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Old Mar 4 2008, 01:38 PM   #1
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Default Reading Old English

Some of you may have noticed I've not really been around for a while. (Who knew Uni would be so hectic as the year went on!) But this Semester part of my course is entitled 'The history of the English language', and I had to do an Assignment whereby I basically translate and analyse a set text, to see if I could figure out when I was written just by Lexis, orthography, Syntax, etc.

...so did I do the easier Old English one? Or perhaps a Present Day English text?

No. I had to just one that was dated c.1150, which is the transitional period between Old English and Middle English...It was a pain in the backside..but an interesting pain in the backside. xD

I was wondering as to whether anyone else had ever attempted to read Old English or Middle English, why, and whether you gave up after seeing all the Ashes, Eths and Thorns. -Chuckles- Oh...and the pronunciation is amusing when having to rad out loud.
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Old Mar 4 2008, 01:44 PM   #2
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I've tried the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (only in photocopies of the original) and the manuscript of the 'Planctus Mariae' from Cividale which is very early church drama.
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Old Mar 4 2008, 02:04 PM   #3
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Default Re: Reading Old English

I've never read any old English, but I have seen some texts written in older versions of French.

When I took a Lit class about the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, we had a couple of textbooks that showed what the old French looked like. I don't know when the history of the French language class is going to be offered again, and I didn't take it the last time it was offered because I didn't want to take too many classes.

I don't think they've replaced the professor (he retired) who used to teach History of the English Language. I think that would be a very interesting class.
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Old Mar 4 2008, 02:52 PM   #4
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Default Re: Reading Old English

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I've tried the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (only in photocopies of the original) and the manuscript of the 'Planctus Mariae' from Cividale which is very early church drama.
The text I analysed I eventually realised came from the Chronicle, written in 1137. It was about King Stephen and the anarchy, which means the dates didn't add up...but then afterwards I learned that some had been added to the chronicle at a later date, using the same language and syntax and whatnot.

Kinda like someone these days writing like Shakespeare...nothing to be able to distinguish between the two if it's done correctly.
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Old Mar 4 2008, 03:27 PM   #5
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Default Re: Reading Old English

Sorry, no English, only Dutch and Latin. I did read Dutch from the same period but also from earlier and later. Although I have to say that apart from historical source material the examples Dutch literature and translation into Dutch are more often 13th and 14th century than 12th.
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Old Mar 4 2008, 03:44 PM   #6
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The closest I've ever come to anything like that was a little Chaucer and some Scottish ballads. Oh, and I did a paper on an incident in Virginia history based on some old court documents. I know that's hardly "old English" but it was harder than I'd anticipated. The challenge there was as much the style of writing as the spelling and word usage. It sounds like an interesting class you've been taking.
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Old Mar 4 2008, 04:16 PM   #7
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No English, but my specialism in my last year at Uni was old languages, mainly Old High and Middle High German but also a fascinating course in Old Icelandic. Unfortunately, the old English course clashed so I couldn't do that one I had great fun, though, writing a paper on the differences between myths of the Ring Cycle in its various incarnations through the ages
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Old Mar 4 2008, 04:53 PM   #8
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Default Re: Reading Old English

Chaucer and Beowulf. That was an interesting experience, and at least in the case of Beowulf it was translated. Only tried to read part of it, and could figure some parts out. Not as much as Chaucer, which in turn made Shakespeare look easy.
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Old Mar 4 2008, 05:22 PM   #9
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-chuckles- Chaucer is classed as Middle English, and I find that I can read that as easily as modern day English now. ^_^

The main 'problem' or 'difficulty' with Old English is the blooming inflexions. >.< they didn't have word order back then, so they could say;

"Hine ic Lufie" - Him I love
"Lufie Ic Hine" - Love I Him
"Ic Hine Lufie" - I Him Love

Etc etc...But I've found it infinitely interesting. ^^

One more Term to go before the start of next year and the main reason I signed up for English at Leicester.

...Myths and Legends. A whole semester on it. And poetry. -Sighs longingly- I can barely wait.
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Old Mar 4 2008, 08:05 PM   #10
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I am glad you are have some intresting courses. I hope you enjoy the poetry class as much as you think you will.
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Old Mar 4 2008, 09:18 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by sjslack View Post
-chuckles- Chaucer is classed as Middle English, and I find that I can read that as easily as modern day English now. ^_^

The main 'problem' or 'difficulty' with Old English is the blooming inflexions. >.< they didn't have word order back then, so they could say;

"Hine ic Lufie" - Him I love
"Lufie Ic Hine" - Love I Him
"Ic Hine Lufie" - I Him Love

Etc etc...But I've found it infinitely interesting. ^^

One more Term to go before the start of next year and the main reason I signed up for English at Leicester.

