- Compare and contrast the language you have chosen to study and your native language (and any other languages you have studied, if you like). Consider each languages' syntax and grammar, as well as vocabulary matters, such as cognates, derivatives or borrowed words. (minimum 300 words)
Modern English is a lightly, or weakly, inflected language, meaning we use prefixes, suffixes, and the occasional infix to change the grammatical meaning of a word. ‘Car’ becomes ‘cars’ to indicate an increase in number. Run becomes ran to indicate the past tense. The inflection of verbs is known as conjugation and the inflection of nouns is called declension.
Old English was a highly inflected language relying heavily on suffixes and infixes and, to a lesser degree, prefixes. There existed five grammatical cases (nominative, genitive, accusative, dative, and the rare instrumental), and well as two numbers (singular and plural). Additionally, there were specifically dual forms for first- and second-person pronouns (as opposed to the strictly singular and plural options found in Modern English). Old English used three grammatical genders in nouns (Male, Female, Neuter). Modern English speakers are familiar with natural gender which connects the gender of the noun to the gender of the actual thing to which the word refers, called the ‘referent.’ Old English had gendered nouns that did not correspond to the natural gender of the referent, even in the case of people.
Old English is a Germanic language which makes it closer than Modern English to what we believe Proto-Indo-European language constructs would have been. Of the modern languages, Old English is probably closest to Icelandic, which is considered to be a fairly conservative language slow to change.
In Modern English much meaning is conveyed by word order . When words are moved within a sentence, meaning can change or be be lost altogether. In a language as strongly inflected as Old English however, word order becomes negotiable. The meaning of words in relation to one another is determined by their form, not their placement. One could say “cold stones the” just as easily as “the cold stones” and not sacrifice coherence. This is quite the boon to poets, especially those working within an OE poetic framework.
Nevertheless, Modern English speakers, when reviewing old English, will experience some echo of familiarity. Much of our modern vocabulary is identifiable in OE; stanes for stones or wyf for wife.
- Based on what you understand about the language studied, linguistics in general, and your knowledge of the associated culture(s), briefly describe how the characteristics of the language may reflect the attributes, history or values of the associated culture(s). (minimum 300 words)
Before reaching English soil, the A-S tribes had some contact with the Roman Empire and there were some Latin words incorporated into their various dialects. Once in England, Celtic place names were incorporated into the language but little else linguistically. The conversion to Christianity brought in many more Latin and latinate words to the Old English vocabulary. And the Viking invasion introduced vocabulary from Old Norse, a language that Old English speakers likely would have recognized and been able to roughly understand.
The Norman Conquest and subsequent dominance of the French language among the upper classes sealed the fate of Old English. Though the poorer folks still spoke English, French became the language of the nobility and ruling classes. The inevitable blending of the two languages begot Middle English, the language of Chaucer.
Modern English reflects the varied past of English and the many tributary languages that have shaped it. Few other modern languages have the multitude of synonyms found in English. For instance, a dish made from the meat of a cow could be referred to as “beef” from the Old French buef or as “steak” from the Old Norse steik.
The poetry of the Old English period can be loosely divided into two styles; the heroic and Christian. The format of the poetry is wonderful and starkly different from later poetic forms. Eduard Sievers presented, in the late 19th century, what is still considered to be the definitive understanding of Old English prosody. He identified a system based on alliteration, syllabic accents, and vowel frequency.
Old English verse shares with Icelandic verse the extensive use of litotes. Litotes are a rhetorical device that relies on understatement to make a point. For example, a poet might say something is “not cold” to mean that it is warm or hot. A brave fighter could be described as “not cowardly.”
A final aspect of Old English poetic structure is the frequent use of kennings. kennings are phrases used in place of nouns. In the epic, and probably best known OE poem, Beowulf ,instead of saying a ship sailed over the sea, it is described as crossing the whale-road. Kennings made the job of the Old English poet a bit easier. Poetry was most often performed, not read, yet poets had to adhere to the metric confines of the style--if you need a line to have a certain number of accents, a certain type of repeated vowel-sound and specific leading consonants, “ocean” might not do the trick and “whale-road” (pronounced, roughly “hwaal rhaade) might be just the ticket.
