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Thread: Nationalism and the Faroese Language

  1. #1
    Eikþyrnir
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    Nationalism and the Faroese Language

    The national awakening in the 19th century was a popular recognition of Faroese cultural traditions and language. The respect and attention the Faroese gave to their language and other cultural traditions can therefore have been said to be their way of enduring and expressing Faroese national identity. The struggle to keep the Faroese language alive is part of Faroese identity and nationalism as it is predominantly through language and folk ballads that we sense an ongoing nationalism in the Faroe Islands.

    Like the geographical position of the Faroe Islands, the Faroese language, as we know it today, is placed somewhere between Norwegian and Icelandic. The Faroese language is a West-Norse language, which in grammatical terms is closest to the Icelandic language, whilst the dialects are closer, related to the Norwegian language.


    In the 15th century, the Faroese written language was more or less the same as the Norwegian and Icelandic written language, the Faroese language did have some unique word formations that were not found in the Norwegian nor Icelandic language though. But after the Reformation (1540) the Danish language replaced the Faroese written language in all official purposes. In the school and the church, it was forbidden to speak Faroese, but otherwise the common-man never really replaced the Faroese vernacular with Danish. In the middle of the 19th century Faroese once again became a written language, but due to the lack of national literature in the period after the Reformation a lot of different dialects had developed within the vernacular. This development made it difficult to go back to the old Faroese written language; hence, a new written language was therefore created which included aspects of all the different dialects.


    During the three centuries where there was no official Faroese language, Faroese was only kept alive as a spoken language, which was mainly possible due to the long traditions of telling tales and singing folk ballads. During the long, dark and windy winter months, the few inhabitants in the different villages entertained each other by telling legendary tales about their ancestors and other historical figures, and singing folk ballads while dancing the traditional Faroese ring-dance. All the villagers met these winter evenings, from the youngest to the oldest villager and all were eager to learn the tales and folk ballads by heart. When summer came and it was possible to travel to the other islands these tales and folk ballads were exchanged between the islanders. In this way both the younger and older generations throughout the country knew of the same tales and ballads and as these same stories and tales were continually told and sung, even after newer ones had been made, they were kept alive for centuries. A rich tradition of literature can therefore be said to have existed on the Faroe Islands even though it only existed as oral-literature. The tales and folk ballads still exist today in more or less the same form as they did in the preliterate period, because of the tradition of handing them down from generation to generation (till the more than 80.000 verses were finally written down in the 19th and 20th century). And as the theme of the tales and ballads are mostly of European tradition and the ballads composed in the 18th and 19th century about Faroese, Norwegian and Icelandic heroism, they serve as historical as well as cultural treasures. Undoubtedly the most important ballad ever written in the Faroe Islands is Fuglakvæðið (The Bird Ballad), which is about Danish government officials (personified as birds of prey) suppressing the Faroese people (personified as small birds). Written in the late eighteenth century, Fuglakvæði is one of the first patriotic ballads written on the Faroe Islands where a sense of resentment towards administrative figures is traced. Fuglakvæðið was written by Nólsoyar-Páll who was a kind of ombudsman for the people against the government, in Fuglakvæðið he himself is personified as Tjaldur (Oystercatcher, the Faroese national bird).


    National Romanticism in Europe eventually reached the Faroes and attention was once again given to the old folk ballads. In 1817 the Danish scholar H.C. Lyngbye started to write down Faroese folk ballads and in 1822 Færøiske Qvæder om Sigurd Fofnersbane og hans Æt was published.


    In 1781, Jens Christian Svabo had started to collect old Faroese folk ballads, but due to ill fortune, he had to stop his work and he lived a humble life on a tiny government pension in Tórshavn. His magnificent piece of work was not fully printed until 1959 and only one of the ballads was printed in Svabo's lifetime - in 1814, in a Swedish collection of folk poetry. This was the first time a Faroese text was printed. The first novelist to write his ballads in Faroese was Jens Christian Djurhuus (1773), but these were not published until 1891. Traditionally Djurhuus' ballads were historical tales and only learned by heart by the inhabitants. Djurhuus' ballads are to this day the most popular ballads in the Faroe Islands. This is very much due to the language of the ballads, because even though they were written by the end of the 18th century the language was closely related to the spoken language and still is. It was not until 1854 that the first Faroese grammar was published. The father of the written language was V.U. Hammershaimb (1819-1909) and in spite of the age differences between him and Djurhuus their relationship was close and very much based on their common interest in the Faroese language and folk ballads. This of course might be one of the reasons why the language in Djurhuus' ballads is so close to the present-day language of the Faroe Islands.

    The oldest literature of most of the European nations is folk ballads and tales. According to Johann Gottfried Herder(1744-1803), a German theologian/philosopher, these ballads and tales represent the most truthful and deepest feelings in people's spiritual inheritance. Herder's philosophy inspired patriotic feelings among people, and collections of folk ballads flourished especially in Scandinavia and Germany. It was very much Herder's Romanticism that inspired the Faroese to collect all the different tales and ballads into written literature.

