The High Icelandic language centre (Miðstöð háfrónska tungumálsins) is… well, it’s pretty strange. In the words of their manifesto:

The High Icelandic Language movement has its origin in the Icelandic hyperpuristic circles of the nineties. Its members were inspired by the puristic extremities of the nineteenth-century Fjölnismen and the fanatic translation of Goethe’s Faust by Bjarni Jónsson frá Vogi. Towards the end of the millennium the movement was nothing more than a few individuals who were unsatisfied with the ‘in their opinion’ moderately puristic endeavours of the Icelandic word-commissions. These men went further where the Fjölnismen had stopped. Lists of purely Icelandic geographical names, Icelandicized proper names and names of chemicals were collected. All these efforts culminated in the foundation of the ‘Language Laundry’ (Nýyrðasmiðja Málþvottahús), which brought hyperpurism into the spotlight…
Languages free of foreignisms don’t exist. From a linguistic point of view, there is no such thing as a ”pure” language. All languages (even High Icelandic) have borrowings. But there is a difference between purity and originality. A word like ‘sinkbróðir’ for ‘cadmium’ contains a loan-word, but the compound as a whole is unique in the world. In a way, this kind of genuineness could be interpreted as a form of purity. Still the High Icelandics aim at reducing as much as possible the foreign words in Icelandic that were borrowed after the first written texts. The exclusion of many words won’t necessarily lead to language impoverishment. In order to avoid that, a large part of obsolete Old Norse vocabulary will be resurrected. The result will be a hyperpure variant of modern Icelandic…

But you needn’t be Icelandic to be High Icelandic:

The future speakers of hypericelandic won’t necessarily be Icelandic. Every speaker of a Scandinavian language and last but not least every human being on this planet who is interested in Old Scandinavian culture is a potential student of Háfrónska. Geographical dispersion is no obstacle anymore in this era of mass media. It is uncertain whether we will equal the popularity of Nynorsk, but the phenomenon will be noticed.

I can’t quite shake the suspicion that this is a put-on (“Hyperpurists were presented as a bunch of clowns…”; the Language Laundry?), but I guess it’s real, and I guess it’s harmless, though the worship of “purity” gives me the hives—there’s just not a great likelihood of these people taking to the seas in reconstructed Viking ships and pillaging the world in the name of Icelandic purity. And they do have nice images of animals with High Icelandic labels. But a word of warning: “If one doesn’t master the cases, one simply can’t speak High Icelandic.”
Thanks to John Emerson for the link.
Addendum. See the discussion of the kenning factory (and of “the oddly unscientific and antiquated definition of ‘Viking’ in the Oxford English Dictionary“) at Acephalous.


  1. The Finns are not to be denied, either. At my URL: “Finnish as a World Language”.
    It’s interesting that the Icelandic hyperpurists write extensively in English and don’t all seem to be Icelanders.
    The actual level of popularity of Nynorsk might give us a clue.

  2. The acknowledgments at the end of the manifesto mention the “Dutch Bond tegen Leenwoorden” and “Stichting Natuurlijk Nederlands” (Society against Borrowed Words / Foundation Natural Dutch) which appear to be for real as well. As a Dutch native living the US, but reading Dutch web sites regularly, I have noticed an enormous number of foreign words, particularly English, entering the Dutch language in recent years.

  3. Richard Hershberger says

    This does seem to be the intersection of earnestness and self-parody. I particularly like the idea that if one must borrow a word, one should do it in a really idiosyncratic way: why this makes it more ‘pure’ is left unclear.
    I am reminded of the Flat Earth Society, though I have tentatively decided that they are probably joking.

  4. The word “pure” freaks me out.

  5. Revisiting at lunchtime, I notice that the URLs on several of the pages on this site contain Dutch terms which are, ironically, themselves “impure” Dutch: “voorpagina” (front page; on the site of the Natural Dutch association mentioned earlier, “pagina” is criticized as a borrowed word for “page” in Dutch); tussenlink (a Dutch compound of “tussen”/between and “link”, an obvious English import).

  6. aldiboronti says

    Speaking of Dutch, there’s an interesting piece on language purism in the Netherlands of the 16th century here:
    The language purists in Korea have also been busy over the last century:

  7. I read recently that early Icelanders did very little fishing, and only became a trawler nation after subsistence agriculture failed.
    But linguistic purism can be fun: depends on the emphasis. If it’s all about banning imported forms, I say no, but if it finds ways to resuscitate interesting old forms to create new subtleties alongside the imported, then I say hooray! A lot of progress and innovations have come out of social ideas that were originally nostalgic in character.
    There’s many defunct English words which could be beneficially revived – nay?

