Ivar Berg

Language and Writing Culture in Late Medieval Norway

Thursday April 10, 2014, at 16.30
Árnagarður 301

Ivar Berg
Ivar Berg

This paper is based on my 2013 doctoral thesis “A late medieval scribal community: Nidaros archdiocese 1458–1537”, where I discussed language and linguistic practices at the Nidaros archdiocese in a social, cultural, and political context. Following the union with Denmark, the archdiocese became the most important national institution and the Norwegian milieu with most written output. It is therefore a suitable window on the linguistic and cultural situation of the period. The paper will focus on two main topics:

(1) The writing culture: What was written, how much, and how does it correspond to the development in Europe and Iceland? Important points are new text types like accounts, the use of printing for liturgical books, and a book collection which testifies to strong cultural contact with continental Europe.

(2) The social value of language: Danish replaced Norwegian as the written language of Norway during the Late Middle Ages. I propose a less nationalist interpretation of this language shift than (some) previous accounts, as there are no reliable examples of the differences between Norwegian and Danish being exploited as a sign of national identity. On the other hand, the use of Latin by the clergy seems to be part of their identity, thus expressed in language.

Ivar Berg is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Trondheim. He has worked on late medieval Norwegian from both grammatical and sociolinguistic point of view, always with focus on the primary sources. He is currently studying the 19th-century research history of Old Norse.