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Sam Gordon Campbell




Location: Australia.
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PostPosted: Sun 30 Jan, 2011 11:12 pm    Post subject: The Limitation of English: Sources.         Reply with quote

Hello all,

I've come to realise that, in my personal experience, being solely able to speak English (besides the little French forced onto us in school), so many good sources, so much valuable information is tantalisingly close, yet out of my reach.
I know if I truly wanted to read what I seek, that I would go and learn any number of languages, but that requires determination which I lack; Internet translators are notoriously ambiguous, and many libraries lack decent if any translations or copies. And imagine how many essays or independent research/references primarily English speakers miss out on!

So my question is this: What sources (electrical or physical) have you come across that you wish you could understand? And why is it that you'd like to understand it?
Bonus question: Suddenly you can learn any language you want in its entirety, but, you may choose only one. What would it be?

As for myself? Any number of European web-sites that (to add insult to injury) not only have foreign references, but pictures from museums, manuscripts, and architecture as well!
And it would have to be French. Considering that that was the language of my period (C.13th.) of interest.

P.S. Read the subject title in Samuel L. Jacksons voice. Big Grin

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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Mon 31 Jan, 2011 12:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For me it would have to be German. I cannot remember the amount of times I have been frustrated by hearing that the source I'm looking for is exclusively in German. Pierce and Oakeshott have pretty much covered swords from the viking period, throughout the middle ages and into the present, but to research the preceding periods, one would just have to learn German. I would love to be able to read books about the migration period e.g. works by Ellis Behmer or Christian Miks, not to mention the tons of books on the iron and bronze ages. I guess thats why fora like this one are so valuable, most of the time there is someone who is at least partially able to help with a little translation.
Éirinn go Brách
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Mon 31 Jan, 2011 3:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have a few sources that I'd like to understand. I have two books on the Middle Ages in French, La Pollution au Moyen Ages (you can probably guess what this one is about) and Laver, Monder, Blanchir: Discours et Usages de la Toilette dans l’Occident Médiéval, which is about hygiene and cleanliness in Western Europe during the Middle Ages. But, since my French isn't good enough to read either of these, I have not read them yet. But that didn't stop me from buying books on two intriguing subjects about the Middle Ages while I was in France. Similarly, I bought a copy of Der Speigel's history magazine a few months back because they were talking about the Hohenstaufen. And, unlike most crappy North American magazines, the Der Speigel history magazine is not a single story about the Hohenstaufen with a lot of unrelated junk, but an entire issue devoted to the subject. Again, because I cannot read German, I can't read the magazine, which leaves me left out.

For me, I'd probably choose German too. But French would be a very close second. The main reason I'd choose the former is my interest in the Holy Roman Empire, and given that the bulk of the scholarship is in German, it would be the language I'd like to learn. It would also be nice to be able to pick through a fechtbuch in the original language on my own.

As far as a third language goes, Latin would be immensely helpful. I wish someone would do a translation of Daniel Beccles' Urbanus that was available for general readership. I think it would certainly be something that readers would find fascinating, and would give an excellent introduction to social norms in late 12th C/early 13th C England.
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Craig Shackleton




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PostPosted: Mon 31 Jan, 2011 5:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I mostly work with German manuscripts, so I would also choose German, hands down. In fact, I am making plans to take some German courses just for this reason.

Fortunately my neighbour is German, and is a language teacher and has a little bit of background with medieval German so I can get some help from her. Her husband and sons (who all also speak German) take sword lessons from me, so there's a good buy-in for her. Plus I'll be able to practice conveniently.

Having worked a lot with I.33, my two years of university Latin from 15 years ago has been tremendously helpful, even though it is obviously pretty limited. I could never have translated the text, but I have had a number of instances where I have been able to look at the translation, then go back to the transcription or even the original shorthand to get a better understanding of what they are saying and how they are saying it. I'd really like to be able to do the same with the German sources.

My second choice would be Italian. After that, my choices start to become coloured by other potential value. French has real-world application for me living in the Capital of a French-English bilingual country, but less for fencing than say Spanish. I have other uses and interest in improving my Latin, too. Plus, if I just learned better Latin, I'd pretty much have Spanish, Italian and French anyways! Wink

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Justin B.




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PostPosted: Mon 31 Jan, 2011 6:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think I'd be in the German camp as well. Although my interest in the 12th-14th centuries has been growing rapidly in recent months, my first love is still the Migration and Viking periods, and it seems that most of the foreign-language scholarship in these areas is in German.

Unfortunately, that leaves out all the stuff I've found in Swedish, Norwegian or French, and that says nothing of the period sources written in contemporary Latin, French, German, Italian or English.

Sigh.

But, German for these purposes. But only because it's more useful than Finnish!

