Icelandic (íslenska) is a North Germanic language, the language of Iceland. It is an Indo-European language belonging to the North Germanic or Nordic branch of the Germanic languages. Historically, it was the westernmost of the Indo-European languages prior to the colonisation of the Americas. Icelandic, Faroese, Norn, and Norwegian formerly constituted West Nordic; Danish and Swedish constituted East Nordic. Norwegian Bokmål later becoming influenced by the latter two languages, the Nordic languages are now divided into mainland Scandinavian languages and Insular Nordic (including Icelandic).
Most Western European languages have greatly reduced levels of inflection, particularly noun declension. In contrast, Icelandic retains a four-case synthetic grammar comparable to, but considerably more conservative and synthetic than German. It is inappropriate to compare the grammar of Icelandic to that of the more conservative Baltic, Slavic, and Indic languages of the Indo-European family, many of which retain six or more cases, except to note that Icelandic utilises a wide assortment of irregular declensions. Icelandic also possesses many instances of oblique cases without any governing word, as does Latin. For example, many of the various Latin ablatives have a corresponding Icelandic dative. The conservatism of the Icelandic language and its resultant near-isomorphism to Old Norse (which is equivalently termed Old Icelandic by linguists) means that modern Icelanders can easily read the Eddas, sagas, and other classic Old Norse literary works created in the tenth through thirteenth centuries.
The vast majority of Icelandic speakers—about 320,000—live in Iceland. There are over 8,000 speakers of Icelandic living in Denmark, of whom approximately 3,000 are students. The language is also spoken by some 5,000 people in the USA and by over 1,400 people in Canada, with the largest group living in Manitoba, notably Gimli (Gimli being an Old Norse word for 'heaven'). While 97% of the population of Iceland consider Icelandic their mother tongue, the language is in decline in some communities outside Iceland, particularly in Canada. Icelandic speakers outside Iceland represent recent emigration in almost all cases except Gimli, which was settled from the 1880s onwards.
The state-funded Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies serves as a centre for preserving the medieval Icelandic manuscripts and studying the language and its literature. The Icelandic Language Council, comprising representatives of universities, the arts, journalists, teachers, and the Ministry of Culture, Science and Education, advises the authorities on language policy. Since 1995, on November 16 each year, the birthday of 19th-century poet Jónas Hallgrímsson is celebrated as Icelandic Language Day. (Wikipedia)