  8. Ingeborg S. Nordén says

    I have a Scandinavian Studies degree (including two years of Old Norse) from a major US university…and I think that if the High Icelandic advocates aren’t joking, then they are wildly unrealistic fanatics. Forcing even non-Icelandic *Scandinavian* influence out of the language is going MUCH too far, especially when you consider two things: First, some of the borrowings that the High Icelanders want to remove have been part of the language since Norse times. Second, removing words taken from other modern Scandinavian languages is ignoring the history of Icelandic settlement: if Swedes, Norwegians and Danes had NOT stuck around in early Iceland, then the island would have remained a Celtic Christian stronghold. Dismissing the words used in an ancestral homeland (sound changes notwithstanding) is pretending that local culture and language were created from nowhere, existing in a vacuum.

  9. Languages have always been influenced by other tongues. To halt this influence – and hence decree your own terminolgy is “purer” or superior – is a proof of both a far-stretching hubris and of a complete lack of grasp on the normal evolution of languages.
    Who has ever come up with the idea loan words trigger an impoverishment? Besides, these new words will be adapted after a while to better suit the new language. Take English, for instance, and note how many words have blatantly been imported from French, but differ greatly now.

  10. Dear People,
    My name is Timbur-Helgi (carpenter-saint), which traslates as Jósef in High Iceladic. This is the text with of the interview that was taken with me. It will appear on Icelandic television next month.
    Mr. Timbur –Helgi, What exactly is High Icelandic?
    The High Icelandic language (háfrónska) is an extreme form of Modern Icelandic developed during late nineties and the early years of the 21st century. This new language model is based on two principles: first, on far-going metaphorisation, which means that as much words as possible are replaced by metaphores. Examples of this are words like meitilskáld, which translates as chisel-poet or sculptor, haðarrúnir, the runes of the blind god Höður, which translates as braille. Another example of this is the use of kennings as scientific terms, like e.g surtsgull (gold of surtr, the fire-giant, sulphur) or gleipniskol (carbon-nanotubes, the cylindrical form of carbon, the theoretically strongest fibre which was discovered in 1992. I named it named after gleipnir, the thin but exceedingly strong thread that was used to bind the wolf Fenrir.
    The second principle in High Icelandic is called ‘málgjörhreinsun’ (ultrapurism), which implies the replacement of all borrowings from whatever language, even those occuring in the oldest writings.
    Why do you find linguistic purity in Icelandic so important?
    It is important because it is the only feature that makes Icelandic unique. We have to make the distinction between special and unique. Icelandic is special because it has a rich, old literature but this doesn’t make it unique, it shares this property with languages like Greek, Hebrew and Tamil. Icelandic isn’t unique in that it has changed the least of all languages in the last millenium. Greek has changed as little as Icelandic during the last 1000 years. But Icelandic IS unique in that it has the least amount of loan-words of all languages, the world-record of linguistic purism, a property that came into existance only in recent history. This is why many linguists in the world refer to extreme linguistic purism as ‘the Icelandic way’.
    But the problem is that this world record is threatened by two languages: Tamil, a Dravidian language of India and Maori, the Polynesian language of New Zealand.
    Since a few decades these two languages are going through an extremely puristic phase. If Icelanders don’t start to purify there language further and further, these two languages will dethrone Icelandic. So in my opinion the emphasis in Icelandic language defence shouldn’t lie just on holding the thread with the old language but also on keeping the world record of linguistic purism.
    Personally, I think the days of Icelandic as the purest language are numbered. Icelanders have become less fanatic as for defending their language and the youth loves to used loan-word dense slang. For that reason we created Háfrónska. This language is so exceedingly pure that the world record could be save for another millenium.
    I read that you even icelandicize geographical and proper names. Isn’t that a little bit over the top?
    On the contrary! In the 19th century, the fjölnismen coined names like fiskimannaland for Peru or Jón Hrísill for John Russell. They weren’t joking as some Icelanders tend to believe, they did this in a sincere mind, but this kind of ultrapurism wasn’t accepted. But we, nýyrðaskáld intend to go further where the fjölnismen stopped.
    What about the choice of the High Icelandic flag? Don’t you think many Icelanders see the design as an insult?
    It is common knowledge that all Scandinavian flags originate from the dannebrog, which was the first of its kind. Many people keep on seeing the cross design as a symbol of common scandinaviann ancestry, but we do not. The dannebrog is a crusader-flag and has nothing to do with the true old Scandinavian culture.
    Our flag is called the þórsfrónvoð and is pretty much the same as the existing Icelandic flag. Every vexillologist to whom we have shown our design recognized its Icelandic nature. We left the division of the colours unaltered but replaced the cross by the hammer. Don’t forget that Thor was the favorite god of Icelanders before christianization so we don’t believe that any Icelander can possibly see it as an insult, on the contrary. The Þórsfrónvoð is an ode to Old Icelandic culture and the fore-fathers.
    But what about the fact that the hammer-symbol is the symbol of Scandinavian neonazism?
    You must know that fascistic movements always tend to make use of symbols originating from the old beliefs of their ancestors. But does this mean that these symbols are evil as a rule? No!. The swastica has been a symbol of the live-giving sun for thousands of years, it occurs in cultures all over the worls, it is not the property of the nazis. The peaceful Wicca-organization still uses the swastica, they appreciate the symbol for what it really is. The same goes for the thunderhammer. I heard that most members of the Ásatrúarfélag in Iceland refuse to wear mjölnir-pendants because they don’t want to be associated with mainland Scandinavian neo-nazi groups. But by doing this they accept that the fascists have stolen their symbol, which is regrettable.