...Myths and Legends. A whole semester on it. And poetry. -Sighs longingly- I can barely wait.
I am so jealous.
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Old Mar 4 2008, 09:38 PM   #12
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Now that's very interesting. I forgot Chaucer was Middle English. I think a myths and legends class was offered when I was in the university, but there were others I was more interested in at the time.
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Old Mar 4 2008, 10:00 PM   #13
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Default Re: Reading Old English

I just acquired a copy of Geoffrey Chaucer's Complete Canterbury Tales. Though all of the tales are translated into modern English, the book also includes the first 18 lines of the prologue in Middle English along with reproductions of the first pages of several tales in Middle English.
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Old Mar 5 2008, 01:12 AM   #14
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I can read and translate to a certain degree of both old and middle but that comes from parents who are history buffs (Mum's English so that probably helps too), plus having read lots like Tolkien who apparently was into lots of that kind of stuff. Although if you presented me with said document, I may end up speaking gibberish while working it out.
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Old Mar 5 2008, 03:31 AM   #15
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Default Re: Reading Old English

Hang on, do we mean Old English printed in modern day characters ior the original text?
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Old Mar 5 2008, 04:04 AM   #16
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I read "Gawain and the Green Knight" and enjoyed it. I read about half of the first book of "Troilus and Criseyde" but gave up as it just wasn't very interesting.
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Old Mar 5 2008, 06:03 AM   #17
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I've read middle English and that's fine. Old English, now that might be more interesting.
Nick used to get me to read English Civil War pamphlets for him because I found them easy.
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Old Mar 5 2008, 09:10 AM   #18
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That sounds very cool! I never did take courses like that in Uni. I took English as my major and my electives were all in the sciences!! (Yeah, I know, crazy!!) Everyone thought I was in Science!!

But that course sounds very intiguing!!
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Old Mar 5 2008, 02:56 PM   #19
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Some of the old Anglo-Saxon reads a bit like Danish or Swedish, there's lots of words I recognize. Aragorn speaking to Brego sounded very like Danish, not surprising given that Viggo speaks the language fluently.
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Old Mar 5 2008, 05:17 PM   #20
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Sarah: with the Middle English of Mercia 'gaet' = gate, 'doer' = door and 'wael' = wall.









They still pronounce them that way round here.
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Old Mar 6 2008, 08:02 AM   #21
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I remember watching an episode of Stargate and Dr Jackson was looking at a signpost in a village that had middle english on it and I was reading it aloud to my hubby dearest who wanted to know how I knew it and what language it was. Hehe didn't have the heart to tell him that it was relatively easy for someone who's read lots of different things and has picked up a fair amount that way.
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Old Mar 6 2008, 04:44 PM   #22
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Default Re: Reading Old English

Good of you not to tell him, Jube.
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Old Jul 8 2008, 07:01 AM   #23
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Dear All - this present idiot, only four months too late for the discussion, got her degree in English Language and Literature, Language option - so I'm about half a philologist. I studied Old English for a number of years, had to translate the first 1/3 of Beowulf (very badly!), and I consider Middle English a doddle by comparison! I still need a glossary for Middle English for all those words that didn't make the transition to Modern, but I love it all.

And SJ, I'm dead jealous - wow, myths and legends and you get CREDIT for it! That said, have you read the Wanderer in OE? And some of the AS Chronicle is really great stuff, various kings coming along to "feng to rice" and all that amazing to see how matter-of-fact the chronicler is about death, plotting, succession, etc.!

How is the course going now? Still fun?
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Old Jul 8 2008, 07:45 AM   #24
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Quote:
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Hang on, do we mean Old English printed in modern day characters ior the original text?
Depends on what you throw at me, I guess.

"Not another brick in the wall"

Seriously though, my parents were mad keen on history (hence Mum writing 2 books on Australian history) and also being a prolific reader, myself, one kinda figures some things out for one-self so to speak. I can understand words and sentences in written format but to be asked to speak orally, that's another matter. it would be some time before I could get back into it though!
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Old Jul 8 2008, 04:27 PM   #25
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Default Re: Reading Old English

Umm, is Shakespeare in old English or middle English? Was difficult enough as I remember - starting with something about witches speaking in turn??

Old Islandic language, old Danish and what about reading this:

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"The name rowan is believed to derive from the Norse runa - "a charm". It was often planted outside houses to ward off witches. On May Day a spray of rowan leaves was hung over doors to repel evil, and wells dressed with rowan to keep witches away. The rowan, or mountain ash, is found commonly in Scotland, sometimes clinging to a rock face."
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Old Jul 8 2008, 04:29 PM   #26
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Shakespeare's middle English, I believe.
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Old Jul 8 2008, 04:34 PM   #27
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Nina, that's seems like printed german from the 18th or early 19th century Jube. I have books printed in that script. However it seems to contain Danish words too

I have some old Danish handwritten documents from the 19th century but those are much harder to read.
(they come from a Danish family that emigrated to the USA from the Haderslev / Abenraa area)
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Old Jul 8 2008, 04:48 PM   #28
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Here's some stuff for the really interested. Old text usually becomes easier to read when it is older because the furthaer back you get, the less people were able to write and they left it to professionals, so to speak:

Here's a deed of 1279 in which Arnoud van Leuven and his wife Elizabeth have given out 50 'bunder' of land to Aart Coreman



Not much later, in 1306, you see something beginning to look like modern handwriting (apart from the fact it's Old Dutch of course) which makes it harder to read this kind of stuff. here's a deed in which aldermen of Dordrecht witness that Henric die Snidere sold half a house to Heyne van Waes.



