--- In norse_course@yahoogroups.com, "demianschenker"
<demianschenker@...> wrote:
> Very obliged Llama,
> I am with certain difficulty in some words, as for example seidr. In
> the book Nine worlds of seid-magic, of Jenny Blain, it it says that
> the correct pronunciation is "say-th or say-thur" (page X). But I did
> not perceive in the compact-disc Rímur this type of pronunciation for
> E. Which would be the correct one?
> Another thing that is very confused: the double LL, in the compact-
> disc, is as TL in all the cases. But in words as VALHOLL, it would be
> well different of the English...
> I very thank the answers, Demian

Steindór Andersen is singing in his own native language. You can rely
on his pronunciation to be correct. When names from one language
(e.g. Icelandic) are pronounced by speakers of another language (e.g.
English), they rarely keep their original sound exactly. This is
partly because the two languages each have their own set of sounds
which don't match up exactly, and partly because they use the same
letters to represent different sounds. In the case of 'Valhöll', most
dialects of English don't have a vowel quite like that represented by
the Icelandic letter 'ö'. Neither do English words have the
combination of [t] followed by a voiceless [l] at the end of a
syllable. So English speakers would tend to just pronounce the
letters as they would be in an English word, as far as possible,
perhaps ignoring the diaresis over the 'o'.

(Actually the normal name in English is 'Valhalla', which corresponds
to the Icelandic genitive plural. I'm not really sure why that became
traditional in English. Perhaps it came via translations of Old Norse
texts into Latin?)

Any attempts to explain Icelandic pronunciation using English spelling
are going to be approximate. English spelling is often ambiguous and
doesn't even represent the sounds of English very consistently. So
I'm not really sure how you expect "say-th or say-thur" to sound, or
in what way Steindór says it differently to what you were expecting.
To avoid such problems, linguists use special phonetic symbols to show
the sounds of a language without ambiguity. The standard system is
the International Phonetic Alphabet, but because this contains many
strange symbols which can't easily by typed on computers, the X-SAMPA
phonetic alphabet was invented [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-SAMPA
]. Much better than English spelling for discussing phonetics on the

Also bear in mind that the letter 'e' can have somewhat different
sounds in Icelandic depending on what letters it comes next to. Maybe
this is what's puzzling you?

Another factor which might account for differences in the
pronunciation of certain words and names by English speakers (or
different recomendations by different books) is that some may be using
a reconstructed pronunciation, based on expert opinion as to what the
language sounded like in the 12th or 13th centuries. While the
Icelandic language has changed remarkably little since the middle
ages, e.g. compared with English, there have been some important
changes in pronunciation, especially of the vowels. Using X-SAMPA

seiðr [seiDr] - reconstructed medieval pronunciation)
seiður ["sei:D.Yr_0] - modern Icelandic pronunciation

You might be interested to hear some passages read by a native speaker
using modern pronunciation and reconstructed pronunciation [
http://www.hi.is/~haukurth/norse/sounds/sounds.html ].