Is Iceland’s language a Scandinavian code or a legacy of Celtic settlers?

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According to folklore, a Welsh-speaking warrior queen named Aud was among Iceland’s first settlers. His story is at the center of an emerging theory that the Scottish and Irish Celts played a much larger role in Icelandic history than previously thought.

A book by Thorvaldur Fridriksson, an Icelandic archaeologist and journalist, argues that Welsh-speaking Celtic settlers from Ireland and western Scotland had a profound influence on the Icelandic language, landscape, and early literature.

Aud was queen of Viking Dublin before she took her family and her Scottish and Irish crew to Iceland in the ninth century. Fridriksson believes that Gaelic language and culture, through settlers like Aud, was an integral part of Iceland’s early history.

He compiled a list of common Icelandic words and, along with other scholars, identified Icelandic landmarks he believed were of Welsh origin. Iceland’s skaldic poetry, Edda He argues that the poetic traditions and epics on which Icelandic history is based were heavily influenced by Welsh culture and immigrants.

“Any Icelander who has lived in another Scandinavian country for a long time – who has learned very well to speak Norwegian, Danish or Swedish – comes back to Iceland and hears Icelandic words that were never spoken in those languages,” said Fridriksson.

“And I started looking at these words and found them in Welsh dictionaries, so I started looking up place names, and Icelandic place names, mountains, spaces – very important place names – are very difficult to explain in a Scandinavian way.”

The controversial theory challenges the orthodox view that Iceland was a purely Viking place, established 1,100 years ago as part of Viking conquests and expansion along the northeast coast of the Atlantic.

Growing support among academics, following groundbreaking DNA research over the past 20 years by the genetics company deCODE in Reykjavik and the University of Oxford, has revealed that 63% of Iceland’s first female settlers and 20% of first male settlers are of Irish and Scottish descent. settlers

Many are assumed to be women enslaved by the Vikings during their conquest of the Welsh-speaking Hebrides and eastern Ireland around Dublin, founded by Vikings in the ninth century. Before the Vikings arrived in Iceland, they were known as Irish hermit Christians. fatherHe established small settlements there.

DNA evidence has upended a long-held belief that Icelanders are almost entirely of Norwegian heritage; this was a stance central to Iceland’s quest for independence from Denmark in 1918. Icelandic nationalists largely downplayed the evidence that enslaved Celts helped settle the island.

An eruption at Bárðarbunga volcano

The Bárðarbunga volcano in Iceland is said to come from the Welsh word for protector (bàrd). Photo: Arctic-Images/Corbis

Professor of the Árni Magnússon Institute in Reykjavik. In a recent article called Gaelic Whispers on Icelandic Irish connections, Gísli Sigurðsson showed that many of Fridriksson’s arguments are valid. However, Sigurðsson said that not all of his claims have been confirmed. He added that more work is needed by linguists, particularly early Welsh experts.

“It is now well established that the initial population in Iceland was much more mixed than previously accepted, and therefore the question of linguistic influence from Welsh must be addressed more seriously than scientists were ever willing to do,” Sigurðsson said.

Fridriksson believes that differences in social status mean that in some cases the Welsh influence is mild or lost; in other cases, it was clear.

Aud’s story shows that among the settlers there were high-status Welsh-speaking women who voluntarily married Viking men. In the early medieval period, Shetland, Orkney, and the Outer Hebrides were Viking kingdoms. Known as Auður djúpúðga in Icelandic, Aud is said to have liberated the enslaved Celts under his command from Scotland and settled in western Iceland.

He said the names of many of Iceland’s largest volcanoes, such as Bárðarbunga (protective in Gaelic, “bàrd”) and Hekla (terrible in Welsh, “eagal”), have clear Welsh roots. This meant that they were named by high-status people like other landmarks.

Fridriksson hopes his book Keltar, which has not yet been translated into English, will spark controversy and academic research. “The Welsh influences in our culture are much deeper and greater than people have ever believed,” he said.

He added that interbreeding with Viking cultures enriched Iceland, as did heavy exposure to Celtic Christianity among Vikings returning from monastic settlement on the Hebridean island of Iona, which played a crucial role in the spread of early Christianity to northern Britain.

“The best of the so-called Viking culture is from the Welsh regions; poetry, music,” said Fridriksson.

Icelandic words believed to be derived from Early Irish and Scottish Gaelic

Lyf – Icelandic for medicine, from Welsh “luibh” for medicinal plants

glima – Icelandic wrestling comes from the old Welsh word “gliad”, meaning war

ljomi – Icelandic glow from the Welsh “laom” meaning fire

hrútur – Icelandic for ram, from Welsh “reithe”

Strakur – Icelandic boy, derived from Welsh “strácair”.

Source: Keltar By Thorvaldur Fridriksson

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