recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : icelandic   9

K.T. Billey: Utmost Import: Instagram & the Future of the Icelandic Language - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
[about: https://www.instagram.com/everysinglewordinicelandic/

"Futbol vikings, moonbeams, Björk—Iceland has long-since captured the global imagination, often capitalizing on foreign fascination. Tourism has been essential to the country’s post-crash economic recovery and guerrilla activities in the form of social media have emerged as a complement to ad campaigns and travel initiatives. Put simply, the posted image is the new word of mouth and Iceland is Instagrammer heaven. When cabin porn is a noun-ed phenomenon, Grade-A bragging visuals have brought hordes of visitors and money to the Nordic island. However, the influx has not been without anxiety. One Instagram account embodies the bane and boon of tourism for contemporary Icelandic identity.

Every Single Word in Icelandic, @everysinglewordinicelandic, is one of the most charming mini-galleries around. The concept is simple: pictographs break down the etymology of Icelandic words, illustrating cultural personality and the magic of language while teaching interested followers a thing or two.

Created by Eunsan Huh, a graphic designer who began learning Icelandic in New York City, many Every Single Word entries are Icelandic symbology: wool sweater, hot dog, whale (peysa, pylsa, hvalur). Others reflect Iceland’s absorption of new practices. In a shepherding country, chopsticks are called matprjónar or “food knitting needles.” Idioms also pop up—in Icelandic a tough cookie could be called a harðjaxl, a “hard molar.” The ranks of the account’s followers has steadily grown. Particularly in terms of nature and ‘folk’ attitudes, we seem collectively predisposed to being amused by Iceland the way audiences at comedy shows come ready to laugh.

The interest in Icelandic is certainly welcome. A language spoken by about 300 000 people must work to preserve itself. Reliance on importation and a history of Danish rule make Iceland no stranger to fears of foreign influence. A vital function of the Icelandic Language Council is to establish Icelandic words for new inventions. Drawing on Old Norse and Icelandic roots, the goal is to prevent an influx of loanwords—once Danish, now English—from taking over. Some borrowed words have taken hold—the use of banani far surpasses bjúgaldin “sausage fruit”—but preservation efforts have paid off in terms of language survival and intrigue. The word for television is a popular example that reminds us of how strange tv was upon its invention, as well as of the beauty of the English word. Sjónvarp breaks down into “vision caster.” Tele-vision. It may seem obvious, augljós, (auga<, eye, + ljós, light), but is there anything we take more for granted?

Perhaps one thing. The internet, whose here-to-eternity English poses an unprecedented threat to Iceland’s notoriously difficult, poetic, and odd tongue. Icelandic schooling has long included English, Danish, Latin, and various other languages, but English is particularly alluring for young people looking to participate in global arenas. Not just the online, but in technology use in general. As the Icelandic writer Sjón put it in an interview I conducted with him for Asymptote International Literary Journal,“When the day comes that we have to speak to our refrigerators in English (which I believe is not far in the future), Icelandic will retreat very fast.”

Former President of Iceland Vigdis Finnbogadóttir drew an oft-repeated distinction: Icelandic is not a ‘small language’ but rather ‘a language spoken by few.’ According to Finnbogadóttir, an active linguistic advocate (and the world’s first elected woman head of state—fewer speakers often boast when they can), there are no small languages. This rings true to anyone who has been mouth-baffled in a land of extensive compound words. It is not a numbers game, but hundreds of years of Nordic literature—an immeasurable contribution to world culture and mythology—is contingent on linguistic knowledge."



"Tomorrow’s folk tale might be a cautionary yarn about the Pokémon hunter who fell into Goðafoss. Purists might cringe at the notion, romantics might refuse to read it—or watch the trailer. There is much to bemoan about the evolving tension between technology and our physical and social lives: bodily detachment, fractured attention, intimate dis-ease. Worries about Icelandic are well-founded, but its speakers are aware. Gerður Kristný responded to the ‘why not write in English’ question by explaining that language has so much to do with Icelandic independence and identity, she will always write in Icelandic. It is her language. Technology looms, but pride and artistry is made of different stuff. Human obstinacy is a phenomenon unto itself.

The fate of Icelandic and other languages spoken by few remains to be seen, read, and heard. For now, as with anything, we can take the mixed bag, if we believe we have a choice. Absorbing positive resonance when we can is a coping skill as venerable as sagas. Marveling at inventions creates space for thought about how to use them well.

