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Author Topic: How do we spread knowledge that A-S is a large part of Modern English?  (Read 41924 times)

leofwin

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Re: How do we spread knowledge that A-S is a large part of Modern English?
« Reply #15 on: September 18, 2011, 02:47:22 PM »
I'm investigating U3A at the moment

Also working on a book on old English for beginners which is directed at a wider audience (particularly the young) than what's generally available at the moment.

Bowerthane

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Re: How do we spread knowledge that A-S is a large part of Modern English?
« Reply #16 on: September 20, 2011, 12:09:48 AM »
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[ O]ld English for beginners... ( particularly the young)
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Had you planned on bringing in a runic angle, Leofwin?  Many, many years ago I wrote a sample chapter of an 'Old English for Beginners' with an eye to youngsters.  Beginning with runes seemed to kill a number of birds with one stone: a) flagging down and holding the interest of the young in the first place ( for the love of God get 'em on the cover!), b) getting through to them and all concerned that Old English runes are not 'derived from' or 'based on' Norse runes ( indeed that both seem to go back to contact between Early Germanics, who possibly had some magical symbols, and a North Italic alphabet many centuries before the Norsemen existed) but are brother and sister, not father and son ( or have you had the same trouble knocking the Elder Futhark out of people's heads as Ye Hoary Olde Runstocke Whence It Alle Beganne, 'cause that's what all the New Age Noddyland books say?) also c) this allows you to introduce the three runic letters to which Old English Benedictines gave handwritten forms the right ie. historical way round ( accidentally-on-purpose slaying another myth, that Old English Christians piously disdained to use runes), plus, d) creates an opportunity to explain about the Celtic letter Eth as an alternative to Thorn ( ie. that there's no phonetic difference so readers can do as they like) and a chance to make sure the unhistorical use of Eth as a Y ( "Ye Old Tea Shoppe" nonsense) is understood as a complete red herring, never used for that sound in Old English.

There might be others but I'd have to find the MS which is not, as Gandalf would say, one of the lighter matters if you know what my powers of organisation are like.  Under the sink, quite possibly.


Something else I didn't have time for, along with the illustrations I'd planned, was designing a set of rub-down runes.  Yes that's right, I said rub-down runes.  A sheet of which could be included in the book as a 'gimmick', or sent off for in connection with some competition or test.  Or of course produced by The English Companions as something to give or sell to children and anyone else with a use for, as I say, rub-down runes.  One way of popularising our subject, if nothing else.  Hint hint.


As you see, the project went the way of my wave-generator patent application, the book I did write that predicted September the Eleventh but everyone rejected in the 1990s, my plans to brew mead, fix the tile on the roof, put the cat out, invade Normandy etc.  So I don't mind giving the idea away.



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The moral right of the author to be identified as a Generous Old Hector has been asserted.






 

« Last Edit: September 20, 2011, 12:16:04 AM by Bowerthane »

John Nicholas Cross

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Re: How do we spread knowledge that A-S is a large part of Modern English?
« Reply #17 on: September 20, 2011, 12:14:05 PM »
 d) creates an opportunity to explain about the Celtic letter Eth as an alternative to Thorn ( ie. that there's no phonetic difference so readers can do as they like) and a chance to make sure the unhistorical use of Eth as a Y ( "Ye Old Tea Shoppe" nonsense) is understood as a complete red herring, never used for that sound in Old English. (QUOTE).

Dear Bowerthane,

Can you be kind enough, to explain in more detail, these points in your last posting?   Thanks a bundle.

John.





 



Bowerthane

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Re: How do we spread knowledge that A-S is a large part of Modern English?
« Reply #18 on: September 20, 2011, 02:50:45 PM »
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[ E]xplain in more detail
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Not sure what there is to explain.  When I last knew anything about it, Eth ( ð and Ð, if my typefont comes through in this format?) originated in Irish monasticism as a ‘d’ with a crossed ascender, and Irish/ Celtic Christians were the first to bring literacy to the Old English.  Amongst whom it remained in use as an alternative to the handwritten form of the rune thorn ( þ), both being used indifferently on the same manuscript page and even in the same word: I’ve seen oþþe spelt oððe, oðþe and oþðe on the same page. 

Then, by about Tudor times if memory serves, residual use of Eth was mistaken for a ‘Y’ and pronounced accordingly, giving rise to the bogus definite article ‘Ye’.  Presumably because the crossed ascender grew in proportion to the loop beneath, leaving it looking like a ‘Y’ with a curly bum.


From a pedagogical point of view, the problem I’ve found with people new to ( or bloody ignorant of) our subject is a jerk assumption that ð and þ must necessarily be pronounced differently or why-did-they-bother-with-two-letters?  Once I had to pull out my facsimiles of the Life of Saint Margaret of Antioch to prove to a friend that the Old English used both letters indifferently for the same sound ( something else learners may need to know is that, amongst Old English monks, lower-case Eth could get worn down to a sorta loop with wonky feelers). 

