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Mutual Intelligibility of Older Germanic

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Gamauyun
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 Message 1 of 15
12 May 2010 at 8:51am | IP Logged 
For a long time I have had an interest in learning Icelandic as a gateway to Old Norse, and eventually to other early Germanic languages. Regrettably, this has often been pushed aside due to time constraints or limited resources, and I'm still a long way from my eventual goal of reading Old Norse literature in the original.

I remember reading somewhere that native Icelanders are able to understand Old English texts to some degree. Does anyone know to what degree this is true? I imagine that the ability to comfortably read Egil's Saga doesn't immediately transfer over into the ability to comfortably read Beowulf, but could it allow someone to follow the basic meaning of the text? Or, would it only allow one to recognize a handful of words here and there?

By extension, how difficult might it be, knowing one early Germanic language, to pick up another? I'm not sure if anyone on this forum really studies them, but how might this extend to more obscure Germanic languages (Old High German, Gothic etc.)?

Edited by Gamauyun on 12 May 2010 at 8:52am

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Iversen
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 Message 2 of 15
12 May 2010 at 11:57pm | IP Logged 
I know that native Icelanders can read Old Norse, - if I with my limited knowledge of Icelandic can do it, then native speakers can of course also do it - and much better than me. However this doesn't automatically mean that I also can read Anglosaxon, Old High German or Gothic, and I doubt that the average native speaker of Icelandic can do it. But the average speaker of Modern English or German would also have problems doing this.

I have recently read through the entire Beowulf in Anglosaxon with an English translation, and in this situation knowing some Icelandic was clearly a big advantage. If I spent some more time on learning basic Anglosaxon grammar and vocabulary and trained my reading skills on bilingual editions of the extant texts, then learning to read Anglosaxon directly from a monolingual source would not be too hard a task, and I'm convinced that the same applies to Old High German - in fact I had a peek at the Niebelungenlied some time ago, as described in my log, and it was not too scary.



Edited by Iversen on 12 May 2010 at 11:57pm

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goosefrabbas
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 Message 3 of 15
13 May 2010 at 12:11am | IP Logged 
You might find this book to be useful.
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urubu
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 Message 4 of 15
13 May 2010 at 9:02am | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
If I spent some more time on learning basic Anglosaxon grammar and
vocabulary and trained my reading skills on bilingual editions of the extant texts, then
learning to read Anglosaxon directly from a monolingual source would not be too
hard a task, and I'm convinced that the same applies to Old High German - in fact I had a
peek at the Niebelungenlied some time ago, as described in my log, and it was not too
scary.



Not to be pedantic, but the Nibelungenlied (from around 1200) is in Middle High German.
Old High German spans the period from +/-600 to 1100.
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Iversen
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 Message 5 of 15
13 May 2010 at 9:23am | IP Logged 
OK, then Old High German has suddenly become scary

EDIT: no, it isn't scary, but just different. I got curious and found some true Althochdeutsch in a bilingual version on the internet - i.e. a similar combination as with Beowulf in Anglosaxon and English. A quote from Stefanjacob:

aus dem "Älteren Physiologus" (um 1050/70):
<DE LEONE> Hier begin ih einna reda umbe diu tier uuaz siu gesliho bezehinen. Leo bezehinet unserin trohtin turih sine sterihchi.
Vom Löwen. Hier beginne ich eine Rede über die Tiere, was sie geistlich bezeichnen (bedeuten). Der Löwe bezeichnet unseren Herrn durch seine Stärke

Dies is kinderleicht .. haha

"Contra Iudeos" des Isidor von Sevilla:
Hear quhidit umbi dhea bauhnunga dhero dhrioheideo gotes
1. Araugit ist in dhes aldin uuizssodes boohhum, dhazs fater endi sunu endi heilac gheist got sii.

Hier spricht (man) über die Kennzeichen der Dreifaltigkeit Gottes
1. Vor Augen geführt ist den Büchern des alten Gesetzes (Testaments), daß Vater und Sohn und der heilige Geist Gott seien.

OK, maybe not quite so easy, but still understandable (with some help)

And the Niebelungenlied is as expected quite easy. I have seen a full edition in January, but forgot to write down the link (something with 'Mainz', I think). So I'll just refer to this quote from the German Wikipedia (slightly adapted):

Ez wuohs in Burgonden ein vil edel magedîn,
daz in allen landen niht schoeners möhte sîn,
Kriemhild geheizen. Si wart ein schoene wîp.
dar umbe muosen degene vil verliesen den lîp.