    Is High Icelandic an artificial language?
    How do you define artificiality? Language was originally an artificial construct. Without linguistic purism 60% of the Icelandic vocabulary would be different. Take for instance the Turkish language. In the Ottoman empire, 60% of the turkish vocabulary was of Arab or persian origin. In the early 20th century, Kemal Atatürk launched a language purification project. In a few decades Turkish had become so different that the Older people didn’t understand the language anymore. Turkish had been turkicised almost beyond recognition.
    The diffenece in vocabulary between MI and HI is 16%, much less than the 60% between Ottoman and Modern Turkish. Háfrónska is less artificial than some so-called natural languages.
    Don’t you think people will see you as weirdo’s? Many Icelanders hate linguistic purism and are in favour of adopting foreignisms as is done in every other Scandinavian langauge. What kind of reactions do you expect?
    I know that some individuals in Iceland can’t wait to make a mockery of the HILC. But on the other hand we will have a minority of sympatisants and despite what some of our opponents believe, there will be a very small number of people who can speak High Icelandic well before 2010.
    Why did you choose the name High Icelandic? The name sounds elitarian to say the least.
    The name is derived from Høgnorsk, High Norwegian, the conservative form of New Norwegian. Maybe the name sounds elitarian, but I assure you that our movement is far from that, at least, this is my wish. We created háfrónska for all Icelanders and all foreign enthusiasts.
    As for elitism, in my live, I have experienced what it’s like to be dominated by elitist people. If there’s one thing I don’t like, it is elitism. I’ve asked Pétur Þorsteinsson, the president of the High Icelandic language council to see to it that the movement, remains a non-elitarian one. High Icelandic is a twin-sister of Icelandic, it is not better or more exalted. We respect people who like to use loan-words or decide to abandon their mother-tongue entirely in favour of English. Freedom of expression, which includes the choice of one’s first language is a fundamental human right that should be respected. And we hope Icelanders will respect compatriots who sympathise with the High Icelandic language movement.
    I have a question about the relation between fascism and linguistic purism. Do you find it surprising that purists in Iceland are called ‘language fascists’?
    There are unfortunately certain parallels between linguistic purism and fascism but people must know that fascistic regimes mostly regard the purification of their mother-tongue with disfavour. The nazis needed loan-words for their propaganda machine. You can’t fool people with native word-construction because these tend to more transparent. It is easier to attach a new meaning to a word of foreign origin. The nazis were no linguistic purists. Anyway, I don’t think it is appropriate to call us language fascists. We don’t impose our language on others. Háfrónska is free for everyone to learn.
    You asked Peter thorsteinsson, the preacher of the independant parish to take on the job of president of the High Icelandic language council. Why don’t you take the credits? After all, you created the bulk of the High Icelandic vocabulary.
    The reason is simple. I live in Belgium, not in Iceland and I don’t speak Icelandic as fluently as a native speaker. The movement is better off with a member of the Icelandic language community. Pétur is a good friend of mine and I’m sure he will do a great job. I will remain in the back-ground and occupy myself with the updates of the web-site.
    Peter has published on his own Petrish-Icelandic dictionary, full of funny words created with a humorist purpose. People associate Peter with humoristic word-creation, while High Icelandic is meant as an everyday-language. Don’t you believe that Icelanders will think Háfrónska is meant as a humorist project if you take Peter as president?
    Pétur make humoristic words, and that’s OK. But apart from that, Pétur distinguised between Pétríska, which has a humorist function and Háfrónska, which is meant as a puristic variant of MI. He takes the job seriously, he is a very intelligent man and will make a good president.
    When do you think the model will be completed?
    Well at this time we still have a lot of work to do. We need to revise the majority of the word-lists. Much is left to be corrected, adjusted or replaced. Peter and I hope we will get the help from many Icelanders so we can solidify the language model in relatively short notice, maybe before the end of this year. The reason we went on-line so early is that we have since long been promising people to put our stuff on the net. We grew tired of waiting. But the lists still have to be corrected.
    How do you see the future of High Icelandic?
    Well, I’m a realist and I know that háfrónska won’t ever be spoken but by an absolutely small minority. With a little luck, it could grow into something like Høgnorsk. Proportianally that would be equal to 200 Icelanders speaking the language. But even without this small success High Icelandic could survive as a symbolic language, immune for influence and harbouring the purest vocabulary.
    Thank you for this interview
    You’re welcome.
    Second interview
    When did you start word-building?
    Back in 1992 I was learning Swedish and I needed a dictionary in addition to my course. I found one titled ‘Scandinavian basic vocabulary’, which contained 3500 basic words in Dano-Norwegian, New norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Icelandic. The difference in vocabulary between Mainland Scandinavian and Icelandic immediately stroke me. Little by little, I became attracked to this little, peculiar language and one day I decided to buy the linguaphone course of Icelandic. But that what interested me most was the construction of words. In 1993, a friend of mine went on a vacation to Iceland an brought me an English-Icelandic dictionary. After a year of intense memorization, I mastered a vocabulary that was large enough to start building neologisms.
    You’ve sent words to the Icelandic langauge commission, how did they react?