Rarity may protect languages via the kind of cult interest Icelandic enjoys. Print was supposed to be dead by now, or the realm of fetishized art objects and eccentric collectors. Yet book-devices haven’t supplanted books themselves. There are simply more ways to read. The internet is akin to Borges’ Babel in both threat and potential—it cultivates a browsing attitude that eats its children but also offers a place to be intentionally communicative. Never have we had such a grand chance to self-define or such an audience for our own terms.

“Orchestra” is a pertinent Every Single Word in Icelandic entry. Hljómsveit, literally “sound team.” The ancient chorus persists, in one form or another, and it is what we make of it."

[See also: http://grapevine.is/author/eunsan-huh/
https://www.behance.net/gallery/28612451/Every-Single-Word-In-Icelandic ]
iceland  icelandic  language  languages  instagram  ktbilley  eunsanhuh  symbols  symbology  history  linguistics  audio  pronunciation  translation  english  illustration  via:tealtan  instagrams 
august 2016 by robertogreco
The future of the Icelandic language may lie in its past | Public Radio International
"But is it true? Has the language really not changed? Yes and no.

“If the people of Iceland create their own myth that this is the same language that we had in the old times, it’s going to be perhaps borne out,” University of Iceland linguist Kristján Árnason.

If everyone buys into the idea that the language isn’t evolving, then it won’t evolve. Or at least, you can put the brakes on it.

You can form committees to retrieve words from the past and recycle them in modern usage. So the language does evolve — but with a guiding hand.

That’s been tried elsewhere, usually with a heavier hand. Government-appointed scholars insisting on keeping their language old school — no modernizations, no bastardizations. But, of course, the people often ignore them, they speak how they want to speak.

In Iceland, the scholars are more like practitioners, knitware store owners and the like — they are the people. And nearly everyone buys into it.

“The idea of a language which is a treasure, something that we have to preserve has been very strong in Iceland,” says Árnason. “And with this comes purism, trying to keep the language pure.”

Ok, so the word ‘pure’ can be creepy. Flip the conversation from language to, say, ethnicity — and it can become the rhetoric of racism.

But most Icelanders believe that purity of language should be valued. The tongue they speak, they believe, has advantages over the likes of English, which has adopted foreign words, and maybe lost something along the way.

This policy of linguistic purity amounts to a refusal to lose words — or rather, the loss is temporary, thanks to the knitters, and all those other committees that are unearthing all those long-forgotten expressions.

“I thought it would be so difficult, that it would take us weeks to find one good word,” says knitware store owner Henttinen. “But when we started talking about it, good words emerged. So it was surprising to me how easy it was.”

Not so easy really — but that’s how Icelanders use their language to maintain of an intimate connection with the past."
iceland  language  icelandic  2015  linguistics  purity  history 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Sjón & Hari Kunzru — Work in Progress — Medium
[video: https://vimeo.com/72354976 ]
[Björk introduction: http://www.fsgworkinprogress.com/2013/08/bjork-introduces-sjon/
more: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2013/05/16/sjon-bjork-and-the-furry-trout/ ]

"Sjón: It writes me. I’m better sticking to being visual when I write. No, but for me, to go in that direction, I actually do think most literature is visual arts."



"Sjón: I think we were typical second-wave punks. I mean, obviously, the generation that started the punk movement in England, the first punk bands—The Clash and The Sex Pistols and the Buzzcocks and all these bands—these were all kids that were quite a bit older than we were. They were born around 1953, ’55, so they were all about the anger, and they were all about … I think Johnny Rotten said it came from the liver.

We came to it as teenagers, and it’s interesting that while you can clearly see similarities between punk and Dada, this absolute nihilism, and you can say that the punks were actually fulfilling one of Tristan Tzara’s battle cries where he said, “Musicians, break your instruments on the stage.”

Just as Surrealism followed Dada, something happened when you had seen all this raw anger leading to nothing but raw anger, maybe good old Surrealism became the good and right remedy to all that anger. Like Björk said, it really felt like it fit together, and we were really looking for the revolutionary, the rebellious aspect of Surrealism.

Hari: The idea that it’s sort of dreaming and an escape from reality can be rebellious and revolutionary?

Sjón: As a good Surrealist would say, an escape into reality through dreaming. Ah!

Hari: I was thinking about Jonas Palmason in From the Mouth of the Whale. He goes to Copenhagen, and it’s this huge city filled with more things and people than he’s ever seen before. He imagines that he’s in an ancient version of the city, and I was trying to square that kind of dreaming with this revolutionary dreaming. Are they the same thing? Are they different things? Is the visionary Sjón also an escapist dreamer?

