old friesian
Posted: 09 August 2013 12:00 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hope I,ve spelt that correctly, is it true that the closest relative to English is old friesian ,as spoken at one time on a group of islands off the coast of northern holland.

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Posted: 09 August 2013 12:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The name of the language in English is usually spelled without the e: Frisian, even though the region is Friesland.

Old Frisian was extremely similar to Old English and modern Frisian has many similarities to Modern English. It is, I believe, generally conceded to sound more like English than any other language does.  I seem to recall hearing it suggested that Frisian is a lot like what English would be if the Norman invasion had never occurred.

“Most closely related” is a slippery concept: which of your cousins are you most closely related to?

[ Edited: 09 August 2013 12:23 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 09 August 2013 12:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Such statements also generalize a lot. For instance, Old English is not a single dialect, but consists of three or four major ones: West Saxon, Kentish, and Anglian (which includes Northumbrian and Mercian). All of these, while mutually intelligible, are quite distinct (the degree of difference is not unlike that between modern Danish and Norwegian). West Saxon is the most familiar to modern readers of Old English, as most of the manuscripts that have survived are in that dialect. (The West Saxon kings unified England in the later Anglo-Saxon era.)

Period is also a factor; specificity as to when is important as well. The Anglian dialects were heavily influenced by Old Norse starting in the eighth century and continuing on with Viking incursions and settlements until quite late in the Anglo-Saxon era. I don’t know how much Frisian was influenced by Old Norse, but I doubt it was as much.

But that said, yes, one is struck by the similarities between Frisian (Old and Modern) and Old English. When I was last in Friesland, some twenty years ago, I found that between my English and German I could read modern Frisian quite well. I imagine that with my Old English, it would be even easier now.

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Posted: 09 August 2013 06:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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It’s my understanding that Cædmon’s Hymn was composed in Northumbrian but is usually presented in West Saxon.  This would be because when modern students attack Old English they usually learn West Saxon and great works, whatever their original dialect were often recorded in West Saxon at the time.

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Posted: 10 August 2013 04:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Cædmon was from the abbey at Whitby, so it is undoubtedly Northumbrian originally.

Unusually for an Old English poem, we have many copies of Cædmon’s Hymn, seventeen* manuscript versions have survived, four in Northumbrian, thirteen in West Saxon. The poem only survives, however, because Bede mentions it in his Ecclesiastical History and provides the opening lines in Latin. Given the huge number of Bede manuscripts that survive, it’s no surprise that many copies of Cædmon’s Hymn also survive. Five of the surviving manuscripts are West Saxon translations of Bede’s Latin and contain West Saxon versions of the poem. In all but one of the others, the Old English version is copied as a marginal or interlinear gloss, in some cases added later, in others the gloss is copied by the same scribe who penned the Latin. In one Latin version, a West Saxon translation is included in the main text, but this is a fourteenth century manuscript, quite late.

The oldest of the manuscripts, Cambridge, Cambridge University Library, MS K.k.v.16 and St. Petersburg, Russian National Library, MS Lat. Q.v.I.18, both mid-eighth century manuscripts, some seventy years after the poem was probably composed, are Latin with a Northumbrian gloss. In the Cambridge manuscript the Northumbrian version is added at the end of the manuscript; in the St. Petersburg copy, it’s a marginal gloss to the folio containing Bede’s Latin version of the poem. Both glosses are copied by the scribe who penned the Latin, probably at the same time as the main text was copied.

The surviving poem is incomplete, as Bede only translated the opening lines into Latin, and all the Old English versions include only the portion that Bede translated. Also, it’s not certain if the Old English versions are re-translations from Bede’s Latin, or taken from an Old English original. Most scholars tend to accept that it’s not a re-translation, but I have my doubts. The poem looks like it’s been run through a translator several times. The only reason anyone pays attention to it is its origin story and the fact that it is one of earliest Old English poems we have. (The portions of the The Dream of the Rood written in runes on the Ruthwell Cross were inscribed at about the same time as the oldest manuscripts of Cædmon’s hymn, so these two vie for the title of oldest. The Dream of the Rood is a far better poem. Cædmon’s Hymn, quite frankly, is crap.)