Upon his arm he baar a gay bracer,
And by his syde a swerd and a bokeler,
And on that oother syde a gay daggere,
Harneised wel, and sharpe as point of spere.
A Cristophere on his brest of silver sheene,
An horn he bar, the bawdryk was of grene.
A Forster was he, soothly, as I gesse.
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Christian G. Cameron




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PostPosted: Mon 31 Jan, 2011 9:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, I learned Ancient Greek and Latin....

so I have to say that once you start down this road, you just keep going!

But I think I'll be trying Medieval Italian next. Kind'a like Craig said. I do Fiore, and I'd really like to read it in the lingo. My dad does Medieval Italian.... sigh

and Mandarin Chinese.

and Japanese!

Hmmm... and Hittite. I actually know someone with a PhD in Hittite. But then, I long to build a chariot and fight from it...

Christian G. Cameron

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Russ Ellis
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PostPosted: Mon 31 Jan, 2011 10:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christian G. Cameron wrote:
Hmmm... and Hittite. I actually know someone with a PhD in Hittite. But then, I long to build a chariot and fight from it...


That would be interest, but frustrating too... because how could you ever know that you had the pronunciation correct?

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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Mon 31 Jan, 2011 12:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chinese.

With high-school German, and fluent English, French isn't too traumatic. I need a dictionary, so it's slow. But one can manage. German (especially technical German) is slower, but again, can be managed with a good dictionary. Russian is a bit worse, in that it takes me a day to get to speed with Cyrillic. Italian is the worst European language I've seriously tried to deal with.

But Chinese! Chinese is much further removed from English than most European languages, and is written in a non-alphabetic script. Ouch!

A working minimum would be to (a) get a good Chinese-English dictionary, and (b) learn how to look characters up in a dictionary. Then I'd still be behind where I am with pretty much all European languages (and Indonesian).

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Simon G.




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PostPosted: Mon 31 Jan, 2011 5:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As a French native speaker nearly bilingual in English, I find English is a great help with many germanic languages especially the older ones: Anglo-Saxon (duh), Old Norse, and even medieval German (I'm under the impression medieval German - well, some dialects of it - are closer to English than present-day German).

If I could learn a language instantly by magic, I'd chose German, though. Many interesting sources and it is so damn hard (for me) to learn. For a French native speaker, however, conversely Italian and Spanish are quite easy to manage, as many words are related (coming from Latin).

But seriously, I don't think one should rely entirely on personal skills. I don't remember if it was here or in another forum that C.H. Tobler said his translations were good because he had nice german friends... Obviously it's not only that, but in this connected age, one shouldn't just go by with dusty dictionaries and tedious grammar learning.

I, for one, am most ready to help out anybody who has a burning desire for access to a French text but can't because he doesn't speak français or ancien français (note to Sam : 13th c. French is Old French, ancien français, which is quite different from present-day French even if there are of course similarities. However, if you're interested in 13th c. French texts, and you can find Old French textbooks in English, I don't think you should "waste" your energy on modern-day French. Grammar, vocabulary, spelling are different in Old French. Of course reading modern French can also be useful for someone who studies medieval France...)
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Christian G. Cameron




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PostPosted: Mon 31 Jan, 2011 8:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
That would be interest, but frustrating too... because how could you ever know that you had the pronunciation correct?


You don't. We don't know much about the pronunciation of Ancient Greek. I assume Hittite is off the map.

On the other hand, I'll bet you can really end conversations at parties with the words "Well, I speak Hittite..."

Christian G. Cameron

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Sam Gordon Campbell




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PostPosted: Mon 31 Jan, 2011 10:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

@ Simon G.
I've alway wondered, is there a drastic difference between modern French and older French? Sort of like how once you wrap your head around Middle English, it's not too difficult to read adequetly.

Y'know, as I read this thread, I am filled with dread that I'll never be able to decipher these sweet sources until I'm long dead. Laughing Out Loud

Maybe some kind forumites can offer their brief interpratations on some of the said texts? (ah, if only).

I must confess, that book about Medieval personal hygine sounds interesting, as I've always wanted a decent toiletrires kit, and wondered how they shaved.

And Latin, as has been pointed out, would be good to learn as well as I'd imagine that so much of what one may seek would have been adapted from ancient texts.

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 31 Jan, 2011 10:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Russ Ellis wrote:
Christian G. Cameron wrote:
Hmmm... and Hittite. I actually know someone with a PhD in Hittite. But then, I long to build a chariot and fight from it...


That would be interest, but frustrating too... because how could you ever know that you had the pronunciation correct?


Who could say that your pronunciation is wrong. Wink Razz Laughing Out Loud Cool

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Mon 31 Jan, 2011 10:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sam Gordon Campbell wrote:

I must confess, that book about Medieval personal hygine sounds interesting, as I've always wanted a decent toiletrires kit, and wondered how they shaved.


