Another jökull heard from?

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It may be time for newsreaders worldwide to start polishing up their pre-stopped laterals again. The automatic earthquake-location system at the Iceland Meteorological Office's Department of Geophysics has been starting to show some small earthquakes under Eyjafjallajökull's bigger neighbor, Mýrdalsjökull:

Mýrdalsjökull (the "mire valley glacier") covers the volcano Katla. According to the Wikipedia article,

In the past 1,000 years, all three known eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull have triggered subsequent Katla eruptions. Following the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruptions, on 20 April 2010 Icelandic President Ólafur Grímsson said "the time for Katla to erupt is coming close … we [Iceland] have prepared … it is high time for European governments and airline authorities all over Europe and the world to start planning for the eventual Katla eruption".

[Update — if you look now (6/16/2010 20:00) you'll see a picture that's more promising (unless you like volcanic eruptions).]


  1. KCinDC said,

    June 13, 2010 @ 1:05 am

    Surely if the eruption occurs the international news media will just use "Katla", which people at least think they know how to pronounce. No need to get into any jökull.

  2. Ian Preston said,

    June 13, 2010 @ 4:47 am

    If I understand correctly from the Wikipedia link, there is a volcano called Guðnasteinn under the glacier called Eyjafjallajökull and a volcano called Katla under the glacier called Mýrdalsjökull. If the international media can just use "Katla" to refer to the supposedly impending eruption then why didn't they use "Guðnasteinn" for the ones just passed? It looks easier to pronounce, though this may be misleading.

  3. mollymooly said,

    June 13, 2010 @ 5:56 am

    @Ian Preston:
    Wikipedia says Guðnasteinn, Hámundur, and Goðasteinn are three peaks of the rim of the volcano's crater; it would seem the volcano has no name of its own

  4. Ian Preston said,

    June 13, 2010 @ 6:25 am

    @mollymooly: Perhaps we are looking at different pages. The one on Katla says: "Particularly, monitoring has been intensified following the March 2010 eruptions of a smaller neighbouring volcano – Guðnasteinn – beneath the Eyjafjallajökull glacier." Probably your understanding is right, though.

  5. Peter Taylor said,

    June 13, 2010 @ 8:38 am

    According to British quiz show Have I Got News For You the volcano under Eyjafjallajökull is called "Gear" (spelling uncertain, but the pronunciation given was the same as the second word in Top Gear, the TV show about cars whose presenter was hosting that week's edition of the quiz).

  6. Jón Proppé said,

    June 13, 2010 @ 9:18 am

    The "gear" from the quiz show is a bastardisation of "gýgur" which is simply the Icelandic noun for "crater" – so not much help in properly identifying the one under Eyjafjallajökull. Guðnasteinn is just a rocky peak that can be seen poking up through the icecap – the Wikipedia page is simply wrong here. Finally, if Katla does erupt it will be bad news for everyone, not least for English-speaking newsreaders who will find the preaspirated "tl" consonant combination impossible to pronounce correctly.

    [(myl) Yes, I should have noted that pre-stopped laterals are not the only relevant phonetic issues — though in the case of Katla, an appropriately anglicized version is readily available.

    Eyjafjallajökull (which newsreaders will be faced with pronouncing again in giving the background, if Katla erupts) poses many problems in anglicization — the quality of "ey" (it's the vowel in "pay", not "pie"), whether the j's are affricates or glides (they're glides), what to do with the orthographic double l's (at least the first one ought to be [tl], and maybe both of them should be, although final [tl] is not normally allowed in English), etc. And just navigating a six-syllable word successfully from start to finish is a problem for many people.

    Mýrdalsjökull is already easier because it's just four syllables, so that people are less likely to get lost in the middle of it. And there's only one 'll'. But there are still some problems to be solved.

    As someone who's due to fly to Paris on July 3, I'm all too aware that the plight of the newsreaders will be the least of the world's problems, if Katla really does blow.]

  7. Elly said,

    June 13, 2010 @ 10:02 am

    I, too, have a flight booked in 2 1/2 weeks. Perhaps if Katla would just hold off for 4 weeks?!

    I think the newscasters will have a much easier time dealing with preaspiration – it's just one hurdle instead of the mind-boggling 4 or 5 presented by Eyjafjallajökul.

  8. Bobbie said,

    June 13, 2010 @ 10:56 am

    I still like the approximate pronunciation of Eyjafjallajökul as "ayerdvedic yogurt"! At least I can remember it!

  9. Robert Coren said,

    June 13, 2010 @ 11:49 am

    @Ian: At a guess, English-language print media at least would run screaming from the "weird" character "ð".

  10. KCinDC said,

    June 13, 2010 @ 12:06 pm

    Robert, they'd just take it as a weird "d" and print "Gudnasteinn". Stripping off diacritics is standard.

  11. Alissa said,

    June 13, 2010 @ 12:32 pm

    I guess it might have been easier to get something recognizable out of 'Guðnasteinn', but it has nearly as many issues as 'Eyjafjallajökull'; it should be pronounced something like [ɡvʏðnəsteɪtn̥] (that might not be perfect). The nasals are pre-stopped, like ll, and then there is the issue that the morpheme 'Guð', 'God', is pronounced with a [v] not indicated in the orthography.

    I think the world will be glad for many reasons when Iceland's volcanoes decide to stop erupting for a while.

  12. Now might not be a good time to plan on a summer trip to Europe « A Man With A Ph.D. said,

    June 14, 2010 @ 3:11 am

    […] tip to Mark Liberman of Language Log of all […]

  13. Catanea said,

    June 14, 2010 @ 2:19 pm

    "final [tl] is not normally allowed in English"
    – I know a university professor of English who swears that "bottle" is one syllable. If that is a defensible contention, then [tl] would be very allowable. I've never agreed with him, but I don't have a doctorate in English, nor head a Germanic philology department.

  14. Alissa said,

    June 15, 2010 @ 1:20 am

    'Bottle' has two syllables; the final [l] is syllabic. It isn't in Icelandic though because the [l] is voiceless. It feels more like an affricate to pronounce. I'm not sure if it's possible to pronounce a word-final [tl] as one syllable with a voiced [l] (it isn't with my English phonotactics, though maybe some other language allows this).

  15. Chandra said,

    June 15, 2010 @ 4:20 pm

    Add me to the list of people with flights booked… in my case, to Iceland. (Look, I've been trying to get there for years and something always comes up. I'm not letting some volcano stop me now that I finally have enough time and funds. Hmph.)

  16. maidhc said,

    June 16, 2010 @ 1:13 am

    There are some dialects of English in which "bottle" has only one syllable, but it's usually done by changing the nature of the "t".

  17. Terry Collmann said,

    June 16, 2010 @ 7:01 pm

    Maidhc: what dialects are those? even a heavy working class London accent, with the glottal stop and the "l" turned almost into a vowel, would say "bo'uul", two syllables, rather than something almost indistinguishable from "bowl", one syllable, I suggest.

  18. Markaðssetning said,

    June 7, 2011 @ 9:17 pm

    Chandra, hope you got to Iceland. It's a great place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there during the dark winter months.

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