    Føroyinga felagið (The Faroese Fellowship)

    A century after the French Revolution, we see the first actual national movement succeed in the Faroe Islands. Føroyinga felagið (The Faroese fellowship) was founded in January 1889 with the purpose to: (1) Bring the Faroese language to honour and recognition; (2) unite the Faroese people and further their competence in all things to enable them to provide for themselves. Evidently, the Faroese put much of their identity in their language, as the first lines of this praise to the language shows. This song was made in 1878 by Fríðrikur Petersen, and was reprinted in the only newspaper in the Faroe Islands at that time, Dimmalætting, in connection with the foundation of Føroyinga felagið 25.5 - 1.6.1889.

    Hvat kann røra hjartastreingir? Hvat kann reystar gera dreingir? Tað er móðurmál.
    What can touch the heartstrings? What can strengthen boys? The mother tongue.

    Hvat kann teg í sorgum troysta? Hvat kann tendra gleðisneista? Tað er móðurmál.
    What can comfort you in your sorrows? What can light your glimmer of joy? The mother tongue

    Even though the Faroese had yearned for a written language for centuries the publication of Hammershaimb's grammar did not come into being without problems as not all inhabitants agreed with his structure of the language. Jakob Jakobsen (1874-1918) was one of Hammershaimb's opponents; he thought that Hammershaimb's spelling was too complicated whereas his own version was more true to the spoken language. A "spelling-contest" began between the supporters of the two versions but eventually Jakobsen conceded to Hammershaimb's version and around 1900 Hammershaimb's grammar was accepted as the Faroese grammar. Despite the publication of the grammar in 1854, the Faroese language was not acknowledged as the official language of the Faroe Islands until 1937.

    :

  2. #2
    Stig NHF
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    "Ke kan røra hjartestraingje? Ke kan styrka gutadn? Da e morsmaol.
    Ke kan tråysta deg i sorgi? Ke kan tenna gledesgnaisten? Da e morsmaol"

    Some parts of norway haven't moved very far away from your own language you know, as you maybe can see when I wrote it like I would speak it.

  3. #3
    Eikþyrnir
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    Thank you for the post. Yes, I can see it, and I find it great that our languages haven't moved too far that we can't comprehend what the other means.

  4. #4
    Stig NHF
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    The cultural struggle here in a way parallells the Faeroan struggle, with Danish-inspired Norwegian slowly taking over in more and more places. I feel its a great loss, but with the current globalizationtrend there is not much I can do about it sadly....

  5. #5
    Bøndern Ska Gjænnoppstå Erlingr Hárbarðarson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stig NHF
    The cultural struggle here in a way parallells the Faeroan struggle, with Danish-inspired Norwegian slowly taking over in more and more places. I feel its a great loss, but with the current globalizationtrend there is not much I can do about it sadly....
    Refererer du til tilbakegangen av nynorsk som skriftspråk og at bokmål er i ferd med å bli det eneste skriftspråket i Norge? Jeg er enig og jeg syntes det er en skam. Ivar gjorde det han gjorde for en grunn, hans språk var drevet av norsk patriotisme og separasjon fra Danmark...Danskene er jo noen rassehøl!



    Først utvanna saa utrydda



  6. #6
    Stig NHF
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    Hehe, noko slikt ja Men utan vilje til endring er det fånyttes å prøva desverre....

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erlingr Hárbarðarson
    Danskene er jo noen rassehøl!
    Hvad mener du mon med det? :icon1:

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    How is now the struggle of the Faroese people for their Freedom?. Can be they fully independent in few time?

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    Bøndern Ska Gjænnoppstå Erlingr Hárbarðarson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonas
    Hvad mener du mon med det? :icon1:
    ...et vanskelig spørsmål. Jeg tror at danskene er våre brødre og søstre(!) men dere er nedlatende; et velkjent faktum, det er slikt som alle vet, Jonas.



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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erlingr Hárbarðarson
    ...et vanskelig spørsmål. Jeg tror at danskene er våre brødre og søstre(!) men dere er nedlatende; et velkjent faktum, det er slikt som alle vet, Jonas.
    Det er jeg uenig med dig i; jeg synes at vi generelt er meget selvironiske, hvilket så bevirker at vi gerne overfører denne ironiske distance til andre folk - noget som nogen altså tager os ilde op...
    Dog skal jeg gerne indrømme at der indimellem ytres ting og sager i den danske offentlighed eller af individuelle danskere som nok kan opfattes nedladende overfor andre (broder-)folk, men jeg tror nu som sagt primært at det skal ses på baggrund af den særlige form for dansk humor, ironi og i særdeleshed selvironi som udgør en væsentlig del af den danske folkekarakter og har gjort det igennem århundreder.
    Noget genereliserende, men ikke uden et vis sandhedsindhold, kan man sige at vi er et jævnt folk med en indbygget foragt for al oppustethed, arrogance, selvgodhed og selvretfærdighed. Vi ynder også at angribe disse ting så snart vi får øje på dem, hvadenten det er hos os selv eller hos andre, men selvom ordene måske nok kan virke skarpe, så foregår det nu som oftest på en for os at se kærlig måde; med et smil på læben og et glimt i øjet.

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