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Origins of English, etc, was: Old Languages

From:Vasiliy Chernov <bc_@...>
Date:Friday, October 5, 2001, 18:54
On Thu, 4 Oct 2001 19:12:19 -0400, Roger Mills <romilly@...> wrote:

>Padraic Brown wrote: > >>On Wed, 3 Oct 2001, Roger Mills wrote: >>Er. OE _is_ the direct ancestor of ModE. > >Hmm. It's always been my understanding that the various surviving monuments >of _literary Old English_ are written in various dialects, none of which
>be called the direct ancestor of ModE.
North Anglian (Northumbrian, etc.) varieties of OE have their continuation in modern Scots and North English dialects. Today's West Midland dialects, too, seem to be direct descendants of the corresponding dialects of OE (which mainly are of late attestation, 10 - 11th centuries). It seems that the OE dialect of Kent survived into Middle English times, but later was substituted with more mainstream varieties of English. And I am under the impression that little has been left from the other non-Anglian dialects. In particular, this applies to the Wessex dialect, which is the only more-less standardized literary version of OE. One of the distinctive features is modern [i:] or [i@] in words like _old_, _cold_, _told_, etc. (WS _éa_ vs. Anglian _á_); also, initial [t_S] in _cold_. Has anybody a dialectological map of England handy? If there are experts on the modern dialects here, please correct me...
>-- whereas the dialect of the London >area, which has little if any early literary history, is believed to be the >ancestor. I could be wrong.
London was within the Mercian subdivision of Anglian (poorly attested in OE manuscripts), but later it was profoundly influenced by Midlands-type dialects. IIRC, no OE manuscript displays exactly the same phonetic development as the London version of Middle English.
>The analogy, which I think is universally accepted, is that Classical Latin >(as preserved in Caesar, Cicero, Virgil et al.) is not the direct ancestor >of Spanish, French etc.
OTOH there was much less variation in Latin in general. For example, it seems that the Classical phonemics is enough to explain virtually all forms in the Romance langs, with only a few reservations (like the early monophthongization of [au] in certain forms, or probable vicillations between [kj] and [tj] due to the interaction between the literary and the popular language). The opposition Classical/Vulgar looks more like a strata thing, or even a matter of style (that is, compared to variation in OE).
>Similarly with Sanskrit vis-a-vis modern Indic >languages.
Here, again, a slightly different case. Old Indic texts of different epochs seem to represent several different local dialects; it is not finalized, AFAIK, which modern langs can and which cannot be put within the same range of variation. Ancestral dialects of at least some modern Indo-Aryan langs can prove to be naturally grouped with Sanskrit taken in broad sense (that is, including both Vedic and Epic language; post-epical varieties must have coexisted with prakrits). Basilius