How to decline nouns and adjectives and conjugate verbs in Icelandic

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Step one: go to this site.

Step two: enter the word. Here are three examples: koma (to come), brauð (bread), and fastur (fast/firm).

It doesn't work the other way around, as this site does for Estonian for example where you can enter a declined word to find the root. Luckily it's 2010 though and Google Translate can help here.

Let's say for example you're confronted with this:

Aftenposten segir, að í viðtali við blaðið í gærkvöldi

Google Translate provides us with an accurate translation, giving "Aftenposten said in an interview with the newspaper last night". That's good to know, but as a student it's still important to understand how each word is used as well. First let's isolate some parts of the setence:

segir. í viðtali. við blaðið. í gærkvöldi.

The first one to look up is segir. We know that it means to say, so switch Google Translate from Icelandic-English to English-Icelandic, input "to say", and we get segja. Input segja into the first site again, and we get this, and now know how to conjugate segja. ég segi, han/hún/það segir, etc.

Doing the same thing for interview gives us viðtal (viðtali doesn't turn anything up) and dagblað. Unfortunately Google is a bit too smart and won't give any result but gærkvöldi for last night, while only gærkvöld without the -i registers on the other site. Luckily viðtali gives a clue that removing the -i may work, and here it does. All in all not a perfect method, but the extra effort required at times to find the original form might actually result in the words leaving a stronger impression.


cafaristeir said...

Sellamat Dave !

What a coincidence; just before I discovered your post, I was reading my small primer of Icelandic ! Though I never practiced Icelandic, I could understand "segir" and "i gaerkvöldi". Another help for speakers of English is simply to learn Icelandic phonetics, which are regular. Thus, "segir" is [sEyer], nearly like "says", and things become clearer if one knows that most Icelandic endings in "-r" correspond to English "-s" (think at all the plural in "-r" = "-s"). I gaer = [i gyayr]; it's less obvious, but it is like "yes(terday)". Sambahsa has "ghes" from IE "ghesi", which has given Latin "heri" and French "hier", through rhotacism too...

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