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Re: Low German and Dutch (was Re: Aesthetics)

From:Benct Philip Jonsson <conlang@...>
Date:Thursday, October 25, 2007, 10:16
On 2007-10-24 J. 'Mach' Wust wrote:
 > * Around 1500, Swiss writers started adopting the common
 >   German language, abandoning older language traditions
 >   tied rather to "classic" Middle High German, a language
 >   that was closer to the local varieties than modern
 >   German is. This was a slow, but steady process, linked
 >   also with the expansion of the printing press. The
 >   statal chancellery of Berne was the last to adopt the
 >   common German language only in the first half of the
 >   18th century.

The printing press was very important indeed: Swiss German
and the dialects which formed the base of the 'common'
German language originating with Luther were both High
German, and so were more readily mutually intelligible than
High and Low German. It simply made sense to have a common
High German book market. Some early printers actually tried
to create a supra-dialectal High German orthograpy by
distinguishing graphies which could be read in different
ways by speakers of different dialects, notably writing {ey}
corresponding to Middle High German /i:/ but {ei}
corresponding to MHG /ei/; these two phonemes had merged in
some dialects but were kept distinnct in others, where {y}
was the traditional spelling for MHG /i:/.

It would have lead to interesting results if they had
explored this path of diaphonic graphemes further, e.g.
ditinguishing {ou} < MHG /u:/ and {au} < MHG /ou/ which had
varying reflexes similarly to MHG /i:/ and /ei/, {å} for
MHG /a:/ which had merged with /o:/ in some dialects and
with /a/ in others. What if they even had used {ph th kh}
for /pf ts kx/ since the *p > /pf/ and *k > /kx/ changes
were missing in various dialects; such graphemes might even
have increased readability for Low German speakers!

Effectively this would mean that the written language made
more potential distinctions than any single dialect, and
choosing graphemes that can conveniently be mapped to
different phonemes by speakers of different dialects. IMHO a
principle which ought to be tried more when creating written

/BP 8^)>
Benct Philip Jonsson -- melroch atte melroch dotte se
No man forgets his original trade: the rights of
nations and of kings sink into questions of grammar,
if grammarians discuss them.
-Dr. Samuel Johnson (1707 - 1784)


Mark J. Reed <markjreed@...>
Henrik Theiling <theiling@...>Low German and Dutch