Sjón: One of the first things I learned from Surrealism is that it’s not fantasy, that Surrealism makes a very clear distinction between fantasy and the marvelous. You’re always looking for the marvelous in reality, and that’s where poetry happens. It happens when you hit upon these incredible moments in your reality. In Reykjavik, we had a city of rather small size to go walking around, but this idea of walking around, getting into the spirit, surreal spirit, and awaiting the poetic to manifest in a marvelous way in your reality—that’s very much what I’m looking for."



"Sjón: No. [Pause.] I’m really interested in how people become obsessed with ideas and how they become obsessed with certain cosmologies, and how the obsessed mind starts finding proofs of its truths. How it looks for the manifestation of these truths all around it in reality. This happens all the time—that things start to manifest if you’ve got them on your brain. They start manifesting all around you.

Hari: That’s there in all your fiction, this sense that a certain kind of attention is repaid by this. You start seeing the visionary aspect of the world.

Hari: You’re fond of mythic explanations for things that maybe other people wouldn’t use that for. I saw an interview where you started riffing on the idea that maybe 9-11 was something to do with the power of the great god Pan.

Sjón: I am actually absolutely sure that the great god Pan slipped through some sort of a gateway into our world, on that day.

We’ve been living in panic ever since. Actually, when we were in Athens for Björk’s performance of our song at the Olympics in 2004, I had direct experience of one of the gods there: One day, I was in a group that went down to the peninsula south of Athens, and there is a great Poseidon temple sitting there on a rock. As we came closer to the temple, we saw better and better what a sad state it was in. Obviously, this used to be the place of great sacrifices, 500 bulls sacrificed and burned in one day and all that, and the crowds coming to bow in front of the image of Poseidon.

I thought as we got closer, “Oh, look at you, great Poseidon. Look at the sad state you’re in.” This is how the Icelandic poet’s mind works. That’s how we think when we’re traveling.

We came to the temple and started walking around and looking at these sad ruins, but then I walked to the edge of the cliff. Who was there, who hadn’t moved and left his temple, but Poseidon? The whole ocean stretched out from the cliffs. Poseidon was still there, even though man had stopped sacrificing to Poseidon, Poseidon was still there. Then, Poseidon, of course, feeling a little bit annoyed that people were forgetting him, he moved just a little finger, his little finger a tiny bit, and we had the tsunami in Indonesia.

The myths are really about man confronting the fact that nature is always bigger and stronger.

Hari: It seems that in Iceland, there’s this particular kind of negotiation with nature that has to go on, because it’s a very unstable place, geologically if in no other way. I always think of the island of Surtsey coming out of the sea in the 1960s, and suddenly, you’ve got a new southernmost tip of Iceland that’s been generated by an undersea volcano. Is this sense that things are capable of shifting and that even the ground under your feet could potentially change, do you think this has any link to Iceland’s notorious belief in hidden folk and that sense that the landscape is actually populated with forces that are beyond our immediate understanding?

Sjón: Yes, I think we experience nature as a living thing, and a part of it is to go to the extremes of actually believing that nature has a character, or if not character, that it can manifest itself in different forms. We have folk stories about the hidden people, Huldufólk, who live in rocks and fields and cliffs, and they look exactly like us except they’ve only got one nostril. Apart from having only one nostril, they always lead a much richer and better life than those of us who have to survive above ground. They’re having musical parties all the time. They dress in silk, and whenever an Icelander gives a person from that nation a helping hand, he is rewarded with a cloth of silver or a goblet of gold. We know that the earth is rich, and we know that it’s more powerful than here, so I think when you live in a place that is obviously alive, you tend to populate it with different creatures.

For example, Katla, is this great volcano that possibly will explode fairly soon, and Katla is a woman’s name. It’s the name of a giantess. It’s more than likely that it will wipe out all the habitat that is sitting there on the beach. Man’s existence is—

Hari: Precarious."



"Sjón: I’m interested in the language of faith, and I’m interested in the literature of faith. In Iceland, like in so many Lutheran countries, the translation of the New Testament into the local language was a big moment. The church defined charity and love and all these terms.

I’ve always been interested in religious texts, not only because of the language but because I see religions as cosmologies, and I’m interested in cosmologies, and I’m interested in obsessed people and where to look for obsessed people. The best place is in religion. I think I’ve really taken advantage of the language of religion just in the same way that I’ve taken advantage of the language of myths and the world of myths.