Es wuchs im Burgundenland ein [adliges Mädchen] auf, so schön
dass es auf der ganzen Welt nichts Schöneres geben könnte,
Kriemhild genannt. Sie wurde eine schöne Frau.
Deswegen mussten viele Helden das Leben verlieren.

This shouldn't be too difficult for an educated speaker of modern German.

It should of course be pointed out that even the oldest of the texts above is newer than Beowulf, but it is more important to note that German didn't suffer a cataclysmic breakdown like the one that transformed Anglosaxon into Middle English. So unlike English you could say that German has a language history that goes in an unbroken line back to a period just after the Great migrations. In contrast Anglosaxon is effectively a different language than Middle English from just a few hundred years after the Norman conquest.

PS: I have put hyperliteral English translations to these texts in my hyperliteral log in another forum - but to see the similarities between really-old, half-old and modern German you just have to compare the German versions.


Edited by Iversen on 18 May 2010 at 1:55pm

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urubu
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 Message 6 of 15
13 May 2010 at 10:40am | IP Logged 
goosefrabbas wrote:
You might find Relatives/dp/0415104068/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=12737 02268&sr=8-1">this
book

to be useful.


Quite a bit of it is available on Google books:

http://books.google.de/books?
id=xAeJoF55hhsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=old+english+relatives &cd=2#v=onepage&q&f=false

Edited by urubu on 13 May 2010 at 10:42am

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Huliganov
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 Message 7 of 15
17 May 2010 at 2:40am | IP Logged 
Particularly beautiful is Gothic, which unfortunately doesn't even feature in the list of languages we can place on our profiles here. I devoured Wright's grammar and the Wulfila translation of St.Mark's Gospel while at University. Whilst the Minnesang of MHG and the Sagas of ON or Caedmon's Hymn in OE all have an amazing beauty, in my opinion they are all outclassed by what little we have of this mysterious language, borne by a people who conquered and placed their names on many nations, but who, in the process, sacrificed for reasons we cannot tell their beautiful language.

Many of us surely carry around in our bodies some genes from one or other of these highly successful East Germanic tribespeople who covered and ruled Europe, and who largely shaped the post-classical world, but what we know of how they communicated is confined to a handful of linguistic fossils.

Edited by Huliganov on 17 May 2010 at 2:43am

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Iversen
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 Message 8 of 15
17 May 2010 at 7:42am | IP Logged 
I have not worked much on Gothic, but it certainly is an interesting language. Considering the impact the Goths (both Ostro- and Visi-) have had in world history for a short while 1500 years ago it would be a pity if we didn't have at least one good source for knowledge about their language - just as it {is a pity that we don't have any worthwhile Gaulish or Iberian sources, and that we can't understand those we have from the Etruscans.

But luckily much of bishop (W)ulfila's bible translation has survived, and it can be read in a trilingual version here. The beginning of Luke in Gothic, with the English version of King James and a Greek version added, runs as follows:

- Unte raihtis managai dugunnun meljan insaht bi þos gafullaweisidons in uns waihtins,
— Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,
— ἐπειδήπερ πολλοὶ ἐπεχείρησαν ἀνατάξασθαι διήγησιν περὶ τῶν πεπληροφορημένων ἐν ἡμῖν πραγμάτων,

- swaswe anafulhun unsis þaiei fram frumistin silbasiunjos jah andbahtos wesun þis waurdis;
— Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
— καθὼς παρέδοσαν ἡμῖν οἱ ἀπ' ἀρχῆς αὐτόπται καὶ ὑπηρέται γενόμενοι τοῦ λόγου,

etc.

Frankly this is difficult to read even with a translation (or two), and as far as I can see the Gothic and English texts are not parallel, and neither one is a parallel version of the Greek one (which can't be the original Koiné version - not enough diacritics!). If anything the Gothic versions seems to be closer to the Greek one, which again must be fairly close to the original text from Septuaginta.

The same thing in the Latin rendering known as Vulgata (Clementina) and in Luther's German version from 1545 (both quoted from Lexilogos:

Quoniam quidem multi conati sunt ordinare narrationem, quæ in nobis completæ sunt, rerum
sicut tradiderunt nobis, qui ab initio ipsi viderunt, et ministri fuerunt sermonis :

Sintemal sich's viele unterwunden haben, zu stellen die Rede von den Geschichten, so unter uns ergangen sind,       
uns das gegeben haben, die es von Anfang selbst gesehen und Diener des Worts gewesen sind:       



Edited by Iversen on 17 May 2010 at 8:10am



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