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Identity and Language in Early Iceland

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The language of a speech community can only act as an identity marker for all of its speakers if linguistic norms are widely shared and if a minimal number of language varieties are spoken. This paper examines how a linguistic norm came to serve the whole of Iceland, what role language and social structures played in the construction of the settlers’ identity and how language reflected the Icelanders’ new identity.

Although the identity projected in many of the early Iceland texts is actually a Norse one, the Icelanders presented their new identity conspicuously through the establishment of new (and to an extent original) social structures and their incipient literary culture. There was an indigenous concern for the Icelandic language from the outset; the Icelandic language and its rich literature became subsequently the single most important factor for the identity of the Icelanders. The foundations for this identity and linguistic culture were laid very early on and were rooted in the development of the language itself.

This talk is part of the ASNC Research Seminar series.

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