three letters used for foreign words, and one obsolete letter. Icelandic uses the latin alphabet, which is the same as the English alphabet and most Western European languages. There are some letters that are not found in English, and even some letters that only Icelandic uses.

Íslenska stafrófið

The Icelandic keyboard layout.
Upper case Lower case Name
А а a
Á á á
B b
D d
Ð ð
E e e
É é é
F f eff
G g
H h
I i i
Í í í
J j joð
K k
L l ell
M m emm
N n enn
O o o
Ó ó ó
P p
R r err
S s ess
T t
U u u
Ú ú ú
V v vaff
X x ex
Y y ypsilon y
Ý ý ypsilon ý
Þ þ þorn
Æ æ æ
Ö ö ö


Letters which are not part of the Icelandic alphabet, but are used in foreign words are:

Upper case Lower case Name
C c
Q q
W w tvöfalt vaff

The final letter, Z, is no longer used in Icelandic. It is in rare cases preserved in historic names of structures, organisations, and the like, such as Verzló (a school in Reykjavík).

Upper case Lower case Name
Z z seta

How the letters are pronounced[edit]

Letter Explanation
A is like "a" in "bar", "tar" and "car"
Á is like "ou" in "house", "about" and "shout"
B same as English P, but without the puff of air, as in "spit"
D same as English T, but without the puff of air, as in "stick"
Ð is like "th" in "feather", "father" and "that", but as the last letter of a word it is like "th" in "thin".
E same as in English except that it's always short, like in "bed" and "end"
É same as English "yay"
F same as in English "from"; like "p" in "hip" before n
G like "k" in "wick" at the beginning of a word or between a vowel and -l, -n; /ɣ/ after vowels, before a, u, ð, r, and when it's the last character of a word; like "ch" in Scottish "loch" after vowels and before t, s; like "y" in "young" between vowel and -i, -j; dropped between a, á, ó, u, ú
H same as in English "hello"
I is like the first "i" in "inside" and "impossible"
Í like an English "ee" and the "i" in "Maria" and the "y" in "diary"
J is like "y" in "yes", "yogurt" and "yield"
K same as in English "king"
L same as in English "love"
M same as in English "mom"
N same as in English "never"
O like "a" in British English "all" and "o" in "bolt"
Ó is like "o" in "sole" and like "oa" in "goat" and "soap"
P generally same as in English "Peter", but can be softer
R generally same as in Scottish English, virtually identical to a Spanish rolled R, from the very front of the mouth
S same as in English "soup"
T same as in English "time"
U virtually identical to a French "u" (as in "cul"), or a German "ü" (as in "über"). Equivalent to English "i" as in "kit", but with the lips rounded.
Ú like English "oo" as in "zoo"
V between English V and W
X same as in English "six"
Y exactly like Icelandic "i", it's only a matter of spelling
Ý exactly like Icelandic "í", it's only a matter of spelling
Þ like English "th" in "thunder", "theatre" and "thong"
Æ is like the name of the letter "i" in English or the sound of the letters "ai" in the words "Thai food". Hi/hæ & bye/bæ are the same in English and Icelandic.
Ö like German "ö" and English "u" in "urgent" or "fur". Equivalent to English "e" as in "bed", but with the lips rounded.

Notes:

  • Icelandic words never begin with Ð, and no words end with Þ.
  • I and Y share the same pronunciation, as do Í and Ý.
  • HV is pronounced as KV in the standard language, but in some areas it is pronounced as Scots WH.
  • J, L, M, N, and R are voiceless before H and in most areas before K, P, and T (no English equivalent)
  • L and R are voiceless at the end of a word
  • There are no silent letters in Icelandic., though in spoken language some letters might produce a different sound than usual.
  • Double BB, DD, GG, RR, and SS are pronounced for longer than their monograph equivalents.
  • Double FF is pronounced as English F.
  • Double LL is pronounced something like tl.
  • Double MM and NN are often pronounced as pm and tn.
  • Double KK, PP, and TT are pronounced with an H to their left and pronounced for longer than their monograph equivalents.
  • If a K is followed by a t, it is pronounced similarly to a Spanish j (e.g. lukt - lantern).
  • Likewise, a P followed by a t changes into an f sound (e.g. Að skipta - to shift).
  • F in the middle of a word is often pronounced as a v (e.g. Að skafa - to shave).
  • If you are not able to type in Icelandic letters, you can substitute Ð with DH, Þ with TH, Æ with AE, and Á, É, Í, Ó, Ö, Ú, Ý with AA, EE, II, OO, OE, UU, YY.

Diphthongs[edit]

Diphthong Sound
au
Pronounced as öi
ei, ey
like the ay in stay

Stress[edit]

Stress in Icelandic always falls on the first syllable.

Dialects of Icelandic[edit]

All dialects of Icelandic have assimilated into the standard spoken language, but people from Reykjavík tend to speak a little differently from people from Akureyri, Egilsstaðir, Ísafjörður and other countryside towns and villages. For example, the word for hot dog in Icelandic is pylsa; in Akureyri, they would say pil-sah but in Reykjavík you often will hear pulsa. Another example is the word for to want, langar: in Ísafjörður (the northwestern part of Iceland), you often will hear lahng-ar but in Reykjavík you will hear lángar.