People who speak Icelandic can still understand the old Icelandic Sagas because of how little the language has changed over the past 1000 years.

Icelandic language

Main article: History of Icelandic

The oldest preserved texts in Icelandic were written around 1100 AD. Many of the texts are based on poetry and laws traditionally preserved orally. The most famous of the texts, which were written in Iceland from the 12th century onward, are the Icelandic Sagas, which encompass the historical works and the eddaic poems.

The language of the sagas is Old Icelandic, a western dialect of Old Norse. The Dano-Norwegian, then later Danish rule of Iceland from 1536 to 1918 had little effect on the evolution of Icelandic (in contrast to the Norwegian language), which remained in daily use among the general population. Though more archaic than the other living Germanic languages, Icelandic changed marke… Continue Reading (11 minute read)

4 thoughts on “People who speak Icelandic can still understand the old Icelandic Sagas because of how little the language has changed over the past 1000 years.”

  1. NeAldorCyning

    Was once in the history museum of moscow and there were ~700-800 year old books in russian presented open so you could read the open pages – struck me that apart from very few words you could understand easily what’s written.

    Was wondering since then which other languages changed that little. Definetly not the case here in central europe…

    Edit: Spelling.

  2. app4that

    There is a famous Persian epic known as the Book of Kings, which many Persians know the stories by heart as they have heard them told and retold in almost unchanged verse for over 1000 years.

    This single work of literature (comparisons have been drawn to The Odyssey and The Divine Comedy) is so loved that is defines the heart of the culture and helps to explain how Persian language and identity has withstood over a millenia of invasion and conquest while other cultures withered.

    Iran being situated close to central Asia and Europe and being on the ‘Silk Road’ has kind of the opposite of Iceland’s remoteness and seclusion but despite nearly continuous change in the region, nearly anyone in Iran can still read the original text without great difficulty, despite the fact that almost all other languages have been altered so much over time.



  3. ErikTheRed2000

    I can read “The Canterbury Tales” which is 700 years old. Though English has changed a fair bit, it’s quite readable with a little effort. The main challenge is that spellings of words are different (and sometimes inconsistent). There’s the occasional word that isn’t used anymore, but that is easily solved with a dictionary.

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