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Modern Icelandic Offered at UC Berkeley

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Modern Icelandic Offered at UC Berkeley

Sather Gate and the Campanile at UC Berkeley. Photo: Steve McConnell / UC Berkeley.

The University of California at Berkeley will this fall become the third institution of higher education in the United States to offer a full-course in the Icelandic language.

Modern Icelandic is currently also taught at Brigham Young University in Utah and at the University of Minnesota. Both are located in areas with historically high rates of Nordic immigration.

“The UC Berkeley Department of Scandinavian and Institute of European Studies (IES) are co-sponsoring the beginning language instruction in back-to-back, fall and spring semesters,” Kathleen Maclay, a media-relations specialist in UC Berkeley's Office of Public Affairs, wrote in an article published on the university's webpage earlier this week.

“The idea is to facilitate Berkeley students’ work on Iceland by relating to the language made legendary by Viking sagas about the explorers’ ninth-century settlement of the island on the southern edge of the Arctic Circle.”

Linguist-lecturer Jackson Crawford, a consultant on Disney blockbuster Frozen and author of The Poetic Edda: Stories of the Norse Gods and Heroes, will be teaching the course.

Describing the differences between Old Norse, which is more widely taught at American Universities, and Modern Icelandic Crawford said: “Today’s Icelanders live in the same world as we do, and their dynamic language reflects that. Icelandic may be medieval in structure, but it is modern in spirit.”

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