    They were pleased that a foreigner was so much interested in their mother-tongue. They have send me some of their terminology books.
    Have you ever met them?
    I visited the Málnefnd twice, in 1993 and 1997, I think. They were very friendly and I admire these people a lot for there efforts. I think that without the language commission and of course the many word-commissions, Icelandic would be at the mercy of the waves.
    Tell me about your first web-page.
    I bought my first computer in 1998 and through the internet I got to know the Dutchmen Fabian Valkenburg, who was the president of the Dutch Union against loan-words. He was interested in my Icelandic names of the chemical elements, which he wanted to translate in Dutch. In return, he helped me building the nýyrðasmiðja málþvottahúsið. In the beginning of the year 2000, the web-page went on line.
    Was it succesful? What kind of reactions did you get?
    Not very much. You must now that the policy of language defence has never been more unpopular than it is nowadays, especially among the youth. Extreme linguistic purism is now seen as a joke by many people. Words like bjúgaldin, a banana, which literally translates as curved fruit are examples of purisms that are laughed at, but what most people don’t know is that in some Bantu languages in Africa the first element of the word banana means ‘curved’. So it is a logical word. In my opinion, there is no such thing as funny words. Language is but a set of words. And the reason people find a neologism ridiculous is because it has to replace a old and commonly used loan-word. For instance, no one in Iceland laughs at a word like rafmagn. When I would start talking with my Belgian friends about barnkracht, which is the literal translation of rafmagn in dutch, they would laugh. It’s all about getting used to a neologism. If banani would never have been used, bjúgaldin would be a very common word. It also depends on your opinion. If you are a purist, you will have no problem with words like bjúgaldin. Anti-purist on the other hand will ridiculize any neologism generated from the native word-stock.
    How do you think Icelanders will react on High Icelandic?
    I think that less than 1% will be interested. Háfrónska is very far over the top, in comparison to the High Icelandic language centre, the nýyrðasmiðja is a product of whimps. Although Icelandic has the lowest amount of loan-words today, linguistic purism is very unpopular in Iceland. There are even Icelanders who want to give up their language and start talking English, because they find that speaking a minority language is economically disadvantageous. No, I think it is the worst time imaginable to publish the High Icelandic language centre. But this lack of cultural pride is an international phenomenon. I recently went to an Irish pub in Antwerp and a woman from Cork said that she wasn’t interested in learning Gaelic. There’s no future for that language in the world, she said. It was regrettable to hear this, but I can understand her opinion.
    So your think that you’re work is in vain?
    No, a few people will be inspired to become nýyrðaskáld themselves and than the High Icelandic language model could be completed. A small group of determined people could light the puristic fire again. We have seen in history that only a few men in society can make a difference, in negative or positive sense. Just think how different Icelandic would have been without people like Rasmus Rask or the fjölnismen.
    Do you think that English will exterminate all minority languages?
    That’s what many people think. The position of English in the world is stonger than ever, and the trend towards global anglification will continue. But I believe this will brutally stop when advanced language technology will hit the market. 20 years from now I believe language technology will be that advanced that a foreign web-page is translated in your mother-tongue the moment it appears on your screen. In Japan, people are already envisaging glasses that display subtitles of the language of the foreigner you’re talking with. Tourists will eat this technology. The basic technologies for these futuristic products are already in the make. And as you know, technology is evolving exponetially. People will be very surprised to see how quickly the world will change during the next twenty year. I believe the days of the interpreters are numbered, but the future for minority languages is bright.
    You once said that being a neologistic poet is a way of life.
    That’s the least you could say. A nýyrðaskáld’s life is focused on the production of neologisms. Besides possessing the necessary dictionaries and an internet connection, you must see to it that you optimize your cognitive abilities. In my case this is necessary, because I am a man of average intelligence and I need to perform like a genius. Far all I know, there are no cognitive-enhancing drugs yet, so all you can do is optimizing. I do this by eating a balanced low-calorie diet, consisting mainly of vegetables and fruit. My daily intake amounts to 1900 calories, divided into six meals in order to keep my insuline peaks as low as possible. High insuline peaks decrease your concentration.
    Next to this diet, I do some transcendental meditation 5 minutes every hour. By doing this you can fully concentrate all day long.
    Are you intested in something else than word-building?
    That’s all?
    Yes, Sir. I see lot people in my neighbourhood, who are despite their luxurious life, frustrated. They are constantly looking for higher kicks in their lives. Some of them go climbing extremely dangerous mountains, in order to get this macho feeling of ‘hey I conquered this mountain’; others go to extravagant sex-clubs where they do things that defy imagination. But these people don’t know that you can get much higher kicks by making Icelandic neologisms. Icelandic lends itself to word-building like no other language does. As for me, nothing in the world can produce the endorphine boost I get when I happen to find a insanely beautiful neologism. I don’t need a wife or kids, fjallkonan is my wife, and háfrónska our kid.
    Then you are a happy man?
    Happier than most people. You remember the slogan about Thorbjörn. You can find it on the High Icelandic web page.
    I’m like thorbjörn. I may end up without friends, lovers and without money, but I know all the High Icelandic words, and no one can take that away from me. Believe me, an icelandic word is the most beatiful thing there is.
    I’m happy for you,
    I bet you are

