Write other Germanic speeches with English spelling

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by DaveWen, Mar 21, 2013.

  1. DaveWen Member

    Hi, not sure if this is the right section to post this and maybe I haven't made myself perfectly clear in the title.
    So I've been wondering, if another Germanic languages (High German, say) was spelled as if it was English, what would it look like? I'm a Chinese speaker and I've seen how the ability of Chinese writing to carry etymological roots allow different Chinese languages (as well as older register of the language) to be mutually intelligible to a considerable degree in written forms. So I'm thinking, what if an English speaker is allowed to "decipher" (so is to speak) other Germanic languages in the same way, by replacing each word in those languages with its English cognate, so that "Guten tag" becomes "Good day", "Verstehst du mich" becomes "forstand thou me"? I'm no expert in any other Germanic languages, but I can't help but wonder what they'd look like to an English speaker if altered in this way.
    I can see that the first lines of the German anthem can be understood by an English speaker now: "Thedeland, Thedeland, over all, over all in the world."
    Any ideas?
  2. killerbee256 Senior Member

    American English
    History of writing Germanic languages differs much from Chinese; aside from the obvious difference between the Chinese writing system and European ones Germanic never had a common "classical" written form that Chinese or the Romance languages did. This is important because when a classical form exists it has a strong regulating effect on the written vernaculars, French is a good example of this as it uses a very etymology spelling, if it were written phonically it would look very different. Romanian is on the other end as the speakers lost the Latin alphabet for a time and thus went in their own direction which makes it look at first glance very different than west romance languages. Also English, German & Scandinavian each have lost words or grammatical froms that remained common in one of the others, which would make what you speak of very hard to do. That said I've come across folksprk, it's something that a group of language enthusiasts created, which is similar to what your asking. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folkspraak
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2013
  3. rbrunner Senior Member

    German - Switzerland
    I think replacing words in a German text with their English cognates would work up to a certain extent, but would also run into many problems, the biggest one problably lack of cognates: German uses many words that are lost in English or came into being after the two languages split, so many words would be impossible to preplace in this way.

    I don't know how you arrive at Thedeland for Deutschland. I would say the cognate-based narrow re-writing would be Dutchland, and this shows yet another problem of this approach: Some words are still present as cognates in German and in English, but with different meanings. Dutch does not refer anymore to all Germans, but only to the people in the Netherlands, so an English reader misunderstands Dutchland.

    All in all I think that nothing genuinely interesting would result from your proposed approach.
  4. DaveWen Member

    "Thede" is used in some Northern English dialects as well as the Lowland Scots dialect. It carries its original Old English meaning, as opposed to "Dutch" which did derive from "theod" but has changed its meaning.
  5. CapnPrep Senior Member

    You could try it with a longer stretch of text and show it to a bunch of English speakers. But I think you have already illustrated the range of possibilities: from full understanding ("good day") to complete nonsense ("forstand thou me?", "Thedeland").

    I think the example of someone who only knows modern Mandarin trying to read Classical Chinese is probably pretty close. Or maybe somewhere between that and someone who only knows Mandarin trying to read Japanese. The major difference is that there are already texts written in Classical Chinese and in Japanese, so it makes sense to ask if Mandarin speakers can understand them without actually having to study those languages. What you are proposing is to take a German text and apply an extremely laborious process of cognate replacement to it in order to make it marginally more intelligible to an English speaker. If you have the time/skills/resources to do that, you may as well just translate the damn thing into English.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2013
  6. DaveWen Member

    well, thank you all for replying. I think I see this kind of idea won't go very far at all :p
  7. Frank78

    Frank78 Senior Member

    Speaking from the German side, I have made the experienced that the average Joe is not even capable of replacing one letter and guessing the meaning as in "work" and "Werk".

    Not to mention words like "cheap" and "kaufen/Kauf" (buy) or "yield" and "Geld" (money).

    You have to know about the sound shifts.
  8. Treaty Senior Member

    Personally, I owe a large amount of English and French learning to the etymology of words (not just cognates and roots, but the whole story behind them).
    However, it will not be very effective without a deep focus on individual words and a passion for etymology.

    There is a good side too. It shows that the target language is not a big deal to learn. And it is just a different version of someone's own language. I think it will be very helpful in this vein. The learning can start from familiar words/cognates (e.g. in order to teach the grammar) and then the new words are introduced gradually.
  9. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    I hope that this post won't be deleted as off topic, but I wish to give an example how knowing the cognates helps in learing languages. I arrived in Norway with an advanced command of English, and lower intermediate of German. After learning Norwegian up to advanced level i improved my understanding of German at least 200% thanks to the great amount of easily recognizable cognates and loanwords between Norwegian and German.
  10. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    Yep, and even then one may not realise at once that some words are cognates: it took me quite a time to figure out that French "achever" and Ibero-Romance "acabar" have the same meaning (to finish), although, due to context, I figured out at once that Spanish "sandía" & Catalan "síndria" both mean "water melon". And then, some false friends in other languages may hinder understanding some words: Spanish & Portuguese "cama" (bed) aren't related to Catalan "cama" (leg), which in turn is related to Italian "gamba" & French "jambe".
    With "cheap" & "kaufen" as well as "yield" & "Geld", the meanings have drifted too far apart. I figured out some of the sound shifts (y <-> g) when I tried to read Chaucer (whose language in some aspects is closer to German than to modern English), but still it's quite difficult.
  11. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    Knowing the cognates always helps. But a lot of them are not recognized by the spelling, rather than by the pronounciation. And like somebody already mentioned: You have to be able to replace a vowel here and there on your own. ... ko, Kuh, cow ... sten, Stein, stone ... græs, Gras, grass ... etc.
  12. Something of this sort is achieved on the Anglish Moot, where all non-Germanic language is forsworn and replaced by what writers suspect modern English would have been, like if the Germanic purity had been maintained.
  13. DaveWen Member

    Yeah, I've been reading this Wiki as well. Had good fun reading about the "Foroned Folkdoms of Americksland" :) this kind of stuff really fascinates me in that English can be written in such a different flavour and remain understood.
    I was, however, thinking of what other Germanic speeches would look to an English speaker in written forms had the etymology of each word been known to the reader.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2013
  14. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    You write speeches instead of languages, but you break the style using words like form, fascinate, etymology and remain.
  15. DaveWen Member

    Hey, I'm not writing in any particular "style"; "speech" is a valid English word, afterall, to refer to a language."Really", "different" and "flavour" are likewise loanwords, and as much as I enjoy reading articles like "Uncleftish Beholding" and "Foroned Folkdoms", I won't start writing like a wanker and intentionally avoid using loanwords just yet ;)
  16. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Yes, but a "speech" is something you hold in parliament or at a funeral service. The way you use the words, you seem to be trying to transfer the concepts of 文 and 语 to Germanic languages. This doesn't quite work.
  17. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    As far as I know, one can also say "his speech is distinct, cultivated, well articulated, or sloppy". In all these cases you can substitute language for speech, but not in the meaningof language/dialect as a linguistic entity.
    By the way, speech is a cognate of Sprache, but if I'm not mistaken "speech" as a synonym to "oration" is "Rede" in German, isn't it?

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