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Icelandic alphabet

The Icelandic alphabet consists of the following letters:

A B (C) D E F G H I J K L M N O P (Q) R S T U V (W) X Y (Z)

The modern Icelandic alphabet has developed from a standard established in the 19th century, by the Danish linguist Rasmus Rask primarily. It is ultimately based heavily on an orthographic standard created in the early 12th century by a mysterious document referred to as The First Grammatical Treatise , author unknown. The standard was intended for what its author perceived to be a common language of Scandinavia, alias Old Norse. It did not have much influence, however, at the time.

The most defining characteristics of the alphabet were established in the old treatise:

  • Use of the acute accent (originally to signify vowel length).
  • Use of , borrowed from the Old English alphabet letter thorn, a language which the astute grammarian described as "more or less the same" as Old Norse.

The later Rasmus Rask standard was basically a re-enactment of the old treatise, with some changes to fit concurrent Germanic conventions, such as the exclusive use of k rather than c. Various old features, like , had actually not seen much use in the later centuries, so Rask's standard constituted a major change in practice.

Later 20th century changes are most notably the adoption of , which had previously been written as je (reflecting the modern pronunciation), and the abolition of z, which had long been a mere etymological detail.

Recently most people have begun pronouncing Y and I in the same way as well as and . As there is no difference in the pronunciation of those letters, they might be a candidate for future deprecation in the alphabet.

Last updated: 08-21-2005 08:44:27
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