Admit it, you have no idea how to say Eyjafjallajökull. That’s OK, neither do I and neither do the announcers who are so valiantly trying to report the news of its eruption and consequent disruption of air travel while inwardly wishing it were named something more like Vesuvius. Well, now we can at least hear it said properly, even if we have a hard time reproducing it (for values of “we” that do not include actual Icelanders, of course), thanks to Mark Liberman at the Log.
Addendum. It turns out the Russians write Эйяфьядлайёкюдль [Eiyaf’yadlayokyudl’], which enables them at least to get the -dl- thing right.


  1. rootlesscosmo says

    Say it to music:
    (courtesy Alex Ross) (cross-posted to Language Log)

  2. Trond Engen says

    Be patient. Katla will soon ease your pain.

  3. I’m stuck at home in the UK because of this. Iceland, eh? Sometimes I wonder who really won the Cod War.
    I used to know a bit of Old Icelandic. When on earth did those “tl” sounds get into in “fjalla” and “jokull”?

  4. When on earth did those “tl” sounds get into in “fjalla” and “jokull”?
    See Pétur Helgason, “Phonetic Variation as a Source of Historical Sound Change: Examples From a Data Base”, http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=
    “In analysing spontaneous speech data from a female speaker of Central Standard Swedish, I have encountered two phonetic processes that are reminiscent of historical sound change in Icelandic. First, this informant frequently preaspirates her unvoiced stops, which in Icelandic is phonologically obligatory. Second, in her speech there are frequent occurrences of emergent [d] between vowels and laterals (i.e. pre-stopped laterals), a fact which bears a striking resemblance to the historical change ll > dl in 16th century Icelandic (the timing is debatable, though). These facts strongly suggest that sound changes where preaspiration arises and [d] emerges between a vowel and a lateral have their roots in the detailed phonetic variation of online speech. (The data are obtained from a data base under development in a joint effort by the Departments at SU and KTH.)”

  5. John Emerson says

    On occasions like this, LH is the place to go.

  6. Trond Engen says

    There must have been at least some propensity for that development already from the first days of Icelandic. Its closest continental relative, Western Norwegian, shows parallel development. The western coast dialects traditionally have -dl (~/fjedl/), and the southern mountain dialects have -dd (~/fjød/), probably developed from -dl. I haven’t been able to track down an online soundfile (it’s a dying feature, I suppose), but here’s a map (courtesy Arnstein Hjelde).

  7. Thanks for the explanation.

  8. marie-lucie says

    The -dd sequence does not have to come from -dl: for instance, in some Italian dialects -dd- occurs where other varieties have -ll-, without a suggestion of an intermediate -dl- or -ld-.
    The opposite change from -ll- to -ld- occurred in some Spanish words, eg Latin cella > Spanish celda ‘cell’ (eg of a monk), Latin pillula, Spanish pildora ‘pill’ (stress on the i).

  9. No, no. When uncertain about pronunciation, take a clue from the BBC. It’s pronounced “the volcano”. If you want to be more specific, “the Icelandic volcano”.

  10. The wags call it Mt Unpronounceable. But they’ll be in trouble if another unpronounceable one lets fly.

  11. Admit it, you have no idea how to say Eyjafjallajökull.
    No, I don’t admit anything. I am proficient in Icelandic, though not exactly fluent.

  12. John Emerson says

    David Weman has also mastered the word. Possibly Panu and David could start a small business pronouncing “Eyjafjallajökull” for people.

  13. Helvítis pakk!

  14. Helvítis pakk!
    Hafðu þig hægan vinur.

  15. Graham Asher says

    “Admit it, you have no idea how to say Eyjafjallajökull”. Come on; readers of Language Hat are more likely than most to have an inkling about this sort of thing. Been there, done that, and have even been spoken to in Icelandic and understood what was said (not that it was very much).

  16. marie-lucie says

    “Admit it, you have no idea how to say Eyjafjallajökull”
    Was this a quotation from somewhere else? I saw the exact same sentence at the beginning of an article in a local sheet a couple of days ago (the type of local sheet which seems to be made up of cut-and-pasted bits from other sources). Or could it be that the author of that particular bit is a fan of Language Hat?

  17. I didn’t take it from anywhere else, so either it’s a coincidence or the author of the sheet is a fan.

  18. Some geminated l’s are just that, though:

    vinnugalli ‘overalls’

  19. Speaking of Icelandic scenery:

    Президент Туркменистана Бердымухаммедов Гурбангулы Мяликкулиевич в ходе его визита в Исландию,вместе с Президентом Исландии Гвюдни ЙоуханнеНссоном посетили вулкан Фиммвердюхаулс,что привело к массовым самоубийствам дикторов новостных программ.


  20. Why the link to “HTML <del> Tag”? And what’s that Н doing in the middle of ЙоуханнеНссоном?

  21. My bad! It’s really, really hot here!
    Here’s the correct one:


    And what’s that Н doing in the middle of ЙоуханнеНссоном?

    It just goes to illustrate that, when one’s about to poke fun at something, one is well advised to check the source:
    Guðni Th. Jóhannesson

  22. A fun fact:

    Guðni has translated four Stephen King books into Icelandic.

  23. John Cowan says

    In Sardinian, Latin ll > dd, where both d’s are retroflex.

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