Textbooks for Germanic languages should be written in Anglish, not English

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

During the past 400 years much good and bad has befallen the folk of the Banded Folkdoms and set-backs, whilst at times ill-boding and dreadful, have not stopped them from going forth and showing themselves to be world leaders in so many fields, such as starfaring, healcraft and witcraft.


Let's say you just started learning Norwegian and your textbook has given you this sentence to decipher.

Åtte snikskytter spre seg rundt huset og dekte alle balkonger og innganger.

After doing your best to do it yourself, you turn the page to check the answer, which is:

Eight snipers spread (themselves) around the house and covered all balconies and entrances.

That's a good translation when reading a book translated from Norwegian into English. But wait a second, this is a textbook for the student of Norwegian, is it not? What if this was the English translation instead?

Eight sneakshooters (snipers) spread themselves round the house and decked (covered) all balconies and ingoings (entrances).

The second translation is clearly the better one for a student of the language, given that the objective of this textbook is to help the student learn the language as quickly as possible.

The prevalence of Latin and French vocabulary in English is a bit of a crutch for English speakers when they embark on the study of another Germanic language, whereas speakers of other Germanic languages usually have an easier time learning other Germanic languages. That's why the general consensus among Norwegians for example is that German is an easier language to learn than Spanish, whereas for those in the US and even Canada the opposite would be true. But there is one way to give the English speaker a leg up in learning a Germanic language, and that's by using Anglish.

What is Anglish? There are different definitions of just what constitutes Anglish, but it's basically a modified form of English that uses as many Germanic words as possible. That means replacing words like impossible with unmightly, miserable with sorrowly, coast with searim, discover with onfind, and degenerate with misborn (misborn actually sounds like a much harsher insult than degenerate, BTW). The end result looks something like this:

Deutchland (English: Germany) is a folkdom in north middle Europe, often grouped with Western Europe for eretidly and Kithship rows. The rikeupheld name is the Bandish Folkdom of Deutchland (High Deutch: Bundesrepublik Deutschland). It has 80,000,000 folk and has the third largest wealthhood in the world. The most spoken tongue is High Deutch from the south of the country. In the north Saxon parts they have Low-Duetsch and Frisian, siblings and the roots of our own English.

Big towns inclose Berlin (the headtown), Bonn, Munich, Stuttgart, Koeln, Bremen, Hamburg, Karlsruhe, Nuremberg and Dresden. Most folk of the land dwell in these towns.

Deutchland is cleft into thirteen shires and three bandish towns: Baden-Württemberg, Bayern, Berlin, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Hessen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Niedersachsen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Rheinland-Pfalz, Saarland, Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein, Thüringen.

Anglish is therefore a modified version of English that carries a much larger share of Germanic cognates than modern English, but at the same time is almost perfectly legible even to those who have never seen it before; in short, it's a partial restoration of the advantage English speakers used to have when learning other Germanic languages.

Some examples of this commonality can be seen in this page, and here are a few:

relinquish - offgive (from OE ofgiefan), cf. Dutch opgeven, German aufgeben

survive - overlive (from OE oferlibban), cf. Dutch overleven, German überleben, Norwegian overleve

correction - righting (from OE rihting), cf. German Berichtigung, Norwegian rettelse

Considering that to truly learn a language takes years in any case, there is a lot to be gained from the creation of textbooks for Germanic languages that first teach the student to read Anglish, and after that then proceed to learn the chosen Germanic language with the explanations now written in Anglish instead of English. In this situation when English can already be written almost entirely comprehensibly using more Germanic vocabulary, there really is no reason to keep on using a large amount of Latinate vocabulary, as it is quite out of place and doesn't help the student at all. You would still naturally want to keep using modern English in textbooks used by aspiring translators and interpreters, as these people have already learned the language to an extent that the cognates are now a distraction, and they need to be able to quickly switch from one language to another...but the vast majority of language students do not reach this level for quite some time, if ever.

The only roadblock in creating these textbooks would be a standardization of the type of Anglish to use. It would probably be best to create three varieties of the language (yet still quite similar): one for West Germanic languages (German, Dutch, Frisian, Afrikaans), another for Scandinavian languages, and a final one for Icelandic and Faroese, which have the most "pure" Germanic wordstock of them all.

Thus, the Anglish used to learn the first two groups would refer to anthropology as anthropology since even these Germanic languages use the Greek loanword, but for Icelandic it would refer to it as manlore, since that is a proposed Anglish word that corresponds better with the Icelandic mannfræði. The same would go with meteorology, which would be unchanged except in the Icelandic textbook where it would be referred to as weatherlore (veðurfræði).


Sound like a pie in the sky idea? It's not. It's just one example of a controlled natural language, a phenomenon that already exists. ASD Simplified Technical English is an example of this in the aerospace industry, where only a certain kind of English can be used to avoid ambiguity when giving intructions to people, especially those that don't speak English as a first language. Anglish would simply be another controlled natural language used for a single task - the learning of other Germanic languages for students with an English-only background. The only thing Anglish needs is an agreed upon standardized form, and then it'll be ready for use.

12 comments:

Yankee said...

Some of those verbs like 'offgive' sound akward to a native English speaker. You can contrast it with 'give up' as a reflex of 'surrender'. This can also be contrasted with the Dutch 'overgeven', which also can mean to surrender.

