Vocalist.org archive

From:  "Lloyd W. Hanson" <lloyd.hanson@n...>
"Lloyd W. Hanson" <lloyd.hanson@n...>
Date:  Sat Nov 11, 2000  7:19 am
Subject:  The language of Grieg's Solvieg's Sang (fwd)

Dear Mark and Vocalisters:

I apologize for sending this again. It has already been sent a second time
by error from my computer at the University. Now I must send it a third
time to correct some bad typographical errors and clear up some questions
of language derivation. Mia culpa.


The original text for Solveig's Sang was written by Henrik Ibsen,
Norway's great dramatist (The Doll House, Hedda Gabbler, etc) He
wrote in a form of Norwegian which was called "Riksmal" (language of
the kingdom) also called "Bokmal" (language of books). Riksmal had
been the official written Norwegian during Danish rule but by the
middle of the 19th century it had begun to incorporate more and more
typically Norwegian words and re-spelled many other words to denote
their Norwegian pronunciation. Riksmal is one of the two official
Norwegian languages and Ibsen and Bjornson were the two most famous
writers to use riksmal. (from Ellingboe)

I might add here also that the Norwegian language is part of the northern
sub-set of the Teutonic family of languages. Descended from Old Norse, it
is related to Danish, Swedish, Icelandic and Faroese. Danish, Swedish and
Norwegian are closely related and mutually understandable while the
relationship to Icelandic and Faroese is more distant. all of these
languages have the same syntax but abound in dialects. (from Ellingboe)

In each of the language names (Riksmal, Bokmal, Landsmal) the /a/ vowel
shoud have a small "o" over the vowel. This indicates that the /a/ vowel
should be pronounced as if it were a rather dark "aw" as in the midwestern
pronounciation of "draw", usually wrtten in IPA as the backward C.

The second official Norwegian language is called "Landsmal" (language
of the land) or "Nynorsk" (new Norwegian). It was introduced by Ivar
Aasen, a self taught linguist. It was a compilation and
standardization of the many Norwegian dialects which had descended
from Old Norse among the country people. It soon become the second
official language of Norway and represents the countries attempt to
rid itself of its Danish and Swedish influences. Ibsen and Bjornson
were well traveled men and linguistically conservative. They
ridiculed the landsmal movement and were more in favor of revising
the earlier Riksmal Norwegian because it would relate more easily to
the rest of the European languages.

Norwegian and Swedish are very similar in pronunciation but, to a
certain extent, spelling and grammar differ between the two.
Conversely, Norwegian and Danish are very similar on paper, but the
sounds of these languages are further removed. (from Ellingboe)

So, the answer is not as clear as I first thought. But to say Ibsen
wrote in Swedish or Danish would not be received well by many

As a member of the St. Olaf Choir on a tour of Norway in 1955, we had
the strange experience of singing Grieg (in Riksmal) and being asked
why we were singing in Dansk (Danish). They expected us to change it
to Landsmal.

Lloyd W. Hanson, DMA
Professor of Voice, Vocal Pedagogy
School of Performing Arts
Northern Arizona University
Flagstaff, AZ 86011