Sunday, June 11, 2006

GGL Repost: Old Saxon

Gallery of Germanic Language: A Look at Old Saxon

Old Saxon was also called Old Low German, since it was one of two languages spoken by West Germanic tribes in the lower-lying northern region of central Europe. It is distinguished from Old High German, which was spoken in the higher elevations to the south.

Old Saxon had Germanic neighbors to the south (Old High German), west (Old Low Franconian), northwest (Old English), north (Old Norse), and at least originally, east (Gothic). Old Saxon shares many characteristics with all of them, but especially the West Germanic languages (those of the Germans, Franks, and Anglo-Saxons). One thing that distinguishes Old Saxon from all of them is its almost universal dislike of diphthongs—turning one vowel into two sounds. Compare:

‘dead’: Old Saxon dôd, Old High German tôt, Old English dead, Old Norse dauðr, Gothic dauþs.

‘baptize’ (literally, ‘dip’): Old Saxon dôpian, Old High German toufan, Old Norse deypa, Gothic daupjan.

Here are two sound files of Old Saxon: The first is the Lord’s Prayer, recorded by yours truly. I've recorded the same prayer in each of the old Germanic languages to make comparison easier. [A special note about the Old Saxon version of the prayer in particular: unlike the other languages, this version is in typical old Germanic alliterative verse. This means that some words are added to fill up lines, but it also is a good chance to listen to how each line has one sound that tends to dominate by alliterative repetition.]

The Lord's Prayer, in Old Saxon

Fadar ûsa firiho barno,
thu bist an them hôhon himila-rîkea
geuuîhid sî thîn namo uuordo gehuuilico
cuma thîn craftag rîki
uuerþa thîn uuilleo obar thesa uuerold alla

sô sama an erþo sô thar uppa ist
an them hôhon himilo rîkea.

gef ûs dago gehuuilikes râd, drohtin the gôdo,
thîna hêlaga helpa, endi alât ûs hebenes uuard
managoro mênsculdio al sô uue ôþrum mannum dôan
ne lât ûs farlêdean lêþa uuihti
sô forþ an iro uuilleon sô uui uuirþige sind
ac help ûs uuiþar allun ubilon dâdiun.

The second 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).

The Wren, in Old Saxon

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

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