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Rasmus Kristian Rask

1787-1832. Partly as the result of a stay in Iceland 1813-15, the linguist Rasmus Rask completed a seminal study of the origins of the Scandinavian languages and the connections between them.
During a prolonged journey 1816-23 through Sweden, Finland and Russia to the Caucasus, India and Ceylon, he became familiar with a large number of European and Asian languages, so that in a study entitled Om Zendsproget (1826, On the Zend Language) he was able to define the Indo-European family of languages and distinguish it from for instance Finnish, Hungarian and Tamil.

Rask created a new basis for comparative linguistics by investigating not only the languages' vocabularies, but also their phonetical and grammatical idiosyncrasies. One of the results was that he discovered the Germanic sound shift before J. Grimm, to whom the honour has otherwise always been ascribed.

From the long journey home, Rask brought home with him a large number of ancient Iranian and Singhalese manuscripts which he had collected, and which have since made the Copenhagen Royal Library a centre for the study of comparative philology for many scholars in Rask's tradition.


Olaf Pedersen, Gyldendal Leksikon

other great danes

The lives and achievements of all these Great Danes and many more are outlined in biographies of varying lengths on these pages. Read more about The Great Danes