Tuesday, 20 November 2007

The ancient art of bashing the Danish language

This is what a Swede (Dr Hemming Gadh) is said to have said about the Danish language in the year 1510 (translation below):

‘Der till medh: så wærdas de icke heller att talla som annat folck, utan tryckia ordhen fram lika som the willia hosta, och synas endeles medh flitt forwendhe ordhen i strupan, for æn de komma fram, sammaledes wanskapa the munnen, då the talla, wridhan och wrengan, så att the draga then offwra leppen till then wenstra sidon och den nedra till then högra sidon, menandes dett wara sig en besynnerlighe prydning och wellståndh.’

The Swedish of the section above is quite weird in itself. The following English translation is lifted from Syllabic and morphological structure: what can be learnt from their interaction in Danish? (Hans Basbøll, 2006):

‘Also this: nor do they [the Danes] stoop (‘worthy themselves’) to speak like other people, but press the words forward as if they will cough, and appear partly to deliberately turn the words around in the throat, before they come forward (i.e. out of the mouth), partly they misshape the mouth when they speak, twist it and sneer it, so that they pull the upper lip to the left side and the lower to the right side, thinking this to be a particular ornament and well-standing.’

The first section of the paper referred to above is "Can spoken Danish be understood?". The paper cites studies pointing to the fact "[...] that Danish is found (more or less) difficult by everybody" (‘everybody’ meaning other Scandinavians).

The old Danish-bashing quotation is also found in The Phonology of Danish, Hans Basbøll, Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 83.

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