Sunday, June 11, 2006

GGL Repost: Old High German

Gallery of Germanic Languages: A Look at Old High German

Old High German (Althochdeutsch) refers to the group of Germanic dialects that exhibited the High German Consonant Shift which originated in the highlands of southern Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and northern Italy. Some of these dialects include: Bavarian, Alemannic (southern rhine and Switzerland), Swabian (around Augsburg), East Middle German (around Erfurt), East Franconian (around Würzburg). Some dialects participated in this Shift only partially, so while they’re still "German", the dialects are called "Middle": such as Ripuarian Franconian (around Cologne) and Rhenish Franconian (around Frankfurt).

NOTICE! Even though many of these dialects have the word "Franconian" in their names, they are classified as dialects of Old High German, not of Old Frankish, since they participate (all in varying degrees) in the High German Consonant Shift. This is why parts of Germany are called Franken, ‘Franconia’. A different language entirely is Old Low Franconian (Old Frankish), which scholars identify as having at least two dialects, Old East Low Franconian and Old West Low Franconian. (See the lists below.)*

Old High German shares some characteristics with Old Low Franconian (language of the Franks and ancestor of modern Dutch): for example both tend to turn the vowel e into ie, and the vowel o into uo. (The second one’s just like Italian from Latin – compare buono, from bonus, ‘good’.) Both languages also retain nasals (n’s and m’s) where Old Saxon and Old English drop them: e.g. the words for ‘us’: Old High German unsis and Old Low Franconian uns, versus Old Saxon ûs and Old English ús (the same sounds, but with the respective long-vowel markers used by modern scholars).

Here are several sound files of Old High German: The first three are the Lord's Prayer in three different dialects, recorded by yours truly. I've recorded the same prayer in each of the old Germanic languages to make comparison easier. Obviously these dialects will sound very similar. But notice also how similar they sound to the Old Frankish recording, in the next post.

The Lord's Prayer, in the Bavarian dialect of Old High German

Fater unsêr, dû pist in himilum, kawuuîhit sî namo dîn,
piqhueme rîhhi dîn, uuesa dîn uuillo,
sama sô in himile est, sama in erdu.
pilipi unsraz emizzîgaz kip uns eogauuanna,
enti flâz uns unsro sculdi,
sama sô uuir flâzzamês unsrêm scolôm,
enti ni princ unsih in chorunka,
uzzan kaneri unsih fona allêm suntôn.

The Lord's Prayer, in the Alemannic dialect of Old High German

Fater unseer,
thu pist in himile,
uuihi namun dinan,
qhueme rihhi din,
uuerde uuillo din,
so in himile sosa in erdu.
prooth unseer emezzihic kip uns hiutu,
oblaz uns sculdi unseero,
so uuir oblazem uns sculdikem,
enti ni unsih firleiti in khorunka,
uzzer losi unsih fona ubile.

The Lord's Prayer, in the Rhenish Franconian dialect of Old High German

Fater unsêr,
thu in himilom bist,
giuuîhit sî namo thîn,
quaeme rîhhi thîn,
uuerdhe uuilleo thîn,
sama sô in himile endi in erthu.
Broot unseraz emezzîgaz gib uns hiutu,
endi farlâz uns sculdhi unsero,
sama sô uuir farlâzzêm scolôm unserêm,
endi ni gileidi unsih in costunga,
auh arlôsi unsih fona ubile.

Finally, the next sound file is from the Lowlands-L website, dedicated to preservation of languages and dialects related to the Lowlands (Low German, Dutch, and the like). Notice the name of the language on this page is "Diutisk". This is where the German word Deutsch comes from, and comes from the word for ‘people’ (diut in Old High German, þeod in Old English).

The Wren, in Old High German

(This seems to me to be in either one of the "Middle" dialects or in East Franconian, since past participle forms have the prefix ge-, like modern German, instead of ke-/ki-, which Old Bavarian and Old Alemannic tended to have.)

The English version of this story is here. Samples of many other languages are here.

* Just to recap, since I’m sure everyone’s confused, here’s a list of the main West Germanic dialects on the continent in the latter half of the first millennium AD, listed by language:

= Old Saxon (Dortmund, Hamburg)

Old East Low Franconian (Limburg, Aachen)
Old West Low Franconian (Flanders, Brabant, north Holland) [became Modern Dutch]


(a) "Middle" dialects:
Old Ripuarian Franconian (Cologne)
Old Moselle Franconian (Trier)
Old Rhenish Franconian (Frankfurt)
Old East Middle German (Erfurt)

(b) "High" dialects:
Old East Franconian (Würzburg)
Old Alemannic (Bern)
Old Swabian (Augsburg) [Swabian is sometimes classified as a subset of Alemannic.]
Old Bavarian (Munich, Regensburg)

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