Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V24, Page 292 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
SCANDINAVIAN LANGUAGES.' By this expression we understand the closely allied languages which are and have been Territory. spoken by the Teutonic population in Scandinavia, and by the inhabitants of the countries that have been wholly or partially peopled from it. The territory of these languages embraces: Sweden, except the most northerly part (chiefly Lapland and inland parts of Vesterbotten, where Finnish and Lappish exclusively or chiefly prevail); certain islands and districts on the coast of western and southern Finland, as well as Aland; a small tract on the coast of Esthonia, where Swedish is spoken, as it is also to some extent in the Esthonian islands of Dago, Nargo, Nukko, Odensholm, Ormso and Rago; Gammalsvenskby (" Galsvenskbi " ) in southern Russia (government of Kherson), a village colonized from Dago; the Livonian island of Runo, where Swedish is spoken, as it formerly was on the islands of Kyno, Manno, Moon and Osel; Norway, except certain regions, especially in the northern part of the country, peopled by Finns and Lapps (mainly in the diocese of Tromso); Denmark, with the Faeroes, Iceland and Greenland, where, however, Danish is only spoken by a very small part of the population; the northern half of Schleswig; and, finally, several Scandinavian colonies in the United States of North America (especially in Minnesota and Illinois). Scandinavian dialects have besides been spoken for varying periods in the following places: Norwegian in certain parts of Ireland (A.D. 800-125o) and northern Scotland, in the Isle of Man (800-1450), the Hebrides (800-r400), the Shetland Islands (800-1800) and the Orkneys (800-1800); Danish in the whole of Schleswig, in the north-eastern part of England (the Danelagh, q.v., 875-1175), and in Normandy (goo-Iron, or a little longer); Swedish in Russia (862-13o0, or a little longer);2 Icelandic in Greenland (985-about 1450). At what epoch the Teutonic population settled in Scandinavia we cannot as yet even approximately decide. It is quite certain, Age however, that it already existed there before the Christian era—most probably as early as the beginning of the so-called Later Stone Age (5000 B.C., but see SCANDINAVIAN CIVILIZATION), if not still earlier. If this view be correct, the Scandinavian languages have had an existence of seven thousand years at least. But it is only from the beginning of the Christian era that we can get any information concerning the language of the old Scandinavians, which seems by that time not only to The prim,. have spread over Denmark and great parts of southern tare scan- and middle Sweden and of Norway, but also to have dinavian reached Finland (at least Nyland) and Esthonia. In language. spite of its extension over this considerable geographical area, the language appears to have been fairly homogeneous throughout the whole territory. Consequently, it may be regarded as a uniform language, the mother of the younger Scandinavian tongues, and accordingly has been named the primitive Scandinavian (urnordisk) language. The oldest sources of our knowledge of this tongue are the words which were borrowed during the first centuries of the Christian era by the Lapps from the inhabitants of central Sweden and Norway, and by the Finns from their neighbours in Finland and Esthonia (partly, it is true, also from their Gothic neighbours in Russia and the Baltic provinces), and which have been preserved in Finnish and Lappish down to our own days .3 These borrowed words, denoting chiefly utensils belonging to a fairly advanced stage of culture, amount to several hundreds, with a phonetic form of a very primitive stamp; as Finn. terva (O. Swed. ticera, Ger. teer), tar; airo (O. Swed. ar.), oar; kansa (O.H.G. hansa), ' For details see A. Noreen, " Geschichte der nordischen Sprachen " (Grundriss der germanischen Philologie, 2nd ed., 1897). 2 V. Thomsen, The Relations between Ancient Russia and Scandinavia (1877). ' W. Thomsen, Uber den Einfluss der Germ. Sprachen auf die Finnisch-Lappischen (187o); E. N. Setala, Zur Herkunft and Chronologie der alteren germanischen Lehnworter" in Journal de la Societe Finno-ougrienne, xviii. (2906).society; napakaira (O.H.G. nabager, O. Swed. navar), auger; ansas (Got. ans, O. Swed. as), beam; Lapp sajet (Got. saian, O. Swed. sa), sow; garves (O.H.G. garaweer, O. Sw. gor), Borrowed finished; divres (O. Sax. diuri, O. Swed. dyr), dear; words. saipo (O.H.G. seifa), soap. These words, with those mentioned by contemporary Roman and Greek authors, as well as the most ancient runic inscriptions mentioned below,are the oldest existing traces of any Teutonic language. Wrested from their context, however, they throw but little light on the nature of the original northern tongue. But an equally old series of linguistic monuments has come down to us dating from a little before the. end of the so-called Early