As for the bogus definite article ‘Ye’, I’ve found that this is one of the few things any people think they know about the ‘Old English’ or ‘Old English’, like Alfred-and-the-cakes.  I have been, frankly, amazed at the formidable struggle many English-speakers have in disentangling pre-Conquest Old English from just any old English that happens not to be bang-up-to-date modern.  I suspect the ‘tushery’ one finds in bodice-rippers is partly to blame for this, the ‘Ye’ word another part.  Even when you think you’ve straightened them out you find that, without missing a beat, some mental tick has switched them back to the land of Olde Worlde.

Is that what you wanted to know?  My general point is that there’s certain myths and misinformation that you have to knock out of people’s heads before you can get started on the real thing.

All I can make of this is that pre-Conquest history, maybe especially pre-Conquest English history, does not enjoy the same mental salience between the ears of many English people; and that it doesn’t seem to be the distance in time because you don’t have this problem with Roman Britain.   

You’re forever having to go back and prove, all over again, that pre-Conquest history really did happen.  God knows why, I can’t see what’s so complicated about it…

Georius - JB

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Re: How do we spread knowledge that A-S is a large part of Modern English?
« Reply #19 on: September 20, 2011, 03:40:19 PM »
Just as a side question question, doesn't the ye phenomenon relate to the emergence of printing machines and their exportation to England? (The printers could not print Eth (or Thorn for that matter), as far as I know.)
« Last Edit: September 20, 2011, 03:42:48 PM by Georius - JB »

Linden

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Re: How do we spread knowledge that A-S is a large part of Modern English?
« Reply #20 on: September 20, 2011, 04:22:47 PM »
Just as a side question question, doesn't the ye phenomenon relate to the emergence of printing machines and their exportation to England? (The printers could not print Eth (or Thorn for that matter), as far as I know.)
According to Dennis Freeborn's  'From Old English to Standard English' , it was letter 'thorn' rather than letter 'eth' that grew to look rather like a 'y' and led to the confusion of  'Ye Olde Shoppe' etc. 

As both 'thorn' and 'eth' were replaced by  'th', a restricted  use for a 'thorn' (that had lost its ascender and grew to look more and more like a 'y') was found where the 'th' sound was at the beginning of a word and the printer/writer sought to abbreviate words in very common usage - especially 'the' ('ye ') and 'that'('yt ').

There are several references throughout the afore-mentioned book but that on page 252 to the (hand-written) mid-15th century  'text 86 - The Boke of Margery Kempe' is the clearest.

The book is a fascinating read for anyone curious as to how Old English developed into present-day English.
Cræft biþ betere ðonne æhta

John Nicholas Cross

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Re: How do we spread knowledge that A-S is a large part of Modern English?
« Reply #21 on: September 20, 2011, 06:30:42 PM »
Thanks Bowerthane, Linden and Georius-JB,

Rather a lot said about a subject, that was thought to be "not sure what is to explain"!!

Many, many folk are extremely ignorant, about the Anglo-Saxon period of our history.  Something unlikely to be improved by the educational 'National Curriculum', or so I understand!  Talk about 'throwing out the baby with the bath-water'. 

John.

Jayson

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Re: How do we spread knowledge that A-S is a large part of Modern English?
« Reply #22 on: September 20, 2011, 09:33:11 PM »
About Eth and Thorn:  the first person I contacted about learning A-S was a professor at Oxford and she told me that Eth was 'This and That' and Thorn was 'Thick and Thin'.   Was she wrong and is there, as you say, no difference between their pronunciation?
Wessex Woman

Linden

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Re: How do we spread knowledge that A-S is a large part of Modern English?
« Reply #23 on: September 20, 2011, 09:48:08 PM »
About Eth and Thorn...............................

A. Campbell's 'Old English Grammar' §58(6)
"........ These two symbols, ð and þ, remain the usual ones for the dental spirants in OE: the distinction between them is purely a palaeographical question."
Cræft biþ betere ðonne æhta

Horsa

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Re: How do we spread knowledge that A-S is a large part of Modern English?
« Reply #24 on: September 20, 2011, 10:38:48 PM »
About Eth and Thorn:  the first person I contacted about learning A-S was a professor at Oxford and she told me that Eth was 'This and That' and Thorn was 'Thick and Thin'.   Was she wrong and is there, as you say, no difference between their pronunciation?

That applies to Modern Icelandic orthography, but not to Old English. I hope she was talking about Icelandic and not Old English otherwise she's wrong. Perhaps in some learning texts they use eth and thorn as in modern icelandic along with macrons in order to help the learners out with the pronunciation. And that's a good idea, but it's not how the characters were originally used by the pre-conquest English. As Linden and Bowerthane said, there is no difference in their pronunciation.

Jayson

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Re: How do we spread knowledge that A-S is a large part of Modern English?
« Reply #25 on: September 22, 2011, 05:22:59 PM »
-----ooops, this professor at Oxford WAS talking about Old English.   She sent me a page of Old English sentences which were very like Modern English and which she uses to show how easy (!) it is.
Wessex Woman

Horsa

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Re: How do we spread knowledge that A-S is a large part of Modern English?
« Reply #26 on: September 22, 2011, 05:59:22 PM »
-----ooops, this professor at Oxford WAS talking about Old English.   She sent me a page of Old English sentences which were very like Modern English and which she uses to show how easy (!) it is.

