From Iceland — Justice Minister Again Attempts To Abolish Naming Committee

Justice Minister Again Attempts To Abolish Naming Committee

Published October 13, 2020

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir is again introducing legislation that would altogether abolish Iceland’s controversial Naming Committee, amongst many other significant changes. The Minister has long been critical of the Naming Committee, and hopes to make significant changes to how Icelanders can name themselves, RÚV reports.

In addition to the abolition of the Naming Committee—a government-backed body which has the power to approve or deny new names to the Icelandic lexicon based on their perceived grammatical harmony and historical precedent—the bill, if passed, would give Icelanders the power to name themselves however they please; would allow them to assign themselves surnames, instead of following the standard -son or -dóttir patronyms; and would let Icelanders have as many names as they pleased.

While the bill is being harshly criticised by the conservative opposition Centre Party, it does have the support of many Icelandic linguists, including Eiríkur Rögnvaldsson, who said of the bill: “There is no reason to believe that the Icelandic language is in any danger from the bill. Foreign names are already permitted within this realm, and there is no evidence that they have caused any damage to the language.”

Áslaug herself told reporters that for her, the matter is quite simple: “The freedom of people to choose their own name must be stronger than ours to limit that right.”

Should the bill pass, it would ultimately be up to the National Registry to decide in cases where it is unclear if the name in question can be allowed, and they can turn to the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies for their input in those cases.

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