Nordic Journal of Linguistics

Research Article

An intonational grammar for Icelandic

Nicole Dehéa1

a1 Freie Universität Berlin, Institut für Englische Philologie, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin, Germany.


The aim of this paper is to shed new light on the tonal grammar of Icelandic and to complement the tone inventory as previously described in the literature (Árnason 1998). Specifically, types of pitch accents and edge tones and their combinations in neutral declaratives and questions, and in utterances containing narrow focus are addressed. Two pitch accent types (H* and L*) and two edge tones (H- and L-) are identified, for which evidence has not been found in previous research. Moreover, the paper shows for declaratives, that along with downstep, Icelandic has upstep across Intonational Phrases. Upstep applies to a series of pitch peaks. It may occur in neutral declaratives and in utterances with final narrow focus. Overall, the results of this study provide a substantial addition to our knowledge of Icelandic intonational phonology.


  • downstep;
  • edge tones;
  • focus;
  • Icelandic;
  • Icelandic intonational phonology;
  • pitch accents;
  • upstep