HD: English Time Machine
Posted: 16 March 2016 04:22 AM   [ Ignore ]
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A slick, but flawed video

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Posted: 16 March 2016 04:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Yes, I agree.  It’s too simplistic and looks at modern pronunciation from a very narrow standpoint.  Some words in he video are still spoken the way they were centuries ago but not always in the same region.  It’s easier for someone from the UK to understand these words than it will be for someone from eg South Africa or the US where regional accents and dialects, although numerous, don’t differ as much within a mile or so.  UK ears are possibly more used on a daily basis, to other accents.

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Posted: 16 March 2016 05:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Also, and this is a standard complaint of mine about readings in ancient languages, the Old English is read with RI-DI-cu-LOUS EMMM-pha-SIS ON VIR-tu-ally EV-ery SYL-la-BLE, with unstressed monosyllables treated as if they were proper names. Why can’t people read ancient languages as if they were actual languages?

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Posted: 16 March 2016 06:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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languagehat - 16 March 2016 05:46 AM

Also, and this is a standard complaint of mine about readings in ancient languages, the Old English is read with RI-DI-cu-LOUS EMMM-pha-SIS ON VIR-tu-ally EV-ery SYL-la-BLE, with unstressed monosyllables treated as if they were proper names. Why can’t people read ancient languages as if they were actual languages?

Perhaps that is only possible if you have the opportunity to hear it spoken often.  I know that is the key in my own experience.  I’m an Orthodox Deacon and the Greek we use is Koine Greek.  The passages that I hear over and over again in the liturgy I can read and rattle off quite handily, but give me something unfamiliar to read and I imagine I sound like a Byzantine first-grader.  :-)

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Posted: 16 March 2016 10:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Yes, with the exception of certain famous passages, like the opening of Beowulf, I don’t think there is a person living who is adept enough at spoken Old English to provide a realistic pronunciation that incorporates tone, pace, stress, pauses, and vowels in a way that accommodates both accurate pronunciation and the meaning of the text. There are very few who can do it with Latin, and most of those are probably at the Vatican.

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Posted: 16 March 2016 10:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Oh, pish posh.  I’m no Latinist, but I can read texts aloud with reasonably accurate pronunciation and not sound like a robot.  I think it’s just a matter of realizing the problem exists and making a conscious effort to overcome it; I suspect most people don’t even see there’s a problem there, they just think that’s the way it should sound, all pompous and overdramatized.

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Posted: 16 March 2016 08:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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You might want to revise this:

The discussion of the Great Vowel Shift is on the wrong in the timeline

And, while this really isn’t a mistake, you don’t have to go back in time to find hard-to-understand English.

I loved the series Broadchurch, but I needed subtitles for the Scottish detective played by John Tennant, a West Lotian by birth.

On Beowulf, is it true that modern Frisians can understand it pretty well? Don’t know where I heard that.

What about Seamus Heaney’s translation?

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Posted: 17 March 2016 12:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Dave, interesting to hear you say the GVS was basically over by Shakespeare’s time. I’ve read elsewhere that it was still on the move, ie Shakespeare’s long i would have been /eɪ/ rather than the modern /aɪ/.

languagehat:

“Oh, pish posh.  I’m no Latinist, but I can read texts aloud with reasonably accurate pronunciation and not sound like a robot. ”

Mmm. Some people aren’t very good at that kind of thing, but don’t let that stop them. Being a linguist or a voice artist doesn’t add up to be able to speak other languages or dialects in an easy and comfortable fashion. Thinking of some of the Pawnee dialogue in Dances with Wolves, or various languages in Passion of the Christ, or any number of Shakespearean actors who try too damned hard.

Oeco:

On Beowulf, is it true that modern Frisians can understand it pretty well?

That would surprise me. There’s an immense difference in vocab.

EDIT: When the video mentions the 1500s and says, “There are also hundreds of word that didn’t mean a thing to you.” One of the examples they give is “petty-fogger”, a word I use regularly.

[ Edited: 17 March 2016 03:48 AM by OP Tipping ]
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Posted: 17 March 2016 03:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I loved the series Broadchurch, but I needed subtitles for the Scottish detective played by John Tennant, a West Lotian by birth.

Yes, I watch a lot of British TV series, and I frequently need to turn on the subtitles for some of the regional accents. And it’s David Tennant of Dr. Who fame.

On Beowulf, is it true that modern Frisians can understand it pretty well? Don’t know where I heard that.

No. It’s a myth that grew out of the pretty-much-true-as-far-as-these-things-go statement that Frisian is the modern language that is most similar to Old English. But they aren’t mutually intelligible. Eddie Izzard did a bit some years back where he tried to speak to a Frisian farmer in Old English. It’s silly and doesn’t prove anything, but it’s kind of fun.

What about Seamus Heaney’s translation?

It’s the best verse translation out there, but it’s definitely Heaney’s Beowulf. He takes some minor liberties with the text in order to make the meter work and to insert some Celtic elements. (Nothing radical, but noticeable.) I would use it in undergrad classes and recommend it to those in the general public who want to read Beowulf in verse, but it’s not a good choice for in-depth study or as a crib for one’s own translation. I like Roy Liuzza’s prose translation (Broadview Press) for scrupulous accuracy, but of course you lose all the poetic sensibility. Fulk’s translation (Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library) is also quite good and has the advantage of including the other texts in the Beowulf manuscript. (I have some quibbles with Fulk at certain points, however; it’s not that he’s wrong, just that in certain places I think there’s a better way to to go.)

Dave, interesting to hear you say the GVS was basically over by Shakespeare’s time. I’ve read elsewhere that it was still on the move

The film gives an end date of 1700, which is really way too late. The big changes were over by 1550, although some vowels continued to shift for some time after that. (The shift wasn’t uniform, and where you place the dates depends heavily on what regional dialect you are speaking about.) The more logical placement would be between Chaucer and Shakespeare and use it to explain those differences, rather than the differences between Shakespeare and today.

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