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Re: CHAT: oldest known records of vernacular languages [was Re: Sound changes in literate societies]

From:Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Thursday, June 27, 2002, 5:21
On Wednesday, June 26, 2002, at 02:32 , Thomas R. Wier wrote:

> Quoting Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>: > >> En réponse à John Cowan <jcowan@...>: >> >>> Surely Irish, particularly in the Ogham script, beats English or at >>> least gives it a run for the money? Irish clearly has the longest >>> *unbroken* tradition of vernacular writing right up to the present >>> day, whereas Middle English writing is by no means a direct >>> continuation of the Old English writing tradition. > > This is true. > >> What about French, whose oldest known written document dates from the 9th >> century? (in fact so far that the language spoken though a direct >> ancestor >> of French, is called Romant rather than Old French. You have to wait >> until >> the 11th century to come up with documents that can be labelled as Old >> French. >> But since Old French is in direct continuity with Romant, I think it >> still counts). It may not beat Irish, but I'm pretty sure it beats >> English, unless the French National Education is really too nationalistic >> and taught me wrong things > > The oldest known record of any vernacular Romance language is from > the Oaths of Strassbourg in 843 at the time of the partition of > Charlemagne's Empire among his grandsons. Old English beats this > by almost 400 years: the earliest inscriptions in Old English are > dated to somewhere between 450 and 480.
It depends, methinks, what we mean by 'longest unbroken tradition'. As John observes above, Middle English is by no means a _direct_ continuation of Old English - it has been influenced by Norse and, more particularly, by Norman French. Indeed, it is arguable whether Saxon spoken in this island is rightly termed "Old English" (as is now the custom) or whether the 19th century appellation "Anglo-Saxon" (i.e. English Saxon) is not more accurate. But there's probably little point in starting another thread on this!! The earliest records of Welsh IIRC date from the 6th cent. and the language has changed far less than English. Modern Welsh is certainly a direct descendant of this and thus pre-dates French, even if the Romancelang of the Strasbourg oaths is regarded as proto-French. But if we're talking about the longest tradition of vernacular writing, then Greek beats all these youngsters by a long way. Ray.


John Cowan <jcowan@...>oldest known records of vernacular languages [was Re: