Another Tongue-Twister from Iceland’s Newest Volcanic Eruption

An eruption has started near Sundhnúkagígar on the Reykjanes peninsula, …

An eruption has started near Sundhnúkagígar on the Reykjanes peninsula, but how do you say Sundhnúkagígar? Ljósmynd/Almannavarnir

Agnar Már Másson

A volcanic eruption commenced last night near Sundhnúkagígar in the Reykjanes Peninsula after weeks of seismic activity in the area. As with many other eruptions in Iceland, its name can be quite challenging to enunciate.

At Iceland Monitor, we have taken the liberty of providing a guide to the standard pronunciation of certain topographical names in the region. In the video above, you can listen to how these words are correctly pronounced.

This marks the fourth and largest eruption in the Reykjanes Peninsula in the past three years (Reykjanesskagi, IPA:[reiːcanɛscaijɪ]). Reykjanesskagi is pronounced as Ray-gya-nes-ska-yih with a rolling (rhotic) 'r' sound.

Eruption near Sund- hnoo -ga-gee- ghar

The eruption commenced in the vicinity of Sundhnúkur and Sundhnúkagígar (IPA: [sʏntn̥ukʏr] and [sʏntn̥ukaciɣar]), names that even Icelanders find challenging to pronounce due to the unvoiced 'n' sound in "-hnúkur." In "-gígar," the latter 'g' (IPA: ɣ) represents a sound not found in modern English but is akin to the soft 'g' in the Spanish pronunciation of "amigo."

The town of Grindavík (IPA: [krɪntaviːk]) lies to the south of the eruption, and residents were instructed to evacuate immediately when the eruption began.

Newest map of the region around Sundhnúkagígar.

Newest map of the region around Sundhnúkagígar. Kort/mbl.is

To the west of the volcanic fissure stands Sýlingafell mountain (IPA: [siːliŋkafɛtl̥]) and the Svartsengi power plant, as well as the Blue Lagoon. Svartsengi (IPA: [svar̥seiɲcɪ]) is typically pronounced with a silent 't' sound. Consequently, these names can be pronounced as See-ling-gah-fedl and Svars-angi.

South of Svartsengi is Þorbjörn (IPA: [θɔrpjœtn̥]). The 'þ' is pronounced like the 'th' sound in "thorn," which also happens to be the English name for this character. The 'r' in "-björn" is typically silent. Therefore, the standard pronunciation is thor-byuhn.

Transcription

  • Sundhnúkur: [sʏntn̥ukʏr] or Sund-hnoo-gur
  • Sundhnúkagígar: [sʏntn̥ukaciɣar] or Sund-hnoo-ga-gee-ghar
  • Svartsengi: [svar̥seiɲcɪ] or Svars-angi
  • Grindavík: [krɪntaviːk] or Grin-da-veek
  • Þorbjörn: [θɔrpjœtn̥] or Thor-byuhdn
  • Sýlingafell: [siːliŋkafɛtl̥] or See-ling-gah-fedl
  • Reykjanesskagi: [reiːcanɛscaijɪ] or Ray-gya-nes-ska-yih

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