--- In norse_course@yahoogroups.com, "Ian Ragsdale" <delvebelow@...>
> Unless your interest is only in Scandinavian languages and culture,
my two
> cents is that you learn modern German first as it is the language of
such a
> wealth of texts. Icelandic can be a stepping stone to the Old Norse
> languages, but unless you are interested in the modern Icelandic
novel or
> the daily news from Reyjkavik (which you very well may be) there
isn't going
> to be a whole lot for you to read.

Apart from those Old Norse texts themselves, Icelandic is useful for
reading the scholarly apparatus that accompanies Icelandic editions of
Old Norse texts and other academic material and websites about the
medieval literature. To help you practice, if nothing else, you can
listen to Icelandic radio and watch Icelandic TV online. And there are
sometimes programmes relevent to people studying Old Norse; for
example, there was one last year about runes and one about the concept
of the 'hof' "temple" in sagas and archeology. Naturally there's a lot
of interest in Iceland about the old literature and much has been
written on the subject.

Modern Icelandic also offers an insight into idioms and is a great way
for getting the feel of the language generally. Although there have
been many small changes in syntax, the modern language can sometimes
clarify grammatical points about Old Norse that might otherwise be
obscure, if for example it happens that only one or two instances of a
particular usage have survived in medieval literature, but the idiom
of syntactical structure is better attested in more recent times.

Since there's no single clear dividing line in time between the
Icelandic variety of Old Norse and Modern Icelandic, studying the
modern language would be a help if you have an interest in later
medieval or post-medieval texts. In fact, our knowledge of some
medieval texts depends wholly or partly on later manuscripts, so an
understanding of post-medieval developments in the language is
important for studying these. In fact, if you get deeply interested in
Old Norse, there will probably come a time when you want to study
Modern Icelandic anyway even if that wasn't you intention to begin with!

> I think that availability of
> personally-relevant texts is an important criteria for the
> student, and I do not mean to offend any natives or fans of Iceland.
On the
> other hand, if you really like the films of Ingmar Bergman, then perhaps
> Swedish could be a relevant modern tongue for you...u.s.w...
> -Ian
> (my first post)