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Icelandic: V

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by ShakeyX, Sep 11, 2013.

  1. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    This is something that has been bugging me since I moved here, but the example count has tallied up and I can't ignore it any longer. This may sound like a stupid question but I am asking genuinely.

    The IPA for a word like Vampire and Vampíra would suggest the V in both languages is represented as a V.

    Why is it every single time an Icelander talks to me in english, and says the letter V... they very strangely use a W sound. I could understand it being vice versa, i.e. trying to say Wagon and saying "V"agon... but this just happened. I was asking what code I should put in at work if I am sick (to some work time sheet) and the woman, who speaks perfect english, replied... "Wí 01"... then I said.. hvað... ví??? and she replied já ví.

    Again, might sound stupid and originally thought it was isolated incidents, but this has happened my entire stay and I can't understand why.
     
  2. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    I can't speak for Iceland, but I've noticed the same tendency in other countries (e.g., Finland) where the standard language lacks a contrast between "v" and "w".
     
  3. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Yes I noticed this sometimes... a lot less, in Russian. But I cannot get my head around it, I can fully appreciate saying W as V if your language lacks it a W... but their language has the exact same pronunciation of V (atleast to the point of having the same IPA symbol). So when you have the tool to say the word correctly, why substitute it with a W. I've always guessed that from learning about W at a young age that Icelanders might try to hard to substitute it and accidentally reverse when it should be used, but that is just a wild guess.

    Sort of like, always been told when speaking english to say... Wagon not Vagon, then when it acutally is a V, accidentally using W because of this conscious use of W always.
     
  4. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    A wild guess perhaps, but spot on.
    A more formal definition for it is called hypercorrection (trying so hard to do one thing or not do another, that you overgeneralise it to times when you were correct before).
    Take it away, Wiki.
     
  5. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Well, since "v" and "w" are somewhat similar sounds, maybe Icelandic speakers tend to assume (unconsciously) that "w" is the English version of the "v" that their language has, and therefore they generalize this "w"-sound to all cases of v/w in English. Just a guess, of course.

    Edit: Cross-post.
     
  6. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    Reykjavík
    English - UK
    This is the funniest thing about hearing Icelanders speak English! Eating wegetables in the willage.
     
  7. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    It seems like it would be something focused on in classes to ensure this wasn't the case. V equals V... W equals this new sound I will teach now. Now I am of course not comparing Icelanders' English with my Icelandic but I guess the way we've learnt is different, Icelanders learning more naturally with school at a young age and then TV... then me with IPA charts and grammar books. God I wish the UK didn't have this hindrance on early language learning.
     
  8. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Well, it is but it's maybe not the most important thing to focus on.
    There's a paper about how to use music to enhance English teaching and it specifically mentions this problem:
     
  9. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    Reykjavík
    English - UK
    I have never found it a problem to actually understand English from Icelanders who haven't quite got the hang of this, though, so I don't think it's a big deal to focus on in their learning of English. The fact that so many of them can't (or don't?) say the voiced z in English is more of a genuine problem, I've experienced some mix-ups on this front.
     
  10. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    On that note, when Z (zeta) was part of the icelandic alphabet... was it ever voiced, or historically voiced? did it even have a purpose separate from S or was it just a spelling convention.
     
  11. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Nope, never voiced.
    Just a spelling convention.
     
  12. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    If I recall correctly, z originally represented the sound "ts": e.g., the older spelling of íslenska was íslenzka < *íslendska.
     
  13. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Exactly.
    That was one of the main reasons, to break up four written consonants like handski -> hanzki.
    More info.
     
  14. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    I think this hypercorrection is conditioned to some extent, at least in Norwegian and the same possibly applies to Icelandic. Based on my experience with it, English /v/ is changed to /w/ prevalently in pretonic contexts but is kept intact elsewhere. So, words like move, love, over, every would be pronounced with [v], not with [w].
     

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