By Lynn Cutler, Ruth Ohi
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Indeed, something of a mother fixation. You would expect such a seemingly sophisticated language to have long since matured. After all, it’s more than a thousand years old, it has cohabited with others, travelled the world. But no – watch French closely and you’ll see that it is still clutching at the skirt of its mother: Latin. It was Julius Caesar who planted the first seeds of French. In the first century BC he and his legions took over Gaul, as France was then known. He came, spoke and conquered, and when the Romans departed five centuries later, the people they left behind spoke Latin.
All of Norway – many times larger than Denmark proper – suddenly gained independence, albeit initially under the rule of the Swedish king. Danish, having been the official language for centuries, had exerted a strong influence on Norwegian, particularly the kind spoken by the urban elite. Norwegian nationalists now had two objectives: out with the Swedish king, and out with the Danish language. It took a while, but eventually they managed both. The Danish language was also losing ground further afield.
The decline began in 1814 when Denmark, a loser in the Napoleonic Wars, was forced to cede part of its territory. All of Norway – many times larger than Denmark proper – suddenly gained independence, albeit initially under the rule of the Swedish king. Danish, having been the official language for centuries, had exerted a strong influence on Norwegian, particularly the kind spoken by the urban elite. Norwegian nationalists now had two objectives: out with the Swedish king, and out with the Danish language.