  11. !!!!!

  12. High Icelandic, a scheme hatched in Belgium . . .

  13. Dear People,
    I am the king of hard-core fans of linguistic purism. Icelanders should focus all their lives on avoiding xenologisms. After 2 generations the language has reached hyperpurity (This is the situation if only 1% of 40000 basic words are of foreign origin). Ultrapurity goes below 0.1%
    What’s the reason for this? Because linguistic purism is the only thing that makes Icelandic unique!!! The word ‘vín’ is a latinism that dates from the time Iceland wasn’t colonized, OK. Normally, II wouldn’t have thought about rejecting this word if it wasn’t for the fact that it CAN be replaced by VEIGAR, the word brennivín becomes ELDVEIGAR. We must turn Icelandic into a tolkienian language. Most other languages have been modernized. Only Icelandic is pure enough that the diffence between the language as it is and the hyperpurity of Háfrónska isn’t such an enormous change. Let’s do it. Let’s go for hyperpurity!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. I was wondering whether hyperpurism has any connections with Dada — you sort of wonder whether Bjork doesn’t have a hand in this too. My guess is that the Icelanders, and some of their Belgian brothers, are a step ahead of us in the world of avant-garde eccentricity. A tiny, barren island, only a couple hundred thousand very similiar people, and equal number of sheep and ponies, even more codfish, and various glaciers, lavaflows, geysers, and sagas ….. actually that doesn’t sound so boring, really, after all. It must be some other reason, perhaps the midnight sun.

  15. Ingeborg S. Nordén says

    Seriously, though, I think that supporters of the so-called High Icelandic movement are going MUCH too far with their attempts to “purify” the language from foreign words. Consider the following:

    1. The main purpose of language is to communicate thoughts and information clearly. Poetic beauty may be desirable when writing love letters, literary essays or actual poetry; but even then, clarity of meaning should not be sacrificed altogether. The clearest word for a concept is not always a native word; otherwise, no borrowing between languages would take place in ANY culture.
    2. The language, culture and history of Iceland were not created miraculously from thin air; nor did those things exist in a vacuum, even in Norse times. If High Icelandic supporters deny that the Norsemen had good reasons for using some foreign words in their own time…then they are rewriting part of their country’s history incorrectly.
    3. The arch-nationalism behind High Icelandic (which seeks to eliminate any connection between Icelandic and continental Scandinavian languages) denies another part of Iceland’s history: that the first non-Celtic settlers in their country were (gods forbid!) immigrants from Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Yes, most of those immigrants were sour on mainland politics–but that didn’t stop people from using the same Norse words that they’d grown up hearing, or from using loanwords when they thought such usage was appropriate. Even the ideas of arch-nationalism and linguistic purity are un-Norse; I suggest that the High Icelandic advocates look up the etymology of heimskur in a good dictionary. 🙂
  16. Dear Ingeborg,
    Yes, I want to do surgery into history and I want to break the connection with all human languages. Hyperpurity will create the tolkienian effect. When someone who doesn’t know Icelandic sees an Icelandic text, he’s baffled, but he sometimes recognizes words like meþýlbensóhydró-. It is an enormous task to create a native Icelandic system for names of organic compounds, but it is possible. For instance, the Maori call octane something that corresponds with áttkolungur (8 and kol (carbon) with a suffix.
    Maori and Tamil are the only languages that come close to Icelandic. A friend of mine at the university of Madras, India, calculated the amount of loan-words in Tamil. We took 40000 most frequently used words and counted the loan-words. A Maori friend at the university of Auckland did the same: The result was: Icelandic 16%, Maori 17%, Tamil 18.5%. Háfrónska goes below 0.5%
    This result means that Icelandic is the most well-know puristic language. This means that linguistic purism is a unique feature in Icelandic. Linguists all over the world refer to extreme linguistic purism as ‘the Icelandic way’. Why shouldn’t we give this characteristic an extra dimension and launch a total extermination war on words of foreign origin. Not because we love language fascism, no only for the sport: PURISM FOR PURISMS SAKE.

