REYKJAVIK, Iceland — When an Icelander arrives at an office building and sees “Solarfri” posted, they need no further explanation for the empty premises: The word means “when staff get an unexpected afternoon off to enjoy good weather.”
The people of this rugged North Atlantic island settled by Norsemen some 1,100 years ago have a unique dialect of Old Norse that has adapted to life at the edge of the Arctic.
Hundslappadrifa, for example, means “heavy snowfall with large flakes occurring in calm wind.”
But the revered Icelandic language, seen by many as a source of identity and pride, is being undermined by the widespread use of English, both for mass tourism and in the voice-controlled artificial intelligence devices coming into vogue.
Linguistics experts, studying the future of a language spoken by fewer than 400,000 people in an increasingly globalized world, wonder if this is the beginning of the end for the Icelandic tongue.
Former …
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