Summer Post #24: The Made-Up Languages of Sigur Rós

If you haven’t heard of Sigur Rós, you really should check them out. They’re an Icelandic band (1994-present) with a unique and ethereal sound. The frontman Jón Þór “Jónsi” Birgisson  has also branched off into other projects such as Jónsi & Alex, seen below in “Boy Lilikoi”



In our Language Unit, we addressed the topic of “made-up” languages and some groups presented about Avatar’s Navi, Star Trek’s Klingon, and Tolkien’s many languages of his worlds in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Apparently, Sigur Rós  incorporates a made-up language called “Hopelandic” in English, or “Vonlenska” in Icelandic. In the 2002 album entitled ( ), all songs with vocals are sung in Volenska (read more about it here) “Untitled #8”, a track from that album, was featured in the trailer for the Nicole Kidman film, Invasion. Creepy- what do you think?

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

Vonlenska is a term used to describe the unintelligible lyrics sung by the band,[34] in particular by Jónsi. It is also commonly known by the English translation of its name,Hopelandic. It takes its name from “Von”, a song on Sigur Rós’s debut album Von where it was first used.

Vonlenska is a non-literal language, without fixed syntax, and differs from constructed languages that can be used for communication. It focuses entirely on the sounds of language; lacking grammar, meaning, and even distinct words. Instead, it consists of emotive non-lexical vocables and phonemes; in effect, Vonlenska uses the melodic and rhythmic elements of singing without the conceptual content of language. In this way, it is similar to the use of scat singing in vocal jazz. The band’s website describes it as “a form of gibberish vocals that fits to the music”;[35] it is similar in concept to the ‘nonsense’ language often used by Cocteau Twins singer Elizabeth Fraser in the 1980s and 1990s. Most of the syllable strings sung by Jónsi are repeated many times throughout each song, and in the case of ( ), throughout the whole album.



  • From Von:
    • “Von”
  • From Ágætis byrjun:
    • “Olsen Olsen”
    • “Ágætis byrjun” (towards the end)
  • From ( ):
    • All songs with vocals are sung exclusively in Vonlenska.
  • From Takk…:
    • Hoppípolla” (following the Icelandic line “En ég stend alltaf upp [But I always get back up]”)
    • “Sé lest”
    • Sæglópur” (with Icelandic at the end)
    • “Mílanó”
    • “Gong”
    • “Andvari”
    • “Svo hljótt” (following the Icelandic line “Ég þakka þér þá von… [I appreciate your hope]”)
  • From Hvarf:
    • “Salka”
    • Hljómalind
    • “Í Gær”
    • “Von”
    • “Hafsól” (in the middle and towards the end)
  • From Heim:
    • “Vaka”
    • “Ágætis byrjun” (towards the end)
    • “Von”
  • From Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust:
    • “Við spilum endalaust” (with Hopelandic in all the refrains between the lines “Við spiluðum [we played]” and in the end)
    • “Festival”
    • “Ára bátur” (following the Icelandic line “Ég fór, þú fórst [I went, you went]” + entire second half)
    • “Fljótavik” (towards the end)
    • All Alright” (towards the end)
  • From Valtari:
    • “Ég Anda”
    • “Ekki Múkk” (In the beginning and towards the end)
    • “Varúð” (In the refrain, the choir sings “Varúð [Caution]”)
  • Other Songs:
    • “Fönklagið”
    • “Gítardjamm”
    • “Nýja lagið”
    • “Heima” [DVD version]


Summer Post #12: Know Your Emotion

Just an amusing poster I found on Tumblr that I thought relate to some of your Language presentations, as well as the Emotion unit. What is the artist really trying to say about society?


*by the way, this artist sells each face for $200 – see HERE

Why do we Talk? BBC Horizon Episodes

We will be using this series of videos as a springboard for our next SOCRATIC TWITTER SEMINAR (after Spring Break). 

Please think of questions as you view.








Veiled Language and Inuendo: Language and Human Nature

Language expert Steven Pinker

READ HIS INTERVIEW (or see that video) for more after you watch the animated one:

Language is “distinctively human” and therefore, he believes, a window into our nature.

***If you are interested, you can buy the entire book “The Stuff of Thought” HERE




Inuendo, “Polite speak , Euphemisms, Veiled Language….what do these say about us?

He discusses these 3 basic human relationship types and how Language works with them:

1. Dominance

2. Communality

3. Reciprocity

How do divergent understandings of these lead to…AWKWARDNESS

Why do we resort to INDIRECTNESS even when we know what is going on? 

What does it mean when something is “OUT THERE”? Can you ever take back “Overt” language?

How do his comments on crowdsourcing and social protest (i.e.MULTUAL KNOWLEDGE relate world events today? How does EXPLICIT language foster mutual knowledge?

Here’s an excellent blog post debriefing some of the thoughts in the video: