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Born Nov. 23, 1892, in Trondheim; died Oct. 12, 1965, near Oslo. Norwegian linguist. Member of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters from 1922.
Sommerfelt, who studied at the universities of Oslo, Dublin, and Paris, was a professor at the University of Oslo from 1931 to 1962. His principal works are in Celtic studies (Breton, Irish, and Welsh dialects) and Indo-European linguistics. In Language and Society (1938), Sommerfelt attempted to trace the influence of social structure on language by using subjectively interpreted material taken from Aranda (Aranta), an Australian language. He helped compile a multivolume dictionary of Norwegian Riksmâl. Sommerfelt was one of the founders of UNESCO and secretary-general of the Permanent International Committee of Linguists from 1946 to 1964.
WORKSThe Dialect of Ton, Co. Donegal. Christiania, 1921.
Studies in Cyfeiliog Welsh. Oslo, 1925.
Norsk Riksmålsordbok, vols. 1–2. Oslo, 1930–37. (In collaboration with T. Knudsen.)
Diachronic and Synchronic Aspects of Language. The Hague, 1962.