Iron Age (about A.D. 400)—the knowledge and the use of the oldest runic alphabet (with twenty-four characters) having at that period been propagated among the Scandinavians by the southern Teutonic tribes. In fact we still possess, preserved down to our own times, primitive northern runic g;Inlons. inscriptions, the oldest upon the utensils found at Vi in Schleswig and Thorsbjerg in Denmark, dating back to about A.D. 250-300, which, together with the MS. fragments of Ulfilas' Gothic translation of the Bible, about two hundred years later in date, constitute the oldest genuine monuments of any Teutonic tongue. These runic inscriptions are for the most part found on stone monuments (sometimes on rocks) and bracteates (gold coins stamped on one side and used for ornaments), as well as on metallic and wooden utensils, weapons and ornaments.' Up to Igo8 there had been discovered more than one hundred, but of these only about one-half give us any information concerning the language, and most of them are only too short. . The longest of those satisfactorily interpreted, the stone-monument of Tune, in south-eastern Norway, contains only sixteen words. Their language is perhaps somewhat later in character than that of the oldest words borrowed by the Lapps and Finns, voiced s, for example, is changed into a kind of r (cf. dagaR= Goth dags, day; but Finn. armas=Goth. arms, poor). On the other hand, in all essential matters it is much earlier in character than the language of contemporary Gothic manuscripts, and no doubt approaches more nearly than any Teutonic idiom the primitive form of the Teutonic tongue For the sake of comparison, we give a Gothic translation of one of the oldest of the primitive Scandinavian inscriptions, that on the golden horn of Gallehus, found on the Danish-German frontier, and dating from about A.D. 300 Scand.: EK HLEWAGASTIR. HOLTINGAR. HORNA. TAWIDO; Goth.: ik Hliugasts Hultiggs haurn tawida; Engl.: I, HlewagastiR, from Holta, made the horn; as well as the inscription on the stone monument of Jarsberg in western Sweden, which is about 250 years later: Scand.: UBAR HITE. HARABANAR WIT IAH EK ERILAR RUNOR WARITU; Goth.: Ubs Hita, Hrabns wit jah ik Airils riinos writu; Engl.: UbaR (erected the monument in memory of) HitaR. We both, HarabanaR and I ErilaR, wrote the runes. Although very brief, and not yet thoroughly interpreted,5 these primitive Scandinavian inscriptions are nevertheless sufficient to enable us to determine with some certainty the relation which the language in which they are oeother written bears to other languages. Thus it is proved yanguages. that it belongs to the Teutonic family of the Indo-European stock of languages, of which it constitutes an independent and individual branch. Its nearest relation being the Gothic,these two branches were formerly sometimes taken together under the general denomination Eastern Teutonic, as opposed to the other Teutonic idioms (German, English, Dutch, &c.), which were then called Western Teutonic. The most essential point of correspondence between the Gothic and Scandinavian branches is the insertion in certain cases of gg before w and j (ggj in Gothic was changed into ddj), as in gen. plur. O.H.G. zweiio, O. Eng. twe3a (two), compared with O. Icel., O. Norw. tueggia, 0. Swed., O. Dan. twmggiae, Goth. twaddje"; and, still, in German treu, Eng. true, compared with Swed., Norw., Dan. trygg, Icel. tryggr, Goth. 4 See the plates in G. Stephens's Handbook of Old Northern Runic Monuments (1884), and S. Bugge's Norges Zndskrifter med de wldrs Rnner I. (1891-1903). ' For the interpretations we are principally indebted to Prof. S. Bugge's ingenious investigations, who in 1865 satisfactorily succeeded in deciphering the inscription of the golden horn, and by this means gained a fixed starting-point for further researches. A short review of their most important results is given by A. Noreen, Altisldndische Grammatik (3rd ed., 1903), appendix. triggws. However, even in the primitive Scandinavian age the difference between Gothic and Scandinavian is more clearly marked than the resemblance; thus, for example—just to hint only at some of the oldest and most essential differences—Goth. nom. sing. ending in -s corresponds to primitive Scandinavian -an, -iR (as Goth. dags, day, gasts, guest =Scand. dagaR, gastiR) ; Goth. gen. sing. in -is to Scand. -as (as Goth. dagis, day's = Scand. dagas) ; Goth. dat. sing. in -a to Scand. -e (as Goth. kaurna, corn =Scand. kurne) ; Goth. 1st pers. sing. pret. in -da to Scand. -do (as Goth. tawida, did =Scand. tawido). Already before the beginning of the so-called Viking period Trans- (since about A.D. Soo) the primitive Scandinavian formation, language had undergone a considerable transformation, as is proved, for example, by the remarkable runic stone at Istaby in the south of Sweden, with the inscription (about A.D. 650) :
atomic weight 44.1 SCANDIUM [symbol Sc (0=16)]

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.