Monday, June 12, 2006

GGL Repost: Old Franconian

Gallery of Germanic Languages: A Look at Old (Low) Franconian

The Frankish tribes, and later, the Frankish Empire, spanned across Germany and France, and from the Netherlands to southern France. Obviously the language spoken by the people was bound to develop regional dialects. And although speakers of these dialects could all pretty much understand each other, in some of the Frankish dialects, people started pronouncing b’s like p’s, g’s like k’s, and in general, participating in the High German Consonant Shift.

Since this particular shift is what modern linguists use to distinguish the High German language from the Low Franconian (and Saxon) languages, we have the interesting factoid that some of the Franks spoke High German dialects, while others spoke "Low Franconian" dialects. But don’t worry—they didn’t know!! As far as they knew, they all spoke (with inevitable variations) roughly the same Germanic language: the language ‘of the people’ (diutisc, hence the modern word deutsch), or specifically ‘of the Franks (frankisc, hence the words ‘Frankish’ and ‘French’). Only when the language of the Franks was no longer Germanic, but Romance, did frankisc mean something different from diutisc.

The Frankish dialects that are NOT classified as dialects of the Old High German language are called Old Low Franconian. The dialect in the west (around Flanders, Brabant and north in Holland) would end up being the ancestor of modern Dutch; this dialect is called by the logical but long name of Old West Low Franconian.

The dialect in the east, probably what Charlemagne would have spoken, is the only dialect that we have anything written in (at least not until the "Middle" stage of its history); this dialect is called—you guessed it!—Old East Low Franconian. This dialect was spoken around Limburg, and Aachen, where Charlemagne had his capital.

Old Low Franconian as a language obviously shares many characteristics in common with Old High German (such as retaining nasals [n’s and m’s] where continental Saxon and Anglo-Saxon dropped them). It also shares others with its fellow "low" Germanic language, Old Saxon (such as dislike for diphthongs in some cases).

Here is one sound file in Old Low Franconian. The Lord’s Prayer is not documented in this language, as far as I could tell, so I’ve recorded Psalm 61 (60 in King James or Douay-Rheims bibles). Given the special relationship the Franks had to the Church, we can certainly imagine some young lad in a monastery or school around Aachen in the 9th century, struggling with his Latin and praying the psalm in his own Germanic tongue…

Psalm 61 (60) in Old Low Franconian

Here's the text of this Psalm:

2. Gehôri, got, gebet mîn, thenke te gebede mînin.
3. Fan einde erthen te thi riep, so sorgoda herte mîn. An stêine irhôdus-tu mi;
4. Thû lêidos mi, uuanda gedân bist tohopa mîn, turn sterke fan antscêine fiundis.
5. Uuonon sal ic an selethon thînro an uueroldi, bescirmot an getheke fetharaco thînro.
6. Uuanda thu, got mîn, gehôrdos gebet mîn, gâui thu erui forhtindon namo thînin.
7. Dag ouir dag cuningis saltu gefuogan, jâr sîna untes an dag cunnis in cunnis.
8. Foluuonot an êuuon an geginuuirdi godis; ginâthi in uuârhêide sîna uua sal thia suocan?
9. Sô sal ic lof quethan namin thînin an uuerolt uueroldis, that ik geue gehêita mîna fan dage an dag.

And here's the English:

2. Hear, O God, my supplication: be attentive to my prayer,
3. To thee have I cried from the ends of the earth: when my heart was in anguish, thou hast exalted me on a rock. Thou hast conducted me;
4. For thou hast been my hope; a tower of strength against the face of the enemy.
5. In thy tabernacle I shall dwell for ever: I shall be protected under the covert of thy wings.
6. For thou, my God, hast heard my prayer: thou hast given an inheritance to them that fear thy name.
7. Thou wilt add days to the days of the king: his years even to generation and generation.
8. He abideth for ever in the sight of God: his mercy and truth who shall search?
9. So will I sing a psalm to thy name for ever and ever: that I may pay my vows from day to day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am interested in old Franconian but have a hard time finding texts in the original language. Can you suggest some books and sites where I can find such texts? Thanks a lot.