Icelandic is spoken by the 250,000 inhabitants of Iceland. It is one of the Scandinavian languages, which form a branch of the Germanic languages, in turn a part of the Indo-European family. Icelandic, like Faroese, is remarkably similar to Old Norse, the language of the Vikings, which was brought to Iceland from Norway in the 9th century. While the other Scandinavian languages have been strongly influenced by those of neighboring countries, Icelandic, insular and isolated, has retained its pristine character over the centuries. As a result Icelandic schoolchildren today have no difficulty reading the "Eddas" and the "Sagas", the great epics written in Old Norse. Their language is a sort of parent tongue to the other modern Scandinavian languages. It also has many features in common with Old English, the result of the Viking invasions of Britain in the 9th century.
Unlike the other Nordic countries there are no dialects to speak of. Another factor behind the purity of Icelandic is the absence of international words for modern ideas and inventions. Icelanders avoid such words wherever possible, preferring to coin their own purely Icelandic words instead. Thus "telephone", for example, in Icelandic is "simi", an old Icelandic word for "thread" or "wire". Icelandic's links with Old English are also reflected in the alphabet, which contains the old runic letters - (eth), the voiced th, and the "t" (thorn), the unvoiced. It also contains the "æ" of Danish and Norwegian. The English word "geyser" and "eider" are of Icelandic origin.
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