And then, in the late 15th century we get this (remember, this is over 200 years after the first showed text!); a passport for Johan rengers ten Post by the city and council of Groningen, 1498:



I love this stuff and have hardly any difficulties reading it. You do need to practice, practive, practice and read a lot because only that way you get to know the stye and most imprtant, the abbreviations and quirks that writers and clerks used so often in centuries gone by

This is what I usually get to read when doing historical or genealogical research
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Old Jul 8 2008, 05:07 PM   #29
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Default Re: Reading Old English

Hans,

Those pages are beautifully written!

The print is gothic style, right?

Well, anyway I started reading this style when I was a teenager being curious about a poetry book my mother was reading. I found it hard work to begin with. Since then I have picked up books on markets and in shops, and it can be quite interesting reading, especially since some of them have not been translated into modern lettering - sort of lost ideas . My husband has a habit of buying old bibles, and some of them are in Latin or German with gothic letters.

Interesting
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The Rowan is my favourite!

"The name rowan is believed to derive from the Norse runa - "a charm". It was often planted outside houses to ward off witches. On May Day a spray of rowan leaves was hung over doors to repel evil, and wells dressed with rowan to keep witches away. The rowan, or mountain ash, is found commonly in Scotland, sometimes clinging to a rock face."
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Old Jul 8 2008, 07:19 PM   #30
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Hans...I'm with Nina...those pages are so beautiful to look at.
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Old Jul 8 2008, 09:34 PM   #31
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Actually, gang, Shakespeare is well into Modern English. True, there are words that we don't use any more, but who says groovy these days either? The grammar, the syntax, the lack of inflections, all prove it to be Modern English.

Nina, is that Middle German? Don't really know German, just guessing. Hans, I love the Old Dutch, and boy,are you right about the scribal abbreviations and idiosyncracies! A dear pal of mine works with Mediaeval historians and she works with Latin texts, something which I admire as I do your work, as I am incapable of either! Let's hear it for all of us with really obscure talents!
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Old Jul 8 2008, 11:01 PM   #32
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Hans, I agree with Nina and Master Maelin that those pages are beautiful to look at, but I have to admit that that's all I can do with them.

Lanen, as a true representative of the Average Middle Aged Woman, I'm more than happy to the many talented members of MoM! And I'll add a and thanks for the generous sharing!
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Old Jul 9 2008, 12:01 AM   #33
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Seeing those old styles of language makes me happy. I've only taken a few linguistics courses, but I really love them.

I can't wait for the fall, because that history of the French language course is being offered again. So, in a few more months, I'll know more about the development of the French language than my own.
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Old Jul 9 2008, 02:46 AM   #34
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Old English and Middle English would be up to and include the Middle Ages - 4th to 15th Centuries. Anything after this, equates to modern times and yes/no to including Shakespeare/Chaucer as they were at the end of the 15th going into the 16th century in this time frame. Hope that helps. (As said previously, parents who are history buffs and who continuously state "check your timelines before you make a statement", well maybe not so much since Dad died 8 years ago). I will enjoy trying to translate accordingly.
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Old Jul 9 2008, 12:38 PM   #35
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Try 12th century church Latin (not the classical stuff) I remember wrestling with ...

"Cur in crucis ares ara."
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Old Jul 9 2008, 01:06 PM   #36
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The closest I've been was I took a look at a short clip from Chaucer and read its translation. I also watched a video where they taught me how to say "Thone bischop meteth thone kynig." And vice-versa.

I, uh, know Latin though? XD
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Old Jul 9 2008, 06:41 PM   #37
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For my degree I specialised in Old High and Middle High German, with Old Icelandic thrown in for good measure Really useful, I guess, if I were able to get a part in a Dr Who series in an episode where I could meet Charlemagne Not much use for every day life, I have to admit, but it was great fun
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Old Jul 10 2008, 01:23 AM   #38
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:Not me: Spanish was hard. So I trying to read braille, its hit and miss for me but with hard work tired fingers I well keep it going till I get it!.
Or try to read some other odds and ends too.
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Old Jul 11 2008, 09:03 AM   #39
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Hi Anneli! I did Old Norse, which is essentially the same as Old Icelandic. I only ever managed to read tiny bits of various sagas, outside the set texts, but I adored it... as I say, not really an academic myself, but I admire the skill in others!
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Old Jul 22 2008, 02:45 PM   #40
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I've just now read through all of the posts since my last input into this thread, and I now realise just what a tiny, tiny portion of things I looked at this year. -Chuckles-

In my first post I mentioned having to analyse a text, I got the results back and I managed to get a comfortable 2.1 for my efforts. ^^ Next year, as I've said, we get to do a bit more of this sort of thing. In my last year though, I'm going to opt for the Poetry module instead of the Old English module. I love Old English, don't get me wrong...but I'm half good at poetry, and at that stage I need something i'm good at as well as what I enjoy.
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