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Johan Ihre and Swedish lexicography

At the time of the death of Erik Benzelius the younger in 1743, the lexicography of the languages of Sweden presented a varied picture. Wordlists of Swedish regionalisms were being made in various places, and a number of them had come into Benzelius’ possession. Elementary dictionaries of Finnish, always as a third or fourth language with Latin, Swedish, and in some cases German, circulated widely, and were being used by scholars beyond Sweden who were interested in the place of Finnish among the European languages. Dictionaries of Sami were being undertaken in and beyond Sweden, primarily for missionary purposes but also with an eye to the comparison of languages. The appearance of Benzelius’ edition of the Codex Argenteus would provide new opportunities for the lexicography of Gothic and the etymological lexicography of Swedish.

Benzelius’ ‘Dialectologia Suecica’ would be completed and published by Johan Ihre, professor of oratory and politics at the university of Uppsala, who is now remembered as ‘Sweden’s greatest philologist during the eighteenth century’ and indeed became a figure of European stature.1 Ihre, to whom we now turn, would also work on Gothic and on Swedish etymology, and would write the introduction to a dictionary of Sami, thus having a connection with every branch of Swedish lexicography of his day apart from Finnish, which was, as we remarked in Chapter Twenty-One above, beginning to take its own course by the 1740s.

Johan Ihre was, unlike his British predecessors Ray and Lhuyd, but like Erik Benzelius, born into the academic establishment: his father Thomas had been professor of theology at the university of Lund, where he twice served as rector, and his maternal grandfather Mattias Steuchius, in whose household Johan was brought up, had served as rector of the university of Uppsala before becoming successively bishop of Lund and archbishop of Uppsala. Mattias had been preceded in the latter role by Erik Benzelius the elder, and was succeeded in it by his own son (and therefore Johan Ihre’s uncle) Johannes Steuchius, and then by three Benzelius brothers in turn, the first being Erik the younger; all these Steuchius and Benzelius archbishops had held academic appointments at Uppsala or Lund before their consecration. The strongly

1 Moberg et al., ‘Scandinavian languages’ 72.

Small Dictionaries and Curiosity. First edition. John Considine.

© John Considine 2017. First published 2017 by Oxford University Press.

hereditary character of eighteenth-century Scandinavian university life doubtless ensured that Johan Ihre did not have to overcome too many challenges as he progressed from a degree at Uppsala and a couple of years of foreign study to a docentship at Uppsala, and then a post in the university library, and then the professorship of Latin poetry in 1737, his thirtieth year, and finally the Skyttean Professorship of (Latin) Eloquence and Politics in the following year. He held the latter position until his death forty-two years later. The standard of the Swedish incumbents of Latin professorships at Uppsala in his age was low, and some of them evidently treated their positions as sinecures.[1] Ihre himself did not make distinguished contributions to the study of Latin, though his work on politics was lively enough to lead to a stiff fine and an official reprimand for misleading the young.[2] However, a lot of subjects might be interpreted as falling within the areas of eloquence and politics: the Skyttean Professorship was a good position for a polymath.[3]

Ihre presided over 453 academic dissertations, many of which were written by him and made real contributions to knowledge.[4] These included work, building of course on that of Benzelius, on the Codex Argenteus, which was in Ihre’s day kept in a locked box to which he had the only key.[5] For instance, a dissertation, largely in dictionary form, called Specimen glossarii Ulphilani primum was the subject of an oral defence over which Ihre presided in April 1753, and a Specimen glossarii Ulphilani secundum was the subject of a defence over which Ihre presided in the following month, followed by a Specimen... tertium in November.[6] These three specimens, however, did not lead to the publication of a full-sized dictionary of Gothic. Instead, Ihre’s thoughts on Gothic fed into the making of his strongly historical Glossarium Suiogothicum, published in 1769.

The history of his work on this dictionary goes back to 1738, the year of his election to the Skyttean professorship, when he was, at his own suggestion, commissioned by the Societas Regia Literaria et Scientarium to produce a new Swedish dictionary.[7] One of the documents which survives from Ihre’s early work on this project is an interleaved copy of the Glossarium Sueo-Gothicum of Haqvin Spegel (yet another archbishop of Uppsala), published in 1712.[8] Spegel’s dictionary is fundamentally etymological: its preface offers a richly referenced discussion of the history of languages, and its main text glosses its Swedish headwords unsystematically in Latin but devotes most of each entry to providing etymologically relevant equivalents for them, mostly in other Germanic languages. Ihre borrowed Spegel’s title and his etymological emphasis. However, Spegel was not his principal model. Ihre’s new dictionary may have been intended from the beginning to emulate Johann Georg Wachter’s etymological Glossarium Germanicum of 1737, and was certainly strongly influenced, in content and presentation, by Wachter’s work, which means that it is much better organized intellectually, and more imposing physically, than Spegel’s.[9] The Glossarium Suiogothicum is a large and handsome volume (or pair of volumes, but they are often bound together). After a forty-eight-page etymological introduction, it runs to 2334 columns of entries, richly documented and handsomely typeset.[10] Its title page is beautified with a slightly idealized engraving of the principal university building at Uppsala; the first page of its main text has an engraved headpiece showing an illustrious national monument, the burial mounds at Old Uppsala; the first page of the second volume has a headpiece showing Ulfilas translating the Bible into Gothic. The book was, then, self-consciously a work of national importance— and of international importance, because its metalanguage was Latin, so that it could be read by learned persons across Europe.

While Ihre was working on the Glossarium, he did not forget the importance of current regionalisms. One of the dissertations which was defended under his presidency was Sven Ullgrund’s two-part Dissertatio philologica de dialectis linguae Suio-Gothicae of 1756-1758.[11] Wordlists were sent to him from the provinces: Sven Hof, who was already working on the important dictionary of words from Vastergotland which he would publish in 1772, sent him material from that province in 1753; Axel Luth, a pastor in Vastergotland, sent material from that province in 1754; Nathanael Thenstedt, who defended a dissertation on the language of the Codex Argenteus under Ihre in 1754, sent him material from his native province of Dalarna in that year; and so on.[12]

Between January 1756 and July 1764, the terminal dates of the final draft manuscript of the Glossarium, that magnum opus must have absorbed much of Ihre’s time and energy, as it had done beforehand: he said in the first sentence of his preface that he had spent the greater part of his best years on it, and as many of his declining hours as he could spare from other business.[13] Thereafter, although the printing of the great work was slow, he could turn to other business. The project which had begun as Benzelius’ ‘Dialectologia Suecica’ in the 1720s was finally realized as Ihre’s Swenskt dialect lexicon in 1766, fourteen years before the posthumous publication of Popowitsch’s pioneering attempt at a union dictionary of German regionalisms (similar dictionaries would be produced in Norway and Denmark in the nineteenth century).[14] The project archive comprises Benzelius’ fifteen wordlists; another twenty-five collected by Ihre; and a volume which includes a draft of Ihre’s foreword and, most substantially, a verbal index by Ihre’s amanuensis Erik Sotberg (who had defended a two-part dissertation on the Gothic Bible under Ihre in 1752 and 1755), running to 330 pages in folio.[15] This was the skeleton of the published dictionary.

Its full title can be translated as:

Swedish dialect lexicon, in which are recorded the words and phrases which are used in diverse regions of the kingdom of Sweden, but are not in general discourse; published for the illumination of our language, and demonstration of its copiousness.[16]

The patriotic ambitions expressed in the latter clause contrast with Ray’s more tentative expression of the purpose of his dictionary of regionalisms in the previous century, and resonate with the presentation of the Glossarium Suiogothicum as a document of national importance, and with the movement of cultural revival of the decades after Poltava. Indeed, the language of the Swenskt dialect lexicon—Swedish rather than Latin—gives it a stronger Swedish orientation than its counterpart. The choice of Swedish for a learned study of the vernacular had become easier during Ihre’s career. Around the time of his election to the Skyttean Professorship, the university of Uppsala had come to accept the use of Swedish for topics of primary relevance to Sweden: so it was that the economist Anders Berch, whose professorial chair was established in 1741, published in that language, whereas scholars who addressed a wider readership, such as Linnaeus, continued to publish in Latin.[17] Likewise, Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien (the Royal Academy of Sciences), a counterpart of the Societas Regia Literaria et Scientarium founded on the model of the Royal Society of England in 1739, chose from the beginning to publish its proceedings in Swedish rather than Latin because its raison d’etre was the furthering of useful science in Sweden.[18] So, whereas Ihre chose that the Glossarium Suiogothicum should resemble a learned foreign book, Wachter’s Glossarium Germanicum, physically and in its choice of language, he could make the Swenskt dialect lexicon resemble domestic products like the nautical dictionary of Johan Fredrik Dalman or the encyclopedic forestry and hunting dictionary of Magnus Henric Brummer: chastely ornamented, unimposing quartos in Swedish.[19] The comparison should not be pushed too far: the Swenskt dialect lexicon is longer than Dalman and Brummer’s works, its type is Roman (to speak to an international scholarly readership) rather than Fraktur (to speak to the Swedish common reader), and its entries are presented in double columns.[20] All these features suggest that it is a learned production in a way that they are not—but a learned production in Swedish.

The double orientation of Ihre’s dialect dictionary, as a work which speaks to Swedish interests but looks beyond them to the world of European learning, is evident in its preface. The first author whom this text invokes is Franciscus Junius, whose pioneering work on the Gothic Bible and on his Etymologicum Anglicanum was, Ihre reflects, supported by his knowledge of a local language variety, namely Frisian.[21] The value of dictionaries of local language varieties is then illustrated in a survey of such dictionaries, beginning with ‘the old Cantabrian, or Basque. Ihre states explicitly that this is not a dialect of Spanish: in this preface, he is interested in a class of language varieties defined by its members’ association with a limited area or a small speaker population, and not by their relationship with other languages.[22] For the vocabulary of Basque, Ihre could cite the Diccionario trilingue del castellano, vascuense y latin of Manuel Larramendi, published in two folio volumes in 1745. Turning to dictionaries of the minor languages of France, he points to one of Occitan, the Dictionnaire Languedocien-Frangois of Pierre-Augustin Boissier de Sauvages, published in 1756; two of Breton, those of Gregoire de Rostrenen and Louis le Pelletier, of 1732 and 1752 respectively, of which he preferred the latter (which had, as we shall see in Chapter Twenty-Seven, a more strongly etymological and antiquarian character); and Schoepflin’s little Alsatian wordlist.[23] Moving from Breton to Welsh, he could cite the grammar and the Dictionarium duplex of John Davies of Mallwyd, the earlier grammar of Sion Dafydd Rhys, and the Antiquae linguae Britannicae thesaurus of Thomas Richards, published in Bristol in 1753.[24] The word antiqua in Richards’ title was a conventional reminder of the claim of Welsh to represent the language of the ancient Britons, but Ihre did also use an Old Welsh wordlist, the glossary to the edition of the medieval Welsh lawcodes by William Wotton, which had appeared in 1730. He does not seem to have made direct use of Lhuyd’s Glossography, though material from it did reach him via Richards’ dictionary, and Wotton had been assisted in his work by Lhuyd’s old protege Moses Williams. For English, Ihre only cited Ray’s Collection of English Words, which he knew in the first edition.26 For German, he had more material: Prasch’s little ‘Glossarium Bavaricum’ and Meisner’s brief Silesian wordlist; the notes on Kelp’s Low German wordlist from Leibniz’s Collectanea etymologica; the second edition of Richey’s Idioticon Hamburgense; Bock’s Idioticon Prussicum; and a reference to Schmidt’s unpublished ‘Idioticon Bernense) which he knew only at second hand.[25] For Norwegian, finally, he had Pontoppidan’s Glossarium Norvagicum and Strom’s wordlist from Sunnmore; the last of these, published in 1762, was the most recent of all his foreign sources. The preface then turned to Sweden in its acknowledgements of Benzelius, the Societas Regia Literaria et Scientarium, contributors such as Hof and Ullgrund, and other useful sources such as Linnaeus’ accounts of his travels—and remained in Sweden, or at least in Scandinavia, in its closing remarks on Sami, of which Ihre knew the wordlists of Fiellstrom, the younger Rudbeck, and Leem.[26]

The Swenskt dialect lexicon is a quarto of 200 pages, with about 7400 entries. These typically give a regionalism as headword, localize it with one or more of nearly thirty abbreviations, and then gloss it in standard Swedish. There are occasional terse references to forms in other languages such as English, Dutch, or Greek, or to forms from Gothic or from the Index linguae veteris Scytho-Scandicae of Olof Verelius, a dictionary of Old Swedish and Old Norse which had been seen into print by the elder Rudbeck in 1691. Like the Glossarium Suiogothicum, then, the Swenskt dialect lexicon has a historical dimension, but this should not be exaggerated: most of the entries offer a spare, efficient presentation of current usage.

The dictionaries of Basque and Breton to which Ihre referred were substantial representatives of lexicographical traditions which had developed far from their fieldwork origins. To take the example of Basque, seventeenth-century work on the language might certainly originate in dialogue, as Willughby’s wordlist had done. A couple of remarkable Basque wordlists, one of more than five hundred entries and one about half its length, were made in Iceland, to which Basque fishermen voyaged.[27] The manuscripts are fair copies, in little narrow notebooks, in different hands.[28] They were naturally rich in the vocabulary of seafaring, including whaling; they also registered the vocabulary of eating, drinking, smoking, and games like blind man’s buff; one of them has a word for ‘lion’, suggesting an elicitation session in which pictures were used; there are some coarse taboo expressions (sickutta samaria ‘fuck a mare’ and caca hiarinsat ‘eat shit from [my] arse’).[29] They include enough phraseological material to show that the Basque words they register were being used in a pidgin whose grammatical structures were not Basque.[30] However, the main Basque lexicographical tradition could draw on printed texts after Dechepare’s Linguae Vasconum primitiae of 1545 and the Bible translation of 1571, and this tradition naturally became increasingly bookish. So it was that the dictionary of 1745 by Manuel de Larramendi Garragori which Ihre mentioned in the preface to his Swenskt dialect lexicon was a large book, which illustrated the virtues of the Basque language by drawing on other books in Basque, the author’s observation, and his readiness to invent new words.[31] The lexicography of other European languages, however, was still more closely in touch with the voices— sometimes, the vanishing voices—of its speakers, as we shall now see.

