RASK, Rasmus

RASK, Rasmus Kristian (bapt. Rasmus Christian Rasch). Brændekilde near Odense 22.11.1787 — Copenhagen 14.11.1832. Danish Linguist and Traveller, also interested in Sanskrit and Old Iranian. Professor in Copenhagen. Son of Niels Hansen Rasch, a smallholder and tailor, and Birthe Rasmusdatter. Educated at home and in Odense, became early interested in Old Icelandic. From 1807 he studied philology (and for a while theology) at Copenhagen, without taking a degree. In 1812 travelled in Sweden, in 1813-15 in Iceland. In 1816 taught Icelandic in Stockholm. In 1818 left for his great journey and, after Finland, Russia (St.Petersburg, Moscow, Astrahan, Tbilisi), Iran, India and Sri Lanka (1821), returned in 1823. He brought a collection of Parsi and Pāli manuscripts from India (Bombay) and Sri Lanka. Only a few monthsbefore his death, in 1831, he was given the chair of Oriental Languages at Copenhagen University. Unmarried.

Rask is mainly remembered as a great pioneer of Indo-European, Germanic and Old Icelandic linguistics, but his interests were much wider. Many plans, like a travel account and a comparison of Dravidian languages remained incompleted because of too much work for mere living and too early death. He took Sinhalese as Dravidian and Dravidian as related to the (supposed) Uralo-Altaic family of languages. He participated in the decipherment of Old Persian Cuneiform and showed the genuiness of Avestan on linguistic grounds. His Old Icelandic and Anglo-Saxon grammars were important pioneer works and in 1814 he was the first to recognize the Indo-European character of Baltic and Slavic (but not of Celtic). Independent of Bopp and still without knowing Sanskrit he showed the correct relationship between Germanic, Greek, Latin and Balto-Slavic as early as 1814 (published 1818).

Publications: Vejledning til det Islandske eller gamle Nordiske Sprog. 282 p. Copenhagen 1811, also in Swedish and English translation (A Grammar of the Icelandic or Old Norse Tongue. Transl. by Sir George Webbe Dusent. New ed. with a Preface, and Introductory Article, Bibliographies and Notes by by T. L. Markey. 60+8+273 p. Amsterdam Classics in Linguistics 1800–1925 2. Amsterdam 1976), other books on Nordic and Germanic languages, on Romance languages, on Fenno-Ugrian (Finnish and Lappish), even on Arabic.

Angelsaksisk sproglaere. 44+168 p. Stockholm 1817; English tr. A Grammar of the Anglo-Saxon Tongue. 60+224 p. Copenhagen 1830.

Undersøgelse om det gamle Nordiske eller Islandske Sprogs Oprindelse. 12+312 p. Copenhagen 1818.

Om Zendsprogets og Zendavestas Ælde og Ægthed. 46 p. Copenhagen 1826, also in German 1826, English “Letter from the Late Professor Emanuel [!] Rask … to the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone…”, TrRAS 3:3, 1834, 524-540 (expanded version from TrLitSocBombay, with “Remarks on the Zend Language  and the Zendavesta”).

Den gamle Ægyptiske Tidsregning. 114 p. Copenhagen 1827; Den ældste hebraiske Tidsregning indtil Moses. 16+139 p. Copenhagen 1828; Historien om de ti vezirer og hvorledes det gik dem ved kong Azád Bachts søn. 112 p. Kbh. 1828 (translated from Arabic).

Samlede tildels forhen utrykte Avhandlinger. 1-3. Copenhagen 1834-38 (edited by H. K. Rask, his brother); Udvalgle Avhandlinger. 1-2. København 1932-33, 3. 1957.

– “Indo-Roman Orthography”, Ceylon Literary Register 2, 1887 (written in 1821).

Singalesisk Skriftlære. Manuscript written in 1822, a published version of 16 pages pretends to be printed in “Kolombo 1821”, but then begins quoting what Rask wrote in 1828;Udsigt over den írániske, indiske og malebariske Sprogklasse. Manuscript of 1825, edited by Wimmer in Tidskrift for Philologi og Pædagogik 3, 1862, 117-134.

Breve fra og til Rasmus Rask. Edited by L. Hjelmslev. 1-2. 13+457, 9+402 p. Copenhagen 1941, 3:1-2. Commentary and Catalogue of Manuscripts by M. Bjerrum. 1968.

Spansk Sproglære. 22+226 p. Copenhagen 1824; Frisisk Sproglære. 34+138 p. Cop. 1825; Dansk Retskrivingslære. Cop. 1826; Italiænsk Formlære. 12+74 p. Cop. 1827; Vejledning til Akra-Sproget på Kysten Ginea. 78 p. Cop. 1828; A Grammar of the Danish language for the use of Englishmen. 12+184 p. Cop. 1830; Ræsonneret lappisk Sproglære. 16+287 p. Cop. 1832; Engelsk formlære. 112 p. C. 1832.

Sources: M. Bjerrum, D.B.L. online 2014; C. Henriksen, Lex. Gramm. 1996, 774-776 (with further references); L. Hjelmslev, *Conférences de l’Institut de Linguistique de l’Univ. de Paris 10, 1950-51, 143-157 (republ. in Sebeok 1966:1, 179-195); *Hovdhaugen et al. 2000, 159-164; K. Malone, *Word Study 28, 1952 (republ. in Sebeok 1966:1, 195-199); *Ove K. Nordstrand, “Med Rasmus Rask på Ceylon”, Danske Studier 54, 1959, 91-106, and *“Rasmus Rasks Ceylonophold”, Fund og Forskning 8, 1961, 53-78; Pauly, Køb. Univ. 8, 1992, 519, 523ff.; Pauly, Køb. Univ8, 1992, 519, 523ff.; *F. Rønning, R.K.R. København 1887; *E. Schwentner, Germ.-romanische Monatsschrift 1937, 420-431; *L. Wimmer, R.K.R. Copenhagen 1887; *Dansk biogr. Lex. 1st and 3rd ed.; Wikipedia (with portrait, more details in Danish version); the same portrait often reproduced, e.g. in Pedersen 1959, 249.

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