The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

Comment on Thorvaldsen's Spoken and Written Language

In an article attempting to refute the myth that Hans Christian Andersen was dyslexic, the following causes are adduced for the wide range of spellings used in nineteenth-century Danish, and for the difficulties subsequent readers have had in distinguishing “correct” spellings from mistakes:
Danish spelling in the early 1800s (like that of today) is complicated because of historical sound changes that were not accompanied by corresponding changes in orthography. Although there are many similarities between early nineteenth-century and present-day Danish spelling, lists of errata can be deceiving: words that look misspelled can be spelled correctly, or worse, words that appear to be spelled correctly can in fact be misspellings. In addition, early nineteenth-century Danish spelling had not yet been fully standardized, with the result that dictionaries, grammar books, and actual language use varied. That the intelligentsia often disagreed about correct language use is evident, for example, from the introduction to Molbech’s orthographically conservative dictionary. Surveys by Boberg [1] and Gregersen [2] describe the uproar that the introduction of various orthographical systems brought about; the discussion continued until 1888, when the government adopted a common norm.

[1] V. Boberg, Dansk retskrivnings historie i de sidste 200 år (Copenhagen, 1895).
[2]: F. Gregersen, “Skriftsprogenes formelle udvikling på baggrund af øget læse- og skrivefærdighed og udvidet produktion af læsestof,” in De Nordiske skriftspråkenes utvikling på 1800-tallet, vol. 4 (Oslo, 1984), pp. 166-194.

See also Lund, op. cit. p. 54.

Last updated 10.07.2017