(All that just highlights problems with converting prepositions between languages.)

Unfortunately for the Anglish Moot, many of their articles sound stilted and odd because the grammer used doesn't 100% represent the Germanic side of Modern English. For example, many verbs are built as inseparable verbs, as in German or Dutch, which is something rarely done. Likewise, many compound nouns are direct translations from latin based compounds, which uses a radically different ordering internally from the rest of the English language. This ordering is essentially non-germanic.

Clearly though the relative lack of inseparable verbs is influenced heavily by non Germanic languages.

I leave you with this question then. Do we try to push elements of the Anglish grammar or do we settle for a more natural sounding grammar that takes a best of breed approach from Modern English, in order to make the text more fluent and legible for an English speaker?

데이빛 / Mithridates said...

I think it's actually a bit of luck that Anglish can actually come in useful in this way, as having a goal to use it as a language for these textbooks is a good way to come up with a more or less standardized form. This Anglish should use forms that are as close to those languages as possible (but still using Anglish forms alone) in order to maximize what the student is able to pick up before embarking on the next language.

Awkward, yes, but only about as awkward as studying something like Shakespeare IMO. If students are willing to put up with something that looks like this:

SAMPSON: Gregory, o' my word, we'll not carry coals.

GREGORY: No, for then we should be colliers.

SAMPSON: I mean, an we be in choler, we'll draw.

GREGORY: Ay, while you live, draw your neck out o' the collar.

...then there should be no problem with putting up with something like Anglish in a textbook for these languages. I suppose the only question would be how long it would take to learn. Perhaps a month or two?

Yankee said...

Ah, there's the rub.

Shakespearean English is not easily understandable to many ME speakers, but it has a flow that anyone will pick up on right away.

"Today, the headman of the banded folksdom of americksland gave off steeringship to the next headman."

"Today, the headman of the banded folksdom of the amreicksland offgave steeringship to the following headman."

If i were to write a textbook for Americans learning dutch, i would choose the former sentence over the latter. The reason why is that speakers implicitly learn that the separation rules differ from language to language, but i still would rather have them see a similar vocabulary.

Barcodex said...

Anglish could be a great intermediate step for learning Germanic languages for all those people who already know reasonable English from school. People never really know if the root of learnt word is Germanic or Romanic, and mastering Anglish would greatly help to understand this.

When I learned Swedish, I picked it up quicker than others in my group, just because somewhere deep in my mind were 2 semesters of once studied German. This knowledge would be acquired through Anglish, and perhaps in much more effective way.

Kurt B said...

I agree. Anglish would be interesting to use. Lately, I have been wanting to learn Old English in order to become more familiar with some the base Modern English words. I think I am more familiar with the Latin vocabulary that the native Germanic one. Plus, it will obviously help me with my German. I have seen many similarities between the two language. As a matter of fact, they appear to be merely dialects of each other when looked at. I like your idea a lot though. I sort of do this anyway. For example, when I speak to people who speak Romance languages, I tend to use my Latin based vocabulary to help them understand the word of Germanic derivation. It seems to work. Thanks for the article.

Toast said...

"relinquish - offgive (from OE ofgiefan), cf. Dutch opgeven, German aufgeben"

"auf" in this context is probably "up" instead of "off". Offgive doesn't make a lick of sense, where as Upgive makes slightly more sense in the context of this article (I don't give off my bad habits, I give up my bad habits). Considering the interchangeability of up and off for Auf in German, I'll let this one slide.

Toast said...

PS: Stumble'd! Thumbs up.

Anonymous said...

Sorry...but Sneakshooters made me pee myself lol

Anonymous said...

Small errors here: "Åtte snikskytter(singular) spre(infinitive) seg rundt huset og dekte(past tense) alle balkonger og innganger." As "spread" is an irregular verb, I can see how this mistake came to be, but in norwegian the past tense would be "spredde". Also, snipers in plural is "snikskyttere". This gives us the more sensible sentence: "Åtte snikskyttere spredde seg rundt huset og dekte alle balkonger og innganger." The council for Norwegian language, Språkrådet, would also allow "dekket" instead of "dekte". I would prefer the first.

Norwegians are usually very picky about their language:)

Well-meaning Norwegian

Toast said...

PS: Stumble'd! Thumbs up.

Kurt B said...

I agree. Anglish would be interesting to use. Lately, I have been wanting to learn Old English in order to become more familiar with some the base Modern English words. I think I am more familiar with the Latin vocabulary that the native Germanic one. Plus, it will obviously help me with my German. I have seen many similarities between the two language. As a matter of fact, they appear to be merely dialects of each other when looked at. I like your idea a lot though. I sort of do this anyway. For example, when I speak to people who speak Romance languages, I tend to use my Latin based vocabulary to help them understand the word of Germanic derivation. It seems to work. Thanks for the article.

Yankee said...

Ah, there's the rub.

Shakespearean English is not easily understandable to many ME speakers, but it has a flow that anyone will pick up on right away.

"Today, the headman of the banded folksdom of americksland gave off steeringship to the next headman."

"Today, the headman of the banded folksdom of the amreicksland offgave steeringship to the following headman."

If i were to write a textbook for Americans learning dutch, i would choose the former sentence over the latter. The reason why is that speakers implicitly learn that the separation rules differ from language to language, but i still would rather have them see a similar vocabulary.

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