Thursday, August 21, 2008

Old High German

When you are dealing with history, language is never far away. First of all, your sources are texts, so you are dealing with linguistic intricacies anyway. On top of that, most history is cultural and culture is expressed in language. Therefore, as we have seen in previous interviews, the German Cultural History podcast (blog) touches all the time on linguistics.

Host Tom is, I think, a linguist, so his approach is guided even more by analysis of the German language and its earliest sources. He doesn't reveal he is, but it sure speaks from the subtext. All the more this is felt in the latest issue which is mostly about Old High German. Tom tells about the various scraps of sources of old high German there are. No ordered texts, but sentences, word lists and spells, charms and vows.

It marks his character as a linguist, he ventures into actually reading the spells, charms and vows. He makes an effort, so it sounds, to carefully pronounce these utterances and it sounds really convincing. I was also very surprised to find how comprehensible this was. Tom translates most, but largely, I did not need the translation. Maybe this version of German sounds more like Dutch than English, or even modern German.

It is great stuff and very original to get, but it sure would help if Tom were to improve his sound quality and bring a wee bit of order in his tangents. This way it is just so hard to stay attentive. And this last episode took a good 50 minutes, as what happens to so many podcasters who get excited about there subjects: the issues grow longer and longer.

Previously about GCH podcast:
Sound Shifts and Umlauts,
Why Iceland,
German Cultural History - Podcast Review.

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