Friday, November 18, 2011

Fun with Germanic historical linguistics ...

A normal mortal can only respond to that subject line with "fun ≠ Germanic historical linguistics", but Germanic historical linguists are not normal, I suppose. This blog has a tradition of historical linguistic geekery (start here and read from there). Time for an update ...

A crew of people  at the Universität Tübingen in Germany have assembled a pretty remarkable set of Merkverse for learning key bits of historical phonology and morphology of German and Germanic. A Merkvers can be translated as 'mnemonic rhyme' or something, but that doesn't do it justice ... there's a long tradition going back to the earliest writings in German of these little rhymes. (The image here, from here, is of one for the Runic alphabet.)

You really have to know German to get these, but one of the things you have to do with earlier Germanic languages is learn the series of strong verbs, seven classes from ride, rode, ridden and sing, sang, sung, and so on. Here's the one for that for Old High German (there's another one for Middle High German):
Althochdeutsche Merkwörter für die Ablautreihen

rîtan, zîhan, solcherlei —stehen in der ersten Reih'.
liogan und ziohan —schließt die zweite Reihe an.
Willst die Reihe drei du findan, —denk an werfan und an bindan.
neman, stelan, wissen wir, —passen nur in Reihe vier.
geban wird ganz ungeniert —in der Reihe fünf notiert.
graban, slahan, dies Gewaechs —kennen wir in Reihe sechs.
haltan und der Rest, Ihr Lieben, —hat redupliziert in sieben.

(aus Osnabrück?)
 If you're a student of the history of German, your life just got a little more fun.

And a big wag of the monk's habit to pr. (Or whatever you do with a monk's habit.)


Jonathon said...

Beautiful. Why didn't I have something like that when I took Old English? Or modern German, for that matter?

Mr. Verb said...

Hey, I think people should take this as an open invitation to CREATE things like this!

Hrafn said...

"Hey, I think people should take this as an open invitation to CREATE things like this!"