* Actually, one of the manuscripts was destroyed in the 1731 Ashburnham house fire, but we have a sixteenth-century transcript of it. And in two others the poem is badly mangled by the scribes, and are often discounted, leaving some counts of the number of surviving manuscripts at fourteen.

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Posted: 10 August 2013 04:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Just for interest and example, here’s a randomly chosen paragraph of modern Frisian from a current Frisian language newspaper online.

Original article here.

First the original Frisian, then a literal word-for-word translation into English, and lastly a ‘normal’ translation into English.

Frisian:

Foar de âlde finzenis yn Ljouwert , de Blokhúspoarte , wurdt sneon oer in lingte fan 100 meter de strjitte grien ferve. Ek wurde der wite streken op makke. It doel is om it autoferkear ôf te remjen en sa it oerstekken feiliger te meitsjen. Foarhinne kamen der net folle besikers nei de Blokhúspoarte, mar de gemeente wol fan de âlde finzenis it senuwsintrum meitsje fan Kulturele Haadstêd 2018.

Word-for-word translation:

Before (in front of) the old jail in Ljouwert, ‘de Blokhús Gate’, will-be Saturday over a length of 100 meters the streets green painted. Also will-be there white stripes on made. The goal is to the car-traffic off to hold and so the crossing safer to make. Before came there not many visitors to the Blokhús Gate, but the town-council wants from the old jail the nerve-centre to make of Cultural Capital 2018.

Translation:

On Saturday, the street in front of the old jail in Ljouwert - the ‘Blokhus’ Gate - will be painted green over a length of some 100 meters. White stripes will also be painted over them. The aim is to reduce car traffic and thus make crossing the road safer. It is not that it was so busy before but the Council wants to make the old jail the nerve centre of the ‘Culture Capital 2018’ events.

There are also videos on the page linked to above if you would like to hear some modern Frisian.

After thirty years learning Dutch, I find I ‘get’ about 70% when I listen to radio or tv programmes. The Dutch themselves profess 100% confusion when confronted with Frisian but I always take this with a large pinch of salt as they go out of their way to say how different it is from Dutch. But also how close it is to English!

For me, it is definitely another language; the grammar shows some interesting differences but it shares a hell of a lot of vocab with its sister-language, Dutch.

(PS mistakes in the translation are entirely of my own making)

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Posted: 10 August 2013 05:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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For me, it is definitely another language

Well, of course it’s another language; nobody would say anything different.  The question is whether it’s the closest Germanic language to English, and as has been said above, it’s complicated, but Frisian is certainly a valid contender.

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Posted: 10 August 2013 09:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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My native language is English. I’ve lived in Germany, so am fluent in German. I can muddle through Dutch texts, mostly, and understand a fair amount of what I hear, though miss quite a bit. When people speak Frisian, I whimper in the corner.

Perhaps it’s just a matter of exposure: I’ve been muddling through Dutch much longer. In any case, I took some pictures when I was in Leeuwarden (the Dutch for Ljouwert, which was referred to two posts ago) of some information about the local landscape in Frisian and Dutch. (Those were the only languages to have the full text; there were summaries in German and English).

https://picasaweb.google.com/kurwamac/Leeuwarden#5905609163599971442

https://picasaweb.google.com/kurwamac/Leeuwarden#5905609278867362066

There are also a lot of poems in Frisian set in the pavement at apparently random locations:

https://picasaweb.google.com/kurwamac/Leeuwarden#5908218775178280674

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Posted: 10 August 2013 11:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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By way of contrast, here’s an Afrikaans translation:

Die straat voor die ou tronk in Ljouwert - die Blokhuishek - sal Saterdag vir omtrent 100 meter geverf word. Die doel is om verkeer to verminder en daardeur die oorgang van die pad veiliger to maak.  Die rede is nie dat dit voorheen so besig was nie, maar dat die Munisipaliteit die ou tronk die “nerve centre” van die Kultuurkapitaal 2018 wil maak.

It’s fairly commonplace to include English expressions in Afrikaans, and vice versa in South Africa.

Anyone for Dutch?  I can understand and hold a simple (limited) conversation, but I can’t write Dutch. I doubt I’d be able to do the same in Frisian, but again, a lot depends on whether it sounds similar to English or Afrikaans.

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