Rasmus Christian Rask

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Rasmus Christian Rask

Rasmus Christian Rask (born November 22, 1787 in Brændekilde (island of Funen ), † November 14, 1832 in Copenhagen ) was an important Danish Indo-Europeanist and polyglot . He spoke 25 languages and dialects ; he had studied more than 50.


Rask turned to the study of Nordic and other related languages early on. After a study trip to Iceland, he published the work Undersøgelse om det gamle Nordiske eller Islandske Sprogs Oprindelse in 1818 (German: investigation into the origin of the Old Norse or Icelandic language ). In this he postulated a relationship between Germanic, Latin, Slavic and Greek. He had already finished his work on this four years earlier, but Franz Bopp published his "Conjugation System" in 1816 , so that his work no longer received the expected attention in the professional world.

In order to study the more distant relatives of the Thracian languages , he went on a trip to India from 1816 with financial support from the royal family. It led via Stockholm, Petersburg, Moscow, Astrakhan, Tbilisi and Persia to Bombay (1820) and Ceylon . Here he was able to acquire valuable Pahlavi and Pali manuscripts. On his return to the University of Copenhagen in 1823 he was appointed professor of literary history, later of oriental studies . In 1825 he founded the Nordic Altschriftgesellschaft together with Carl Christian Rafn .

In 1823 Rask drafted a posterior planned language , which, however, was only published from the estate and which did not influence the later discussion. The peculiarity lies in the modern argumentation of Rask for a planned language as well as in the early point in time - only in the second half of the 19th century there was a wave of planned language projects.

His in-depth and systematic investigations into the Norse language according to syntax and phonology provided evidence that they are closely related to the other Germanic, but also to the Slavic and Baltic languages, as well as to Latin and Greek.

The German linguist Jacob Grimm became aware of this work (1811), which was written in Danish. Letters, reviews and numerous references testify to Rask's influence on the Brothers Grimm, who planned the joint edition of the Edda songs with him, but the relationship between Grimm and Rask remained tense. Jacob Grimm also took up Rask's results on the first sound shift in his German Grammar, "in which he presented and exemplified this sound law in more detail than Rask". That is why the so-called “ Grimm's Law ” is also called “ Rask's Grimm's rule ” by some scientists . Rask's work on the Zend language was also groundbreaking , in which he demonstrated that the Parsing language is closely related to Sanskrit . Even before his untimely death, Rask was able to deal in detail with the Ural-Altaic and Caucasian language families .

Rasmus Christian Rask's grave in the Assistens Cemetery.

On one of his numerous trips he was accepted into the League of Freemasons in Ceylon . He is buried in the Assistens Cemetery in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen.


  • Vejledning til det Islandske eller gamle Nordiske Sprog , Copenhagen 1811
  • Undersøgelse om det gamle Nordiske eller Islandske Sprogs Oprindelse , Copenhagen 1818
  • Spansk Sproglære , 1824
  • Frisisk Sproglære , Copenhagen 1825
    • Frisian linguistic theory, worked on according to the same plan as the Icelandic and Anglo-Saxon by R. Rask, professor of literary history and sub-librarian. Translated from Danish, and with a foreword on the importance of language studies for thorough research in the field of law and political science, accompanied by Dr. FD Buss, Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Freiburg. Freiburg im Breisgau 1834.
  • Dansk Retskrivingslære , Copenhagen 1826
  • Italiænsk Formlære , 1827
  • Den gamle Ægyptiske Tidsregning , Copenhagen 1827
  • Vejledning til Akra-Sproget på Kysten Ginea , 1828
  • The oldest hebraiske Tidsregning indtil Moses efter Kilderne på ny edited og forsynft med et Kart over Paradis , Copenhagen 1828
  • A Grammar of the Danish language for the use of Englishmen , 1830
  • Ræsonneret lappisk Sproglære , 1832
  • Engelsk formlære , 1832


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. cf. Fritz Lochner von Hüttenbach: Jacob Grimm and the roots of historical-comparative linguistics .  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF) p. 116@1@ 2Template: Dead Link / www.uni-graz.at  
  2. Rasmus Kristian Rask: Traktatu d 'un Linguaz universale (treatise on a general language / Traktato pri generala lingvo). Part II from the manuscript “Optegnelser til en Pasigraphie” (1823). Edited from the estate and commented on by Alicja Sakaguchi. Lang, Frankfurt / M. / Berlin / Bern u. a. 1996.
  3. Rasmus Christian Rask: Vejledning til det Islandske eller gamle Nordiske Sprog. Copenhagen 1811
  4. ^ Frank Fürbeth, Pierre Krügel, Ernst Erich Metzner, Olaf Müller: On the history and problems of national philologies in Europe: 150 years of the first Germanist meeting in Frankfurt am Main (1846–1996). Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-11-092899-X , p. 172 f.
  5. On the history and problems of national philologies in Europe: 150 years of the First Germanist Assembly in Frankfurt am Main (1846–1996). Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-11-092899-X , p. 173