Friday, December 14, 2007

A Holiday Gift for Anglo-Saxonists Everywhere

or, "Old English isn't dead, it just retired to Holland!"

At risk of distracting attention from other holiday and even less procrastination oriented posts (and in lieu of posting further installments in more work-oriented series of my own):

For many years we Old English scholars have asked ourselves the deep questions. Why does modern English sound the way it does? What rules governed the the umlauting of strong verbs of the fourth conjugation? Did the monopthongization of dipthongs occur earlier or later than the loss of the proto-Germanic endings in -jo stem verbs?* More importantly, if Old English is really a dead language, who killed it?

Okay, maybe we don't ask that last one. Or at least, not out loud. At any rate:

I noticed, a few weeks ago, an email to Ansaxnet from Larry Swain (who also blogs at The Ruminate and, in another medievalist group blog, Modern Medieval) featured the answer to at least one of those questions. And as I've not seen it anywhere else in the medieval blogworld, I thought I'd post it here (apologies if I'm just repeating what's already been spread far and wide). Behold: On the Discovery Channel (UK), Eddie Izzard went to modern Holland to buy a cow. In old English. And he did.

Anyone else wonder if Frissian might now count as a valid research language for Old English PhD students? Or is that too much to hope for in my Old Norse filled break...

*it is important to note that I do not have my copy of Alistair Campbell anywhere nearby. My grasp of Germanic philology being fuzzy at best, I've more or less invented these questions for Anglo-Saxonists. I do know, however, that all of the items mentioned do exist. As one of my favorite professors once said, "you can't make this stuff up."

cross posted at ITM.


highlyeccentric said...

Now, next time someone asks me if Old English is useful at all, I shall tell them I intend to buy cows. In Frisia.