23 October, 2010

Íslenska: a (rough) pronunciation guide

..compiled mostly from observation, so likely not 100% accurate. But close. 

Í = eye, as in Ísland (Iceland)
á = a rounded long a. Skál! (skoal, cheers)
ó = roof-of-palate as in "oar", as opposed to front-of-palate ö ("ew")
Normal o sounds like "phone". 

ý and i are mid-length vowel homophones, as in "it" - while
y  simply lengthens preceding vowels, making ey like bay, and
j   then sounds y, as in most Nordic tongues. Ja.
Put them together to make Reykjavik (rayk-ya-veek), which means "smoky bay".

æ is another of those long-vowels, subtly different from Í. You'll get it "straight" if you "tray".
Þ,þ are the capital and lower-case forms of "th"… and if you can master þose, 
Ð,ð are the toughest letter here. The sound is a stopped "th", close to "d". 

I almost forgot: like English, Íslenska has some combined-letter phonemes. So far i've encountered "fl", as in Keflavik; locals tell me that, when followed by "l", f is actually a stopped sound somewhere between b and p.  Thus KEF is actually Ke(bp)lavik AirportIf that's not enough fun for one lesson, "l" messes with other "l"s. So in Íslenska, that "ll" is actually "t'lh". Now you're ready to pronounce the name of Iceland's recently erupted volcano, the name plastered on souvenir t-shirts:


Have fun.