Jón Ólafsson from Grunnavík: cultivation of language in his early writings (1727–1737)

Matteo Tarsi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article discusses Jón Ólafsson from Grunnavík (1705–1779), a prominent spokesperson for purism and language cultivation in eighteenth-century Iceland. Jón’s attitude towards his mother tongue is investigated here by discussing several representative texts that he wrote: his youthful translation of Barthold Feind’s Cosmographia (1727, AM 958 4to); a Latin lecture on the Icelandic language (written no later than 1730, AM 1013 4to, ff. 68r–76r); the introduction to Jón’s orthographic treatise (ca. 1733, AM 435 fol.); a purist wordlist (ca. 1736, AM 1013 4to, f. 37v); and Hagþenkir, a treatise on education (1737, JS 83 fol.). After a short introduction, there follows a brief overview of Jón Ólafsson’s life, learning, and scholarly publications. The next section examines Jón’s attitude towards his mother tongue as reflected in the aforementioned texts. In the concluding section, the issue of language cultivation in eighteenth-century Iceland is addressed. In particular, it is argued that in Jón’s foster father, Páll Vídalín (1667–1727), there exists a link between Jón Ólafsson and the “father” of Icelandic purism, Arngrímur Jónsson the Learned (1568–1648).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-189
JournalLanguage & History
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2017

Other keywords

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics
  • History of linguistics
  • Jón Ólafsson from Grunnavík
  • Icelandic
  • Málsaga
  • Íslenska
  • Málvísindi


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