Rasmus Kristian Rask,1787-1832. Partly as the result of a
stay in Iceland 1813-1815, the linguist Rasmus Rask completed a seminal
study of the origins of the Scandinavian languages and the connections
between them. During a prolonged journey 1816-1823 through Sweden, Finland
and Russia to the Caucasus, India and Ceylon, he became familiar with a
large number of European and Asian languages, so that in a study entitled
Om Zendsproget (1826, On the Zend Language) he was
able to define the Indo-European family of languages and distinguish it from
for instance Finnish, Hungarian and Tamil. Rask created a new basis for
comparative linguistics by investigating not only the languages'
vocabularies, but also their phonetical and grammatical idiosyncrasies. One
of the results was that he discovered the Germanic sound shift before J.
Grimm, to whom the honour has otherwise always been ascribed. From the long
journey home, Rask brought home with him a large number of ancient Iranian
and Singhalese manuscripts which he had collected, and which have since made
the Copenhagen Royal Library a centre for the study of comparative philology
for many scholars in Rask's tradition.
Assistens Cemetery in Copenhagen
Photo Frantisek Zboray, 2005