Re: Beauty of Old Norse (was Re: New to the list)
|From:||Danny Wier <dawier@...>|
|Date:||Saturday, June 17, 2000, 5:35|
>From: Oskar Gudlaugsson <hr_oskar@...>
>Patrick Dunn wrote:
>>*grins* I once told Dr. Deskis, my Old English prof, that Old Norse was
>>the ugliest language I ever saw. She said, "well, if you didn't read it
>>with a midwestern accent, it wouldn't be so ugly!" She was right. :)
>>Still, clusters like skzk still give me pause.
>I would never even attempt to say Germanic phonotactics were anything but
>"tolerant" (i.e. of clusters), and therefore perhaps a bit "crude" (don't
>like the prescriptiveness in that word). Many difficult clusters appear in
>modern English as well, such as [NTs] in 'strengths'. And, as your teacher
>so eloquently taught you, never judge a language's "beauty" by its
>orthography (though the beauty of the orthography can be readily judged, of
> Anyhow, we can't say if Old Norse was particularly beautiful or not. I
>suspect it had a similar sound to it as continental Scandinavian of today
>(Swedish and Norwegian). Icelandic sounds very different from the
>Scandinavian languages, and very different from the old language as well
>sounds like no European language you've heard before - lots of fricatives,
>just about any consonant can be unvoiced + very melodic intonation). Though
>I can't reliably judge, I believe modern Icelandic sounds considerably
>better than the old form (and better than the Scandinavian langs as well).
>Many Scandinavians have at least agreed with me in that Icelandic is the
>most beautiful Nordic language.
Well, the very subjective notion of a language being 'ugly' is obviously not
a good way to describe a language, but even some linguists, especially in
the past, describe languages as having some quality. In childhood, I
thought that Romance languages were so-called because they were 'romantic',
and I misheard Germanic languages as being 'Dramatic languages'!
Also, just because you have 'weird' orthography with six consonants in a row
or whatever doesn't mean it sounds like it looks. I have no idea how Old
Nordic sounds; I haven't even heard anyone speak Icelandic. But there could
be 'unwritten vowels' like you have in Irish and Scots Gaelic: for example,
_ainm_ 'name' is pronounced like 'anim'. And then you have silent letters,
like English 'eight', where 40 percent of the word is silent! Russian has
some scary sequences like (IIRC) _zdnja_, but I think the d is silent.
And then you have the most extreme examples -- the languages of Caucasia,
which come from several families: Abkhaz, Chechen, Georgian, Armenian -- can
have some tough consonant strings. Two Georgian words begin with six
consonants. (We discussed this on the list a couple years ago, I remember
vaguely; Georgian doesn't stick 'incidental schwas' in those sequences
either. But I also read that even Georgian leaves some consonants silent,
so _mxedruli_ (the name of the modern script, meaning 'soldier's script')
may have a silent m.
Oh yeah, and there's Bella Coola (a NW American Indian language), which can
have entire sentences without one vowel from what I've been told.
Now you and I are aware of Dutch and its weird orthography. You got auw,
uij, dt and what not. And a lot of it is not pronounced anything like it's
spelled. (And they used to write Indonesian using Dutch conventions!)
Daniel A. Wier ¶¦¬þ
Lufkin, Texas USA
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