  • [1] Lundstrom, ‘Latin’ 50-4. 2 Lindroth, History of Uppsala University 97.
  • [2] 4 Cf. the remarks on the professorship of eloquence at Abo in Kajanto, Porthan and Classical Scholarship 19.
  • [3] 5 Ostlund, ‘Two pre-modern etymologists’ 131-2. On the authorship of dissertations, see Considine,‘Did Andreas Jager or Georg Caspar Kirchmaier write the dissertation De lingua vetustissima Europae
  • [4] (1686)?’
  • [5] Kleberg, Codex Argenteus 20.
  • [6] Ihre and Helsing, Specimen glossarii Ulphilani primum; Ihre and Norrstrom, Specimen glossariiUlphilani secundum; Ihre and Granlund, Specimen glossarii Ulphilani tertium.
  • [7] An overview with references is given in the description of the final manuscript of the dictionary inGrape, Ihreska handskriftssamlingen 2: 94-100.
  • [8] Grape, Ihreska handskriftssamlingen 2: 94.
  • [9] Ostlund, ‘Two pre-modern etymologists’ 132-6.
  • [10] They are numbered 1-1099 and 2000-3226; some sources therefore give 3226 as the total number ofcolumns.
  • [11] For the dissertation, see Grape, Ihreska handskriftssamlingen 2: 103-4 and 109.
  • [12] Grape, Ihreska handskriftssamlingen 2: 124 (Hof), 123 (Luth), 121-2 (Thenstedt).
  • [13] Dates from Grape, Ihreska handskriftssamlingen 2: 95; Ihre, Glossarium i, ‘Prodit jam, Lector Benevole,Glossarium illud Suiogothicum, cui ut olim magnam partem melioris aetatis, ita jam ad senium vergen-tis horas, quam per alias officii rationes potui, plurimas impendi.’
  • [14] For the Norwegian and Danish dictionaries, see Haugen, ‘Introduction’ 43.
  • [15] Grape, Ihreska handskriftssamlingen 2: 112-27.
  • [16] Swenskt dialect lexicon, hvarutinnan uppteknade finnas the ord och talesatt, som uti atskilliga svea rikeslandsorter aro brukelige, men ifran allmanna talesattet afvika; till upplysning af vart sprak, och bevis om thesomnighet [modern Swedish ymnighet] igenom trycket utgifvet.
  • [17] Lindroth, History of Uppsala university 124-5; Teleman, ‘Swedish Academy of Sciences’ 84.
  • [18] Teleman, ‘Swedish Academy of Sciences’ 63-4, 68.
  • [19] Dalman, Utkast til et sjo-lexicon; Brummer, Forsok til et swenskt skogs- och jagt-lexicon.
  • [20] For the significance of Roman and Fraktur type in eighteenth-century Sweden, see Teleman, ‘SwedishAcademy of Sciences’ 65.
  • [21] Ihre, Swenskt dialect lexicon, sigs. n1v—n2r, citing Graevius, ‘Vita Francisci Junii’ sig. D2r.
  • [22] Ihre, Swenskt dialect lexicon, sig. n2r, ‘thet gamla Cantabriska . . . Thetta spracket ar ej sa mycket endialect af Spansken, som icke snarare ett helt annat tungomal’.
  • [23] Ihre, Swenskt dialect lexicon, sigs. n2v—n3r.
  • [24] Ihre, Swenskt dialect lexicon, sig. n3v. 26 Ihre, Swenskt dialect lexicon, sig. n3v.
  • [25] Ihre, Swenskt dialect lexicon, sigs. n3v-n4r. Ihre knew of the ‘Idioticon Bernense’ from Bertrand,Recherches sur les langues 13.
  • [26] Ihre, Swenskt dialect lexicon, sigs. n4v-n5v (acknowledgements), n5v-n6r (Sami).
  • [27] They were first published by N. G. H. Deen, with editorial material in Latin, as Glossaria duo Vasco-Islandica; this edition was republished as Basque Pidgins in Iceland and Canada 49-83, together witheditorial material translated into Basque and further material in English.
  • [28] Facsimiles in Basque Pidgins in Iceland and Canada 107-22.
  • [29] Glossaria duo Vasco-Islandica 43-4, 91-2, and 96-7 (seafaring, whaling); 44-5, 61-3, 87-90 (eating,drinking, smoking); 77-8 (games); 55 (‘lion’); 103 (taboo phrases).
  • [30] Discussion (in English) by J. I. Hualdo in Basque Pidgins in Iceland and Canada 123-33.
  • [31] For it, see Trask, History of Basque 51 and Madariaga Orbea, Anthology of Apologists and Detractors ofthe Basque Language 135-6 and 322-52 (translating part of the prologue of the dictionary), and for Basqueliterature of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Trask, History of Basque 48-9.
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