  17. Hmm, that strange bit in the manifesto about “sinkbróðir” being okay for cadmium even though it contains a loanword may no longer be operative. The word list shows “eitursilfur” for cadmium.

  18. This chap is a sign from the future.
    Languages, especially obscure ones, are increasingly going to become an enjoyable, time-consuming hobby for tens of thousands of unoccupied people worldwide.

  19. Ingeborg S. Nordén says

    If I were reforming a language (any language at all, I would far rather concentrate on clarity and directness than on “pure” origins. Changing internationally recognized words just to make a political statement does more harm than good; better to keep proper names and scientific vocabulary recognizable to most readers, rather than forcing them to analyze metaphors and kennings everywhere.

  20. I hear the distant crunch of worldviews colliding…

  21. I love the bit about the Dutch language purist borrowing the list of element names from purified Icelandic!
    If anybody wants to “purify” the periodic table in any other languages, I’ve got a nice list of Greco-Roman-English ones I’ll sell you cheap.

  22. Dear Ingeborg,
    I thought that Ásatrúmenn worshiped the Old Norse culture. Well, that’s exactly what my language is: as archaic as possible and a maximalization of the vocabulary free from non-Old Norse loan-words.
    I thought that the Norsic heathens would love to eat my cookie!
    Another thing: The Ásatrumembers are responsible for the fact that the mjölnir has become a fascist symbol. They refuse to wear thunderhammers around their neck because they don’t want to be associated with Scandinavian neonazis, who all wear these pendants. But by doing this they created a situation in which only the fascists wear the symbol. If Ásatrúmember would all wear these pendants, people wouldn’t see it as a fascist symbol.

  23. Ingeborg S. Nordén says

    Ironically enough–when I was younger and had begun learning Swedish, I complained about the foreign influence on everyday vocabulary (especially that of English). I still wince when I hear/read Swedish with an excessive number of Anglicisms, but have learned to accept some of them as a fact of language development…and to accept that most Swedes have nothing against loanwords in an everyday context.
    Now, if I am writing about ancient Germanic culture or religion in Swedish…that is when I try to constrain myself to Germanic words only. (Using only native Norse words would be much too difficult, considering that even a basic verb like bliva derived from Low German.) I would not dare try that kind of constraint on a scientific or technical essay in some other field; the language would become much too stilted and hard for a typical Swede to understand.
    By the same token…Háfrónska may be a challenging linguistic exercise on a par with E-Prime, Basic English or Ander-Saxon. Yet I could never see most Icelandic speakers (native or foreign) consistently preferring purity over clarity.

  24. Ingeborg S. Nordén says

    I thought that Ásatrúmenn worshiped the Old Norse culture. Well, that’s exactly what my language is: as archaic as possible and a maximalization of the vocabulary free from non-Old Norse loan-words.
    Speaking as a follower of Asatru here…I don’t worship the Norse culture, I worship the Norse gods. Yes, the religion developed in a certain cultural context (which I respect up to a point); but that context didn’t include a desire to eliminate all foreign words!
    If a loanword appears in some text from the Eddas or sagas, then the scribe probably thought it expressed his ideas more clearly than a native Norse term. A foreigner like me, who learns Old Norse specifically to study old texts, is better off dealing with the language as people actually wrote it…not with an ultra-pure form that even a Norseman would have considered strange.
    I thought that the Norsic heathens would love to eat my cookie!
    It might be useful as a liturgical language, for someone who uses Iceland as his cultural frame of reference. My own “frame of reference” is Sweden instead of Iceland, as you can probably guess from my last comment. Even then, I would not use an archaism like Svitjod in my Swedish unless I were deliberately alluding to the sagas; that style would be inappropriate for casual conversation or technical writing. (Yes, I am aware that Modern Icelandic still uses the Norse name; but Swedish, the Nordic language I usually speak, considers it obsolete.)
    nother thing: The Ásatrumembers are responsible for the fact that the mjölnir has become a fascist symbol.
    *ahem* That’s getting a bit too personal, and doesn’t really relate to language or linguistics. Could you please drop that subject here?