For me, these are all attempts at explaining the same thing, which is to try to answer the question, “Is it possible that in the beginning there was nothing, and now we’re here sitting on these two nice chairs here in this Scandinavia House?”

We know that our cosmology will become obsolete, and it’s really amazing that the biggest given fact of our time is that cosmology, which is the hard science, is so unstable. I love it.

Hari: You take a real aesthetic pleasure in cosmologies, don’t you? What’s the joy of a big system, a big complicated system with lots of moving, whizzing, parts?

Sjón: My joy is the joy of the Trickster. It’s the joy of Loki. It’s the joy of the Coyote, because I know it’s an unstable system, and it will be overthrown, no matter how majestic it is. With the right little tricks, you will have an apocalypse. You will have the twilight of the gods. The gods will fight the last battle, and there will be a new world that rises up from it, and the Trickster can start thinking of new dirty tricks to topple that system."



"Audience Question: You were talking about how you enjoy cosmology and I wondered how you reconcile that with science and with your own art.

Sjón: Well of course it’s the scientists who are destroying each others’ cosmologies all the time. It’s very interesting that most people today live with a cosmology that absolutely ignores the theory of relativity, for example. Most people live as if the theory of relativity never happened because nobody understands it really.

It’s amazing how unaffected we are by these wonderful amazing things. We just continue. That’s one of the ways of overturning cosmologies: just keep brushing your teeth no matter how they say the universe was made."
sjón  iceland  harikunzru  2013  interviews  literature  poetry  davidbowie  surrealism  writing  escapism  punk  reality  björk  fantasy  fiction  nature  myth  mythology  trickster  greekmyths  obsessions  ideas  cosmologies  perspective  science  learning  unlearning  relearning  collaboration  translation  howwewrite  language  icelandic  loki  faith  belief  anthropology  hunting  geology  animals  folklore  folktales  precarity  life  living  myths 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Los idiomas de Borges « Eterna Cadencia
Nos hemos acostumbrado a tal grado a afirmar que Jorge Luis Borges fue un “escritor universal” que esta expresión y el nombre de Borges han pasado a ser casi sinónimos. Famoso y reconocido por la amplitud y la profundidad de sus obras, Borges fue un escritor a la vez profundamente argentino y cosmopolita.  En sus poemas y cuentos aparecen  compadritos del viejo Buenos Aires, sacerdotes mayas, vikingos de las sagas nórdicas o reyes anglosajones largamente olvidados. El conocimiento que Borges tenía de las diversas literaturas del mundo era poco menos que enciclopédico y las múltiples y diversas fuentes  de su inspiración continúan siendo investigadas por la crítica. Sin embargo, un hecho que a menudo se pasa por alto es que Borges logró acercarse a muchas de estas obras gracias a las numerosas lenguas que estudió durante toda su vida."
borges  language  universality  universalism  cosmopolitanism  languages  english  german  french  italian  portuguese  icelandic  japanese 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Litotes - Wikipedia
"In rhetoric, litotes[1] is a figure of speech in which a certain statement is expressed by denying its opposite. For example, rather than merely saying that a person is attractive (or even very attractive), one might say they are "not unattractive".

Litotes is a form of understatement, always deliberate and with the intention of emphasis.[5] However, the interpretation of negation may depend on context, including cultural context. In speech, it may also depend on intonation and emphasis; for example, the phrase "not bad" can be said in such a way as to mean anything from "mediocre" to "excellent".

The use of litotes is common in English, Russian, German and French. They are features of Old English poetry and of the Icelandic sagas and are a means of much stoical restraint.[6]

George Orwell complained about overuse of the 'not un...' construction in his essay "Politics and the English Language"."
definition  language  words  rhetoric  speech  grammar  english  linguistics  litotes  opposites  understatement  enlish  russian  french  icelandic 
april 2010 by robertogreco
Page F30: Why Norwegian is the easiest language for English speakers to learn
"Persian is easy in terms of grammar, most Western European languages have the advantage of common vocabulary and recognition. Norwegian happens to have both of these, and in this post I'm going to show why Norwegian is the easiest language for your average English speaker to learn."
languages  comparison  norwegian  danish  icelandic  swedish  dutch  german  english  learning  linguistics  norway  language  grammar  via:tomc  persian  arabic  fardi 
august 2008 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read