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Middle Ages without borders: a conversation on medievalism

Tommaso di Carpegna Falconieri
Pierre Savy
Lila Yawn

e) Linguistics and toponymy

2) Going medieval to go modern

Peder Gammeltolft

Texte intégral

1Norway suffered a four-hundred-year-long rule by Denmark and subsequently Swedish rule for almost a century. When Norway became a fully independent nation in 1905, it reinvented itself as a national entity by establishing a joint and common Norwegian language. Norway chose, however, to accept two standard modes of written Norwegian: Bokmål and Nynorsk. Both variants are equal in status—the Nynorsk variant, however, being closer in expression to spoken variants. When it comes to the more identity-laden elements of language, such as place-names, an interesting point can be observed. Instead of accepting written forms corresponding closely to the spoken norm (as would be expected), several place-name types show an interesting “revival” of forms last used in the Middle Ages and which therefore do not follow current pronunciation. An example is the present-day place-name Solheim, recorded as being pronounced [ˈso:lˌeim] (and written Soleim) in the 1886-Cadastre. In modern Norwegian a consonant “h” has been introduced in writing which has not existed since the High Middle Ages. This introduction has been so powerful that the current pronunciation usually is [ˈso:lˌheim]. This trait goes contrary to usual Norwegian language ideology—so the questions are: Why is a medieval form of a place-name seen as being suitable? Is it nation-revival at play? If so, can medieval names define a modern nation? This paper aims to explore these questions through some of Norway’s rich place-name heritage.


University of Bergen

© Publications de l’École française de Rome, 2021

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