  25. Dear Ingeborg,
    I will drop the subject, but it has to do with the High Icelandic flag, which bears a modern stylized Thorshammer. High Icelandic rejects all influence from danish, the language of Iceland’s historical opressors. The fact that the Scandinavian flags are copies of the dannebrog is the result of Danish imperialistic and colonialistic policy. It is unbelievable that Icelanders chose the design of the flag of their opressors. Totally surrealistic to me. The favourite god of the icelanders in the early years of colonization was Thor so the Mjölnir is the true symbol that should be depicted not only on the Icelandic flag but on all Scnadinavian flags.
    That crusaders cross came into existence in a time when Old scandinavian culture was almost wiped out, except maybe in Sweden, in Uppsala.
    High Icelandic stand for the rejection of the cross and the readoption of the hammer as the symbol on the flag.

  26. Ingeborg S. Nordén says

    The Danes oppressed Sweden, too; as a result, Swedes dropped æ/ø from their alphabet in favor of the German ä/ö, even though Old Swedish texts had used the former letters for centuries. But–and this is a major “but”–the Swedes did NOT go through their language dropping every word that looked Danish, or advocate a new flag design by way of political protest. There is such a thing as taking a reform too far, especially when it would make a language unreasonably hard to learn and understand. (Not to mention alienating modern Danes who had nothing to do with the old imperialism…)

  27. Dear Ingeborg,
    Maybe it is better to look at my project as an experiment: How far can you go in purifying the language without unreasonably impoverishing the language. I didn’t impoverish the language, I replaced loan-words. A language is a set of words and Háfrónska is a workable language, ready to be spoken.
    Normally I wouldn’t think of rejecting e.g. the latinism vín, which came into the germanic languages long before Iceland was colonized. But
    it can be replaced by veigar. Most languages have only one word for wine, so I replace all compounds with vín in Icelandic by veigar. Except of course vínland. That is irreplacable.
    Another example is rita and skrifa. Most languages do with one verb. In Dutch we only say schrijven. I noticed that every compound with skrifa can be replaced by rita. Is this an impoverishment? Maybe, but having only one basic verb for ‘write’ is not strange. It is the situation in many languages.
    But I admit that I am a linguistic fundamentalist of the worst kind. But only for the sport. I would never force people into something. And we have made a language that is free for everyone to learn.

  28. OK, everybody shake hands and quaff mead!

  29. Quaff enough mead to get cheerful, but not enough to get surly.

  30. The Icelanders already go very far, but if one want to purify a language he has to do the whole vocabulary: Icelanders have terms like:
    nifteindasprengja: neutron bomb$
    rafeindasmásjá: electron microscope
    lotukerfi frumefnanna: periodic system of elements
    and on the other hand they have;
    gíraffi, krókódíll, kengúra, okapi, gasella
    Either you purify or you don’t, but don’t send mixed messages. Háfrónska is different: It purifies everything and replaces it with relatively very flexible neologisms. I haven’t been lazy the last 12 years. I worked like a slave on my word list, and I will keep on doing so for the rest of my life. I am just 40 now, but the Roy Walford diet will keep me going into my nineties. Until the sixties.

  31. This guy is obviously a troll. Search on google groups using either “Braekmans Herman” or “Jef Braekmans” and see.

  32. Well Robinho,
    I don’t think people see me as a troll, I’m 6 feet five and weigh 92 kg. I kissed a girl for the first time when I was 35 and didn’t have the experience then. I don’t think it is due to my eccentricity. There are of course eccentric girl too, but I’m eccentric beyond all proportions. Everything that interesses me becomes an obsession.
    You can see my picture on my web-page (e-mail) address. I don’t think that my physical appearance is not so bad that it excludes me from love for life. But unfortunately that’s the way it is. I work out my sexual frustration by going to the utmost extreme in Icelandic purism. For me personally, I get my kicks on it. You may find this odd, butter better this than being a serial killer.

  33. “Either you purify or you don’t, but don’t send mixed messages.” That in itself is an extreme prescriptivist position. Naturally developing languages sometimes borrow words, sometimes invent them, and sometimes revive them. Language — culture in general — is all about mixed messages.