Yes indeed. Of course, one of the things I had heard about even growing up was how notoriously bad the hygiene was in the Middle Ages. As part of this, someone mentioned the story about how- I think it was King John of England- only took a bath once in every six months. Then a professor mentioned the same story and stated that people were actually making fun of said king for being a savage. The whole story sounds apocryphal to me either way, but it got me wondering: just how true are the claims about hygeine?

One of the few things I've been able to glean from the French book on the subject is that, at least in southern France, where there were a greater number of surviving Roman baths, bathing was an activity that occurred with some frequency, even among the non-aristocratic classes. I would imagine the situation might be somewhat similar for the Mediterranean regions such as Spain, particularly with its Islamic influence, what is now Portugal, and Italy. Likewise, I would imagine bathing was probably considerably less common in Northern France, England, Germany, and most of Central/Eastern Europe.
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Gottfried P. Doerler




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Feb, 2011 1:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

well, speaking german and english (well enough for conversation i hope), having learned latin and ancient greek, i would choose between italian (because its such a nice, melodious language) and czech (because its very similar to other slavic languages of the region and would open a wide field of understanding).

actually i`m already able to conversate in italian by mixing latin, german and english foreign words from latin, and some phrases i caught from italian television. (i must sound like a dork. "I`m wants to finding restaurant" or something, but it mostly works, when beeing in italy for holidays.)


Last edited by Gottfried P. Doerler on Tue 01 Feb, 2011 1:45 am; edited 1 time in total
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Simon G.




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Feb, 2011 1:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
@ Simon G.
I've alway wondered, is there a drastic difference between modern French and older French? Sort of like how once you wrap your head around Middle English, it's not too difficult to read adequetly.


In fact it depends. Comparing with Chaucer's Middle English, for instance, I find Old French harder. Keep in mind Old French is older than Middle English (dates from before the beginning of the 14th c.); Middle English's counterpart is Middle French which is clearly easier.

As to Old French (Note - I am not an Old French scholar !) there is a great deal of variation between texts. Some are easily managed such as this one, from a royal charter in 1211 :

Quote:
Quiconques portera coutel, u courte espachele, u misericorde, u tele arme mourdrissoire

Quite close to modern French as the "translation" would be :

Quote:
Quiconque portera couteau, ou courte épée, ou miséricorde, ou telle arme meurtrière

(English : "Anybody who shall bear knife, or short sword, or misericorde [dagger], or such murderous weapon")

However, other texts, even later texts, are more difficult to manage. As Old French was not normalised in any way, it varies with the authors and their regions of origin...

So to answer, I, for one, being a native French speaker, can wrap my head around some Old French texts but not all. Acquiring a good ability in reading Old French does require, I think, to learn Old French grammar (which is quite different from Modern French grammar - sentence structure is not the same, nor are word declensions) and to learn some things about historical phonology, to avoid being lost among the many possible variations of the same word (which makes using a dictionary harder).
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Gottfried P. Doerler




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Feb, 2011 1:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

and what about the old languages in southern france, like the langue `d oc (ocitain) ?
are they still spoken (like catalan in spain), are similar to french spoken then, or are they different languages ?
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Simon G.




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Feb, 2011 2:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Langue d'oc/occitan is still spoken by some in southern France, although probably not on a daily basis. But, due to regional identity issues, there is a survival, or rather a revival, of this language.

I cannot comment on the similarity between present-day occitan and medieval langue d'oc.
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Craig Shackleton




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Feb, 2011 5:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gottfried P. Doerler wrote:
actually i`m already able to conversate in italian by mixing latin, german and english foreign words from latin, and some phrases i caught from italian television. (i must sound like a dork. "I`m wants to finding restaurant" or something, but it mostly works, when beeing in italy for holidays.)

This reminded me a bit of something. My neighbours that I mentioned in my previous post all speak German. She is from Germany, he is from Canada. They raised their children speaking German and English, and then put them in French immersion for school, so they are trilingual. The older boy used to mix and match rather indiscriminantly, however. Most famously he once said "Eww, Mamma, der skunk ist stinken ici!" Bringing it slightly back on topic, the two boys criticize my pronunciation of German sword terminology mercilessly, which is probably helpful, in a way. Except when they say things like "It's messa, not messer. There is no "R" in messa."

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Russ Ellis
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PostPosted: Tue 01 Feb, 2011 7:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:

Who could say that your pronunciation is wrong. Wink Razz Laughing Out Loud Cool


A very good point there as well. Also the point about ancient Greek that Christian made above is a good one. I guess in the end we don't really know how many of the ancient languages really sounded do we? We can suppose that perhaps ancient Egyptian had some of the same sounds as modern Egyptian (or whatever language you care to insert) but did it really?

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Craig Shackleton




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Feb, 2011 10:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I recall a prof telling me that they knew some of the sounds of ancient greek from sound effects in plays. Specifically, the letters used to spell animal noises. Unfortunately I don't recall the exact details, or if he even gave them.
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