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Language, Society and Identity in early Iceland

ISBN: 978-1-118-29496-3
198 pages
June 2012, Wiley-Blackwell
Language, Society and Identity in early Iceland (1118294963) cover image
Language, Society and Identity in early Iceland offers a much-needed exploration into the problem of linguistic and social identity construction in early Iceland, and is a fascinating account of an under examined historical-linguistic story that will spur further research and discussion amongst researchers.
  • Engages with recent theoretical research on dialect formation and language isolation
  • Makes a significant contribution to our understanding of dialect development, putting forward a persuasive hypothesis accounting for the lack of dialect variation in Icelandic
  • Uses a unique, multi-disciplinary approach that brings together material from a wide range of fields for a comprehensive examination of the role of language in identity construction
  • Opens up opportunities for further research, especially for those concerned with language and identity in Iceland today, where there is for the first time sociolinguistic variation

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1 Introduction
1.1 Aims of the present study
1.2 Organisation of study
1.3 The settlement of Iceland
1.4 The establishment of social structures
1.5 The language of the Icelanders
1.6 Sources
     1.6.1 Historical texts
     1.6.2 Religious works
     1.6.3 Law codes
     1.6.4 Grammatical Treatises
     1.6.5 Poetry
     1.6.6 Saga material
2 Language and identity: theoretical considerations
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Socio-historical linguistics and sociolinguistic theory
2.3 Language change and norms
     2.3.1 Intra-linguistic versus extra-linguistic explanations of language change
2.4 Language and dialect contact
     2.4.1 Dialect levelling and koineisation
     2.4.2 Markedness in tabula rasa dialect-formation
2.5 Language and dialect isolation
     2.5.1 ‘Drift
2.6 Language development in tabula rasa societies               
     2.6.1 Language community types (and settlement patterns)
     2.6.2 A deterministic model versus social factors
     2.6.3 The Founder Principle and prestige
2.7 Identity: essentialism versus constructivism
     2.7.1 Personal identity and group membership
     2.7.2 Place and identity
2.8 Language and identity
     2.8.1 Accommodation and networks
     2.8.2 Accommodation Theory
     2.8.3 Social network theory and language change
     2.8.4 Deixis, pronouns and identity
2.9 Conclusion
3 Norm-establishment in Iceland
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Norse dialectal variation prior to the Settlement
     3.2.1 The runic evidence
     3.2.2 Runic evidence and the spoken language
3.3 The settlers: geographic origins and social mobility
     3.3.1 The geographic origins of the settlers
     3.3.2 Social background and mobility of the settlers
     3.3.3 The status of Norse and Common Gaelic at the time of the Settlement
3.4 Dialect features in Iceland, the Faroe Islands and south-west Norway
3.5 Iceland as a ‘new society’
     3.5.1 Features of ‘new societies’
3.6 Language development in early Iceland
     3.6.1 The ‘mixture theory’
     3.6.2 Dialect levelling in early Iceland
     3.6.3 The basis for koineisation
3.7 Establishment of a linguistic norm in Iceland
     3.7.1 Pre- and post-Settlement linguistic norms
     3.7.2 Spoken norms and ‘standardised’ written languages
     3.7.3 The establishment of a norm: skaldic poetry (and the laws)
     3.7.4 The establishment of a norm: the role of the sagas
3.8 The homogeneity of Icelandic
     3.8.1 Background
     3.8.2 Factors explaining the homogeneity of Icelandic
3.9 Conclusion
4 Social structures in the lexicon
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Social identity and Icelandic social structures
     4.2.1 Emerging social structures and identities
     4.2.2 Characteristics of Icelandic social structures: role of the law
     4.2.3 The significance of assembly-attachment
4.3 Specific Icelandic social structures
     4.3.1 hreppr (‘commune’)
     4.3.2 bu´ar (‘neighbours’)
     4.3.3 alþingi (‘General Assembly’) and lo¨gre´tta (‘Law Council’)
     4.3.4 goðar (‘chieftains’)
4.4 Individual identity and Icelandic kinship structures
     4.4.1 landna´m (‘Settlement’) and kinship structures
     4.4.2 Kinship and land-transfer
     4.4.3 Genealogies and identity
     4.4.4 Icelandic kinship terminology: cousin terms
4.5 Conclusion
5 Perception and use of language as an identity marker
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Icelanders’ perceptions of foreign languages
     5.2.1 References to a foreign language
     5.2.2 References to Irish
5.3 A vernacular identity: do¨nsk tunga, norræna and its speakers
     5.3.1 The do¨nsk tunga as an identity marker
     5.3.2 norræna as an identity marker
     5.3.3 Norse dialectical variation and Anglo-Norse intelligibility
5.4 Grammatical variables as identity markers
     5.4.1 Agreeing possessive adjectives
     5.4.2 Pronominal usage in the early Icelandic law codes
     5.4.3 The ‘they’
     5.4.4 The ‘we’
5.5 Spatial references: the issue of identity
     5.5.1 Spatio-directional particles
     5.5.2 Idiomatic use of spatial grammar
     5.5.3 Semantics of orientation: the Norwegian system
     5.5.4 Semantics of orientation: the Quarter-based system
5.6 Conclusion
6 Conclusion
References
Index

 

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Stephen Pax Leonard is a Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge and a Research Associate at the Scott Polar Research Institute. Educated at the University of Oxford, he studied modern and ancient languages before developing interests in linguistic and existential anthropology. He has carried out both linguistic and ethnographic fieldwork in Iceland and the Faroe Islands. More recently, he spent a year living with the Inugguit of north-west Greenland who live in the northern-most permanently inhabited settlement in the world, documenting their vulnerable minority language and spoken traditions.

 

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