I really don't want this to be true. This would mean that the march of mediocrity is inexorable.

Are you quite sure that she was not talking about the adapted orthography for a learning text she uses like dotted gs and cs and macrons and the like?

Georius - JB

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Re: How do we spread knowledge that A-S is a large part of Modern English?
« Reply #27 on: September 22, 2011, 08:49:46 PM »
I sincerely hope (and think?) that was a mistake, too.

I don't see much point in using eth and thorn for voiced and voiceless fricatives, respectively, for pedagogical purposes (though people may do so), as using only one forces the learner to understand the allophonic system of voicing crucial to OE.

Bowerthane

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Re: How do we spread knowledge that A-S is a large part of Modern English?
« Reply #28 on: September 23, 2011, 02:28:02 PM »
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[T]his professor at Oxford WAS talking about Old English
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Wā-lā my poor sinking heart. Why am I not surprised?


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[ U]sing eth and thorn for voiced and voiceless fricatives… for pedagogical purposes ( though people may do so),
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Funny, but that was one of my Bright Ideas when I sat down to teach myself Old English about thirty years ago.  But it soon broke down.  Maybe it’s because I’m left-handed, but I found that mixing eth and thorn in the same word could be convenient.  I’m in the habit of spelling double-th words like oþþe, oðþe because I find it easier to go into an eth after an ‘o’, and the like, and because it’s easy to begin a thorn ( from the top down) after crossing an eth.  If that makes sense?  Indeed, when I’m in the swing or being careless, the cross of the eth joins up with the ascender of the thorn.
   
I’m guessing an Old English monk would say the same.


By the way, you could have sticky-backed runes too, couldn't you? As well as rub-down ones.  Peel off the backing paper or lick the gum, kind of thing.

Horsa

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Re: How do we spread knowledge that A-S is a large part of Modern English?
« Reply #29 on: September 23, 2011, 09:57:17 PM »
I don't see much point in using eth and thorn for voiced and voiceless fricatives, respectively, for pedagogical purposes (though people may do so), as using only one forces the learner to understand the allophonic system of voicing crucial to OE.

Based on my experience of learning Old English, I would say the opposite happens, unless you're learning with a teacher who can spot mistakes early, or you have a audio recordings of someone with good pronunciation. When I read texts that haven't been adapted for the learner I'm pretty good distinguishing long and short vowels and diphthongs and how to pronounce c and g. I put this down to the fact that I learnt from Sweet's Anglo-Saxon primer which uses dotted cs and gs and macrons to show vowel length. In the midst of learning all the other weird and wonderful things - dative, subjunctive, vocabulary, word order - I missed, or quickly forgot, the section on how to pronounce the lingua-dental fricative and unconsciously developed my own pronunciation. I put this down to the fact that Sweet uses only the thorn for both sounds.

I've since re-read the rules for the lingua-dental fricatives, but it's proving difficult to shift old habits. I wish Sweet had used the icelandic system of using ð for voiced and þ for unvoiced because I believe that I wouldn't have this idiosyncratic (probably) unhistorical pronunciation.

I had no trouble going from the standardized artificial teaching orthography of Sweet to other texts that are more faithful to the manuscripts: it's easy to recognize a word that has a different spelling than one is used to.

Other Languages' influence on English

I've noted a few times that Modern English word order is much closer to the Scandinavian languages, including old Norse, than it is to Old English or it's closer relatives. It also forms phrasal verbs on the Norse pattern where the particle is separated from the verb. Old English didn't do this and neither do any of the West Germanic languages. The tense system is practically identical to Continental Scandinavian languages and very similar to Norse.

I read somewhere that roughly 80% of English vocabulary is not from Old English, but that 80% of the words we use on a day to day basis is that 20% of Old English derived words. However, it seems that Norse has infiltrated the ordinals with 'first' which seems like one of the parts of the vocabulary that would be most resistant to outside influence (Romance got in there too with 'second'), and Norse even managed to make it into the pronoun system which I guess would be the most resistant part of vocabulary to outside influence.

For these reasons, I've wondered if English should be referred to as Anglo-Norse. Something like Norsified English with an elaborate head-dress of words from languages from all over the world including seven words of inuit origin (I can remember only 'anorak').

Spreading Old English Knowledge / Fighting Fallacies

I've never had to argue about Old English. Every time I've talked with someone about pre-conquest English history, it's been met with a kind of "Oh, I never knew that, how interesting" type of response, but then I've never got into a discussion with an 'expert'. My guess is the 'experts' don't want to lose face when confronted by a 'non-expert'.

I would echo what (I think) Bowerthane said - "know your stuff' - something that I'm still working on, but I would imagine that 'experts' challenged on something they have got wrong are always going to act with disdain and contempt towards the 'non-expert', and we're just going to have to take a deep breath, present the evidence and walk away. Hopefully the 'experts' will check facts later, and quietly change their opinions and pretend that they always had those opinions. If not, we work on everyone else and try to build up the numbers till the telly people respond by making documentaries about the pre-conquest era and mini-series set in the pre-conquest era.