A Curious Kind of English

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A Curious Kind of English

Post by elemtilas » Fri 26 Jan 2018, 23:41

I came across a rather interesting work of 19th century American academia, The First Germanic Bible, the other day. Interesting in part because it's an edition of the Gothic Bible of Wulfilas; but even more interesting, it turns out, for the, well, dialect or perhaps ideolect the book is written in.

After skimming a couple middle pages of the book, just to soak in the old Germanic goodness, I turned randomly to the introduction. First thing I noticed was a typo. Okay, a typo is not too big a deal. I became increasingly alarmed as several more typos cropped up: peple, ther, nativ, setld.

By the end of the second paragraph, I really began to wonder what was going on. After reading much more of the author's words, it was clear that he himself is educated. The language seems appropriate for 19th century philological works. But I began to wonder if something else wasn't going on. Was there some kind of weird academic movement in the late 19th century Wisconsin that favoured what almost appears to be a partly phonemic spelling (at least of common English words --- never of ancient names)? Could the author have been well educated but, somehow, unaware of "proper" spelling of English words? Could this actually be a reflection of the author's (or perhaps his secretary's) own dialect? Or perhaps reflective of his editor's education? Could it just be the publisher's cost cutting move? (Fewer letters = less ink = more money!)

What I notice is the typos are nòt random. There are clear patterns and the same spellings are used consistently.

An example:
The increasing zeal for a scientific study of English and the other Germanic languages in American universities and colleges has naturally necessitated a thuro study of Gothic. Altho this language does not in all its particulars offer the most primitiv stage of the remains of Germanic speech, it is indisputably indis-pensibl for a thuro scientific knowledge of every one of its sister dialects. The recent catalogs of our higher institutions show a growing interest in the study of Gothic, and we may fairly believ that the time is not far off when also in this cuntry the study of Gothic wil either precede or at least be cultivated side by side with that of Old English (Anglo-Saxon) in all our institutions that claim to pay tribute to a scientific study of English and the other Ger-manic languages, and to be up with the times.

The present work, the first of its kind in America, was prepared with a view to facilitate and accelerate the study of Gothic in America. Hitherto the student has been compeld to uze notes, syntax, etc., to the Gothic literature of books publisht in foren cuntries, and partly writn in foren languages, and I think it is high time to hav a complete text-book of the Gothic literature and grammar of our own.
Any thoughts or speculations as to what might be going on here?

If we stuff the whole chicken back into the egg, will all our problems go away? --- Wandalf of Angera
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Re: A Curious Kind of English

Post by Sumelic » Sat 27 Jan 2018, 00:52

I wouldn't categorize spelling as part of dialect or idiolect differences. None of the alternative spellings used in the sample text seem to represent any deviance in pronunciation from standard English. There are people today who use moderately reformed spelling along these lines, although not many because it is perceived as eccentric. It's not completely surprising to me that someone interested in the scientific study of Germanic languages would also be interested in reformed spellings of English. It seems extremely unlikely to me that the author was unaware of standard English spelling conventions, or seeking to cut costs, or trying to transcribe phonetic details of any particular local English accent.

Societal interest in spelling reform has gone up and down over time. I don't know that much about it during the 19th century, but Wikipedia has a few paragraphs about it.
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Re: A Curious Kind of English

Post by esoanem » Sat 27 Jan 2018, 02:00

Some of those (particularly the -tho words) reminds me of some of Noah Webster's suggestions that never caught one so, given the time period, it's possible this person was just another member of that trend. I think at the same time there was a trend for writing Vgh as V̂ e.g. "though" as "thô" and it's possible a manuscript written this way might be printed without the accent by a typeset who lacked circumflexed vowels.
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Re: A Curious Kind of English

Post by Porphyrogenitos » Tue 30 Jan 2018, 07:49

All of those look very similar to the spelling reforms proposed by various authorities (and endorsed by some people, such as Theodore Roosevelt) in the US in the mid-to-late 19th and early 20th centuries. Spellings like thru now used only in abbreviations and advertisements are oftentimes remnants of these proposed reforms.
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Re: A Curious Kind of English

Post by Lambuzhao » Tue 30 Jan 2018, 08:38

Could be spelling reforms. Could be penny-pinching on the English text in a real 'niche-market' publication of a small (Germania Publishing Company) press.

But as to Elem's question about a possible ideolect, there was a trend in what was called Tutonish, or 'Anglo-German Union Tongue'. It was created by Elias Molee (born in Muskegoe, WI ), kown as
"the notable Norwegian-American language researcher"

Here are links to his Tutonish Wordhoards, Lorebooks, and so forth:
Tutonish, or Anglo-German Union Tongue (1901)
https://books.google.com/books?id=LBQSA ... ee&f=false

Tutonish: A Teutonic International Language (1904)
https://books.google.com/books?id=sbM9A ... ee&f=false

nu teutonish: an international union language (1906)
https://books.google.com/books?id=TQ8tA ... ee&f=false

Tutonish was one of the first, if not the first, Germanic Zone Language (cf. Folkspraak), though it's as far from a geographic epicenter of (European) Germanity as one could get. Still, it gre out of a burgeoning transplanted Germanic epicenter in the northern Midwest. It went by the names Teutonish, Tutonish.

Molee also had earlier worked on a reformed version of English. On the 3 ft end of the pool, it had some spelling overhauls not unlike what you quoted in Halg's English text. Towards the deeper end, it tended toward elimination of Latinate/Romance roots (cf. Andersprak, Anglish).

Molee's first Plea for an American Language: Germanic English (1888)
https://books.google.com/books?id=WrM9A ... ee&f=false

was succeeded by [bPure Saxon English[/b] (1890)

https://books.google.com/books?id=cslIA ... &q&f=false

Despite the racist-sounding (by today's standards) titles, I think he was philologizing with the most philological of intentions round about the end of the 19th century an early 20th.

Most of his works are archived somewheres in the Internets. A number are on Googlebooks with full view (Can it be?!) His printed works are held in collection in the Preus Library of the Luther College of Iowa -
http://www.luther.edu/library/about/col ... ial/molee/

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Re: A Curious Kind of English

Post by Nortaneous » Fri 06 Apr 2018, 12:05

There was some push back then to reform English spelling so that immigrants and illiterates could learn it more easily. In the most extreme case, the Mormons 𐑋𐐩𐐼 𐑄𐐩𐑉 𐐬𐑌 𐐰𐑊𐑁𐐲𐐺𐐯𐐻, which had the additional advantage of keeping non-Mormons out.

What ended up happening instead was that America dramatically cut back on immigration and pushed its German and Italian populations to assimilate.

"Believ" with <i> and no final <e> could narrow down which reform it's using. Might be SSB with an additional rule that syllabic sonorants don't take <e>.
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