Saami Studies: Norway

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Saami Studies: Norway

The study of Saami has a long tradition in Norway. Starting with the grammar and dictionary of Knud Leem in the mid-18th century, Saami was better known than Norwegian until the second half of the 19th century. We may divide the study of Saami in Norway in three periods: The 18th and 19th centuries, the period from Just Qvigstad to Knut Bergsland, and the period of the post-war scholars.

The study of Saami in Norway was founded by Knud Leem, who published a 388-page grammar in 1748 (En lappisk Grammatica efter den Dialect, som bruges af Field-Lapperne udi Porsanger-Fiorden ), a 892-page Norsk-lappisk Ordbog in 1852 and a 1610-page dictionary in 1768 (Lexicon Lapponicum bipartitum : Lapponico - Danico - Latinum & Danico - Latino - Lapponicum : cum indice Latino). The grammar is a concise descriprion of the inflection of the Porsanger dialect of North Saami. The grammar is modeled upon the classical Latin grammars, thereby giving it a surprisingly modern, Word and Paradigm flavour. Leem inflects the nouns using the Latin case system, thus with a superfluous Vocative (given as identical with the Genitive), and with Ablative systematically split in two, thereby in essence recognising Locative and Comitative. Only Essive is missing from the list. In the verbal system, Leem operates with 5 conjugation classes, the -am, -em, consonant, -im and -om classes. Contracted verbs in -ot, -át are not treated separately, but otherwise, Leem has arrived at the same conjugation classification as we use today. He also identifies the auxiliaries kalkam, fertim, taidam, lem, and gives their conjugation. Leem comments upon the consonant gradation, but notes it as a tendency, rather than as a rule (``De, som i prima Persona haver b, faaer gierne i tertia Persona pp i.e. ``are likely to get). Leem also gives information on word formation, e.g. on diminutive for the nouns, and on inchoative for the verbs. All in all, the grammar is an outstanding work for its time.

The next Norwegian scholar to do work on Saami is Nils Vibe Stockfleth. In 1830 (?), Stockfleth visited Rasmus Rask in Copenhagen, and discussed Saami grammar with him. As a result of these discussion, Rask in 1832 published his Ræsonneret lappisk sproglære efter den sprogart, som bruges af fjældlapperne i Porsangerfjorden i Finmarken. En omarbejdelse af Prof. Knud Leems Lappiske grammatica. Also, Rask convinced Stockfleth that the Saami orthography should be based on the one sound - one letter principle, thereby introducing an orthographic difference which is visible to this day, with North Saami following the tradition from Rask, and Lule Saami following the pre-Rask tradition.

Later, Stockfleth published his own grammar (Grammatik i det lappiske Sprog, saaledes som det tales i norsk-Finmarken. 1, Bogstav- og Formlæren). This grammar does not bring too much new, compared to Rask's grammar. J.A. Friis published his Lappisk grammatik in 1856. New in this grammar compared to the earlier ones is a chapter on syntax.

The diachronic study of Saami started with the influence of Vilhelm Thomsen's 1868 dissertation Den gotiske Sprogklasses indflydelse på den Finske. With this monograph, he brought the study of Finnish into the limelight of contemporary Northern European linguistics. Thomson's ideas were quickly picked up by E. N. Setälä and his contemporaries in Finland, where the neo-grammarian paradigm dominated both Fenno-Ugric studies in general, and Saami studies in particular, for the next century. Research on Saami was soon to be important for the newly established field of Fenno-Ugristics, as it had vital information to provide on the age of the Uralic consonant gradation, a central topic in the debate on the reconstruction of the Uralic language family, starting with Setälä's hypotheses.

The scholars of the neo-grammarian period, Just Qvigstad, Konrad Nielsen, Asbjørn Nesheim, Johan Beronka and Knut Bergsland, saw themselves as part of this historical tradition, thereby representing a break with their predecessors. In JSFOu XLVI (1933), Nielsen characterized Friis as follows: Professor Friis was the last of the Fenno-Ugric researchers of the old school. The new generation put up stricter demands to the linguistic material (...) The linguists began doing research on Lappish for strictly scientific reasons.

Everything these scholars published on language in scientific journals was written within the neo-grammarian framework (we disregard the dictionaries and grammars for a moment, cf. below for a discussion). Especially clear is the case of Nesheim. He has a rich production on social anthropological studies, but apart from his dictionary work, the only thing he publishes on language, 'koaffikset' n i den lappiske possessive deklinasjon., is a neo-grammarian study relating itself to the literature on language history, and on the Uralic language family as a whole. Similarly, Beronka, in his studies on case in Saami, had as his explicit goal to reconstruct the case system of Proto-Saami.

The typical Norwegian contribution to Saami studies was thus an article comenting upon the international neo-grammarian debate, with empirical basis either in the dictionary work (Nielsen and Nesheim), or in South Saami (Bergsland).

Paradoxically, the Norwegian scholars disagreed with the leading tradition in where to put the focus of research. In his dissertation lecture in Helsinki in 1902, Nielsen argues against the dominating neogrammarian view (JSFOu XXI,4 1903):

Mutta täytyykö siis kaiken työn tarkoituksena tällä alalla olla yksinomaan keinojen hankkiminen kielen menneisyyden selittämiseksi? Eikö kielen elävällä nykyisyydellä ole omaa itsenäistä merkitystään? Epäilemättä sillä on: kokonaisuutena sekä moninaisissa eri yksityisilmiöissään antaa alituiseen syntyvä ja kehittyvä elävä kieli erittäin monipuolista tutkimusainetta kielifilosofialle.

