Wednesday, 5 March 2008

The Adventure Of English

Some time ago, I discovered The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language by Melvyn Bragg. I have long been interested in the origins of words and their meaning and I enjoyed reading about how the language that we speak today came to being.

However, there was something missing ~ the sounds of those early words which at times, seemed so foreign to the modern-day reader. Then I found that the book was linked to a series which traced the history of English and really brought the words and their meaning to life.

Did you know that Modern English has Germanic roots and that our ancestral language can still be heard in Friesland which is part of the Netherlands? When we see as well as hear a language spoken, it totally transforms its meaning and gives us greater understanding.

The series is being repeated at the moment on Public Television and it is a fascinating history. It opens with a weather forecaster giving the day's forecast:

'En as we dan Maart noch even besjoche, Maart hawwe we toch in oantal dajan om de froast en friezen diet it toch sa'n njoggen dagen dat foaral oan'e grun'.

This may seem barely comprehensible when written, but when we see and heart the spoken words of the presenter, we find that we can understand much of what he is saying: 'trije' (three) or 'fjour' (four), 'froast' (frost), 'frieze' (freeze), 'blau' (blue).

Watching and listening is like taking a step back in time through the centuries and hearing English as it was spoken at that time. As the series progresses, it also gives an appreciation of the richness and variety of the spoken word and the many and varied dialects that contribute to English today.

1 comment:

Christina said...

Hi Marie, thank's for checking out my blog and for your kind comment ;)
Sounds like an interesting book indeed, I like (mostly) non-fiction. I might have to check it out.
Yes, I think the Germanic languages are quite similar. I learned Swedish when I lived there and it's (as well as the other Nordic languages) quite similar to Dutch, which is similar to German and so on.