  34. I don’t think that everyone here has properly comprehended the seriousness of the High Icelandic mission.

  35. I am a good fundamentalist. This means that I don’t impose my believes on other people. I am very severe for myself. I hardly go out in the weekends, I sit at home making new Icelandic words and read the sagas and the old poetry. That gives me more of a hard-on than watching half naked girls in the disco. I was inspired by the AMERICANS FOR PURISTY: WINNING THE WAR ON MASTURBATION. Really ASSHOLY fundamentalists. But they oppress people, and that is wrong, because we are all equal.
    Háfrónska is not an elite- language. It’s an language for the people. We create a language in which people constantly try to avoid loan-words when speaking. Such a language doesn’t yet exist. But Háfrónska is such a language. Don’t see it as sick, see it as a sport. Replacing loan-words by decent, functional words.

  36. Ingeborg S. Nordén says

    “Loan-word” does not automatically rule out “decent” or “functional”. National pride is not a good enough reason to rewrite the history of a language; neither is black-and-white prescriptivism. The whole point of words, any words, is clear and direct communication of meaning. And sometimes an import does a better job at expressing meaning than a clumsy locally-made equivalent.

  37. Dear Ingeborg,
    There are flaws in my model but I can assure you that my words are not clumsy. And this is also the opinion of many students of Icelandic. I worked 12 year on this vocabulary. Since my doctor has set me free from work for life I work 16 hours a day on the lists. I believe there’s a native solution for every word in a language.
    Best Regards,

  38. The High Icelandic language centre is off-line for a while because it’s lay-out needed to be adjusted.
    I’m intending to add a few propaganda pics which are very pleasant. But make no mistake, our mission is serious!

  39. Language purism is one of the dumbest things i have ever heard of and the people who advocate it are complete morons with way too much time on their hands. dedicate your time to something useful, not something that will have absolutely no effect on the world whatsoever. ’nuff said.

  40. Il vergognoso says

    I particularly like the idea that if one must borrow a word, one should do it in a really idiosyncratic way

    I wholly concur. There are three ways to say “Japan” in Tibetan: nyi-hong < Japanese nihon, ri-pin < Chinese rìběn and ‘jar-pan < Japan but with a non-etymological r under influence of ‘jar-man “Germany”. Guess which one I like most?

  41. marie-lucie says

    Why pour cold water on Timber-Helgi’s harmless obsession? It is a very ingenious intellectual exercise. I enjoyed reading about it, from a time before I discovered LanguageHat.

  42. Who’s pouring cold water on it? I think we all enjoyed reading about it. But that doesn’t mean we have to be solemn and respectful. It is very ingenious and very silly.

  43. Jack’s water seemed pretty cold to me.

  44. Oh, Jack! Just some random visitor being grumpy.

  45. Eli Nelson says

    This seems somewhat reminiscent of the Anglish movement, that seeks to create a form of modern English free of loanwords (the exact parameters are fuzzy, but in general this seems to only go back to the French and not the Norse or other Germanic loans). I’ve tried my hand at writing in it; it’s surprisingly difficult, but quite enjoyable and challenging. It reminds me of lipograms. Other people tend to use it as a way to revive old words or construct hypothetical descendants of Germanic roots. I’d say it’s all in good fun, and I don’t think people take it too seriously.

  46. I would love to meet this man, he sounds exactly like me! On a side note see ‘Haut français’ (@haut_francais) for the mad French equivalent.

  47. Il vergognoso says

    This one is pure jewel. They propose a changing of squat to équat..

  48. I myself once suggested that stink should go into French as étinque. Presumably the adjective stinky would become étinqué(e) and the verb étinquer. IRC log from freenode’s #scheme channel, edited to remove irrelevancies:

    20:39:06 <jcowan> Riastradh: ping
    20:39:26 <Riastradh> Ech. […]
    20:39:56 <Riastradh> jcowan, erh…Faré, comment dit-on `pong’ en français?
    20:40:14 <jcowan> Étinque.
    20:40:49 <Fare> jcowan, uh?
    20:40:54 <Riastradh> (Gah. Ya teryu.)
    20:41:23 <jcowan> “Pong” is not only the response to “Ping”, but a British term for “bad smell”. So I took English “stink” and treated it as if it were French, generating “étinque”.
    20:41:56 <Fare> except it’s got a german root so won’t translate.
    20:42:01 <jcowan> Of course.
    20:42:08 <Daemmerung> Aber natch.

    Fare (short for François-René, but IRC can’t handle accents or hyphens in usernames) is francophone; the rest of us are anglophones.

  49. Mais sure!
    Which came first: mais oui, aber ja, or but of course?

  50. The OED doesn’t list but of course until the 19C, and explicitly says it and similar expressions are gallicisms.

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