Thiswas seconded by Bergsland in his historically oriented article on fennougristics, L'alternance consonantique date-t-elle du lapon commun?, from 1945:

En essayant de voir les faits dialectaux, non pas comme des matériaux épars d'une constructions théoretique, mais dans le tout dont ils font partie, c'est á dire dans les systèmes synchroniques et dans leur enchaînement géographique, nous suivons de très près la pensée de M. Konrad Nielsen, qui a fait de la langue vivante l'objet principal de sa science (...)

The main work done on Saami by Norwegian scholars was thus to be found within synchronic linguistics, on the grammar and lexicon of the Saami languages. Nielsen's 5-volume Lapp Dictionary (published with the assistance of Asbjørn Nesheim and Hans Henriksen) is a monumental work, including 2260 two-column dictionary pages, a 560-page systematic part, where the lemmata are classified according to their semantics, and a supplement containing words from Leem's dictionary not included in Nielsen's main dictionary. The dictionary covers the Polmak, Karasjok and Kautokeino dialects of North Saami, and gives transcriptions of each headwork, as well as syntactic examples and translations into Norwegian and English. This dictionary is the fundament upon which all later North Saami lexicography is founded. Also, the grammar of his3-volume Lærebok i lappisk became the starting point for all subsequent grammars of North Saami.

But given the scientific paradigm of its time, the synchronic work was kept within the framework of reference grammars. Rather as seeing his grammatical work as science proper, Nielsen wrote his grammar as a textbook (Lærebok i lappisk), intended for practical use, rather than as a text aimed primarily at the scientific community. From the thirties there was of course an alternative scientific framework to the dominating neogrammarianism. Bergsland wrote his Røroslappisk grammatik within this structuralist tradition, in fact it is more a glossematic study with South Saami as its example language than a reference grammar of South Saami. Whenever referred to (as it frequently has been), it has always been used as a reference grammar for historical work. The grammar's merits as a work within general, structuralist linguistics have not been commented upon. Bergsland himself did not participate in the structuralist debate after the publication of his South Saami grammar. The lack of interest in his work from theoretical linguists, and the lack of interest in structuralism from his fellow fennougricists, may be one reason why he returned to the neo-grammarian framework. A further reason for leaving the structuralist approach may also be that the Hjelmslevian glossematic theory turned out to be something of a dead end in the history of linguistics, without followers in Scandinavia or abroad.

It was for the post-war generation to build a new paradigm of Saami studies, disconnected from the comparative Fenno-Ugric paradigm, without reference to remote language relatives. The new period started out with two works on phonology.

The first works to be published come from within phonology. Both Nils Jernsletten and Ove Lorentz wrote their licenciate theses on phonology, Jernsletten wrote on prosody in the Deatnu dialect, and Lorentz' thesis was a generative analysis of the Umlaut pattern of South Saami. After this promising, start, Saami phonology received little attention in Norway, until Patrik Bye's dissertation on Saami consonant gradation, within the Optimality Theory framework.

The main focus within Saami linguistics was on syntax. Ole Henrik Magga's 1977 licenciate thesis was an analysis of existential sentences, particularly locative sentences, within the framework of Chomskyan standard theory. In later work, including his 1986 dissertation (Studier i saamisk infinitivsyntaks : infinitivsetning : akkusativ og infinitiv) Magga analyses North Saami verbal syntax, focusing on auxiliaries, modals and infinite constructions. Nils Øivind Helander picks up the tradition from Beronka in his dissertation (Ii das šat murrii iige báktái (2001)), but rather thanaiming at reconstructing the proto-Saami case system, Helander embarks on a functional analysis of the conditions for the use of illative.

In this period, North Saami was introduced as a written language in public life for the first time since the Norwegianization process started. This, combined with a new orthography, created a demand for new reference work, and for textbooks for all school subjects. Important publications were the four-part textbook Davvin (used in school at all levels of instruction), and Klaus-Peter Nickel's reference grammar Saamisk grammatikk from 1990.

Within lexicography, several smaller school dictionaries have been published. Thor Frette's Norsk-saamisk ordbok was a welcome addition to the literature, unfortunately made obsolete by the change in orthography short after its publication. In 1995, Davvi Girji published a Saami-Norwegian dictionary, translated from Pekka Sammallahti's Nielsen-based 1989 dictionary. In 2000, they also published a Norwegian-Saami, dictionary. This dictionary has its strength as a terminology list, seen as a dictionary, it is clearly inferior to Frette's work.

The period also saw the birth of terminological work, with multilingual word-lists covering areas such as health care, computing, education, etc. published.

New in the contemporary literature is an interest in morphology. Else Turi, Johanna Ijäs, Laila Sara and Berit Bals have in their Master Theses all studied different aspects of derivational and inflectional morphology. Theoretically, they have been related to word-and-paradigm morphology, and as such they represent a break with the generative approaches of the 70ies and 80ies.

Trond Trosterud

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Trond Trosterud

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