Diamond, Robert E.. Old English grammar & reader,. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1970. Print.
Harper, Douglas. "beef." Online Etymology Dictionary. <http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=beef>.
Harper, Douglas. "steak." Online Etymology Dictionary. <http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=steak&allowed_in_frame=0>.
Heaney, Seamus. Beowulf: a new verse translation. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2000. Print.
German Ritual Phrases
German is quite an inflected language. For instance the simple English ritual phrase, “accept our offering” becomes quite involved and has numerous variations. Is one addressing one entity or more than one? Is one presenting one item as offering or multiple items? If multiple items, are they multiples of the same item (ie: 4 spoons) or completely different items (ie: 1 spoon, 1 knife, and 1 fork)? The answers to each of these questions determines how the phrase is translated.
Many of our ritual phrases can be directly translated into German, but that is not how any German-speaker would ever say it. For instance, “Let the Gates be open,” can be directly translated. However, German-speakers would be far more direct in their wording and say, “Open the gates!” Where I was able, I have included both the formal translation, and the more colloquial. The direct translation for Holy Ones is “Heilige.” However, to German-speakers, that words means “saints,” which is not quite what is meant. In this phrase book I have included both “Heilige,” which is technically correct, and “Götter” which is closer to our English meaning.
There is no direct translation for “Kindreds” in German. I spent an evening discussing the difficulty of this phrase with three native German speakers (one originally Swiss, one from Saxony, and one from the Netherlands border). The closest word to “Kindreds” is a phrase that was tainted by extensive use by the Nazi party. So they have several work arounds that come close to the meaning. Often, they simply use the English term in their ritual work, or “Götte und Geiste” (gods and spirits).
This Nazi issue extends into many elements of ritual speech. Many, many American pagans on a Germanic path say “Hail” throughout their rituals. Germans simply refuse to say “Heil” for very obvious reasons. Standing in ritual with Germans, they said “cheers” or “prost” instead, which was oddly informal.
Children of Earth: Kinder der Erde
Earth Mother: Erdmutter
Nature Spirits; Naturgeister
Holy ones: Heilige/ Götter
(to multiple entities) Accept our offering: Nehmt unsere Gabe an
(to one entity): Nimm unsere Gabe an
Be welcome in our Grove” Willkommen in unserem Hain
We stand at the center of the worlds: Wir stehen in der Mitte der Welten
Earth Mother, uphold us in our rite: Erdmutter, unterstütze uns in unserem Ritual
Let us pray with a good fire: Lasst uns mit einem guten Feuer beten
May all the Kindreds bless us: Mögen die Kindred (stammen, “tribes”) uns segnen
This Grove is made whole and holy: Dieser Hain ist hehr und heilig
From the depths to the heights spans the World Tree: Von den Tiefen zu den Höhen erstreckt sich der Weltenbaum
Sacred tree, grow within us: Heiliger Baum, wachse in uns
Sacred Fire, burn within us: Heiliges Feuer, brenne in uns
In the depths flow the waters of creativity: in der Tiefe fliesst das Wasser der Kreativität
Sacred Well, flow within us: Heilige Quelle, fließe in uns
Mix your magic with ours: Vereine deine Magie mit unserer
Let the Gates be open: Mögen die Türe sich öffnen/ Öffne die Türe (Open the Gates)
Let the Gates be closed: Mögen die Türe sich schliessen/ Schliess die Türe (Close the Gates)
So be it: So sei es
Behold, the Waters of Life: Siehe das Wasser des Lebens
We thank you (sing): Wir danken dir
We thank you (pl/inf)): Wir danken euch /(pl/fr) Wir danken Sie
Go now in peace: Gehet in Frieden
This rite is ended: Dieses Ritual ist beendet.