The Icelandic alphabet, or Íslenska stafrófið, has changed little from the time in which it was adopted over the previous use of futhark. The orthography was more or less standardized in the twelth century with the manuscript First Grammatical Treatise. The notable change to the orthography made with this document was the recognition of an ongoing vowel mutation occuring not only in Icelandic, but all other Scandanavian languages as well. It used specialized characters to mark 'blended' vowels which were undergoing mutation. It also standardized the use of acute accents to mark vowel length. Over time, most of the special characters were discarded. Accent use broadened to indicate not only vowel length, but diphthongs. The Danish character æ was adopted for its own individual diphthong, but another special Danish character, ø, was rejected in favor of the Swedish ö for the same sound.

Despite changes in pronunciation, the Icelandic orthography has remained amazingly consistant from the middle ages into modern times. Students can still easily read medieval documents in their original form. Icelandic possesses fourteen vowels and nineteen consonants. An additional four consonants are used for transcribing common foreign words. The alphabet is ordered as follows, with the Icelandic letter name followed by its approximate English pronunciation (American standard dialect, speakers of other English dialects may need to adjust).

  • A a - a - ah
  • Á á - á - ow
  • B b - bé - byeh
  • D d - dé - dyeh
  • Ð ð - eð - eth (with a voiced th, as in this)
  • E e - e - eh
  • É é - é - yeh
  • F f - eff - ehff (Doubled consonants change in pronunciation, try to hold the f slightly longer than you normally might)
  • G g - ge - keh (unaspirated, try to make it less 'breathy' than a normal English k is)
  • H h - há - how
  • I i - i - ih (as in bit)
  • Í í - í - ee
  • J j - joð - yawth (voiced th)
  • K k - ká - cow
  • L l - ell - ehddle (as in pedal)
  • M m - emm - ehm
  • N n - enn - ehn
  • O o - o - aw
  • Ó ó - ó - oh
  • P p - pé - pyeh
  • R r - err - air (but the r is much, much stronger. Trilled as in Spanish rr)
  • S s - ess - ehs
  • T t - té - tyeh
  • U u - u - ü (As in German München or French tu. Try saying 'ee' with your lips rounded or cutting off the 'ee' from ewwww)
  • Ú ú - ú - oo
  • V v - vaff - vahf
  • X x - ex - ex
  • Y y - ufsilon y - üf-sih-lawn ih
  • Ý ý - ufsilon ý - üf-sih-lawn ee
  • Þ þ - þorn - thordn (As in to cordon off, when said quickly. Soft th as in thin)
  • Æ æ - æ - I
  • Ö ö - ö - er (As in sir)
The following characters also have Icelandic letter names, however they are not part of any native Icelandic word (Z was still included in the alphabet until spelling reform in 1970. It is still sometimes used as a substitute for assimilated consonant clusters).
  • C c - sé - syeh
  • Q q - kú - coo
  • W w - tvöfalt vaff - tver-valt vahf
  • Z z - seta - seh-ta (not 'zeta', modern Icelandic no longer has the 'zee' sound)

Daniels, Peter T., Bright, William. The World's Writing Systems. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Neijmann, Daisy L Colloquial Icelandic. London: Routledge, 2001.

Extra info from Gritchka.

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