Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sound shifts and umlauts - German Cultural History

The (Medieval) German Cultural History Podcast (related blog, feed) is not an easy listen. Tom, the host, allows himself to get carried away from the script and talk about a tangent that catches his mind. It is never irrelevant, but you have to be able to bear with him. It is frequently about linguistic aspects of Germanic languages. Apparently, for getting German Culture in sight, you have to grasp the basic recognizable elements of the language.

So, in the latest edition (German Medieval Cultural History VII: Merovingians, Carolingians and what makes German distinct) the impression you get is that you are going to get some insight in Frankish history and their leader dynasties, first the Merovingian Kings and then, after Charles Martell, the Carolingians. But we stumble into the technicalities of identifying the German linguistic roots. What almost stays as an aside, but surely must surprise many listeners: the Franks were a Germanic tribe. They gave their name to modern day France, which speaks French, which is not a Germanic language. That is because the Franks turned Roman Catholics, and thus got their cultural influence so heavily from Latin, they latinized.

Other Germanics, if they were Christians, were not Roman Catholics, but Arians, a forgotten style of Christianity, but important enough for the Nicene Creed to be kicked off side. In previous editions, Tom has shed some light on this, for which I am very grateful. Before he got off on linguistics. As this time when he tries to explain about umlauts and sound shifts. I am getting the impression Tom is a linguist, an academic of German Language, I guess. Maybe he should dedicate one issue about systematically dealing with the language, so that his history is not interrupted in such a rambling fashion.

Recently, when I wrote somebody what I liked about this podcast, I summed it up like this. He does everything wrong, but he tells what I want to know and that is why I think he is great.

Why Iceland,
German Cultural History - Podcast Review.

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