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Iceland Mag

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Celtic influence on the Icelandic language and culture is likely greater than previously believed

  • Vestmannaeyjar Islands The islands are named after two Irish slaves which escaped to Heimaey island. Irish people were called Westmen by Vikings. Photo/Pétur Steingrímsson

Celtic influence on the Icelandic language and culture is likely greater than previously believed. According to Þorvaldur Friðriksson, reporter and archaeologist, Celtic had a significant influence on the early development of Icelandic.

Þorvaldur mentions countless place names and names of rivers and volcanoes that cannot be traced back to Nordic languages. He also says there are a number of basic Icelandic words that are not found in other Nordic languages.

Read more: Iceland was likely settled decades before the first Vikings arrived, claims professor Kristján Ahronson

“Words such as æska, elli, and heili (youth, old age and brain) originate from gaelic languages, not Scandinavian,” Þorvaldur told Vísir.

This theory rhymes with a 2001 study by DeCode, which revealed that only 37% of the female settlers of Iceland originated from the Nordic countries and 62% from the British Isles. The study was based on analysis of mitochondrial DNA which is only inherited from mother to child.

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