What Language Is This?

Mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold, fen ond fæsten; fifelcynnes eard wonsæli wer weardode hwile, siþðan him scyppend forscrifen hæfde in cynne. þone cwealm gewræc ece drihten, þæs þe he slog; ne gefeah he þære fæhðe, ac he hine feor forwræc, metod for þy mane, mancynne fram. þanon untydras ealle onwocon, eotenas ond ylfe ond orcneas, swylce gigantas, þa wið gode wunnon lange þrage; he him ðæs lean forgeald. Gewat ða neosian, syþðan niht becom, hean huses, hu hit æfter eorþege gebun hæfdon. Fand þa ðær inne æþelinga gedriht swefan æfter symble; sorge ne cuðon, wonsceaft wera.

Wiht unhælo, grim ond grædig, gearo sona wæs, reoc ond eþe, ond on ræste genam þritig þegna, þanon eft gewat huðe hremig to ham faran, mid þære wælfylle wica neosan. ða wæs on uhtan mid ærdæge guðcræft gumum undyrne; þa wæs æfter wiste wop up ahafen, micel morgensweg. Mære þeoden, æþeling ærgod, unbliðe sæt, þolode ðryðswyð, þegnsorge dreah, syðþan hie þæs laðan last sceawedon, wergan gastes; wæs þæt gewin to strang, lað ond longsum. Næs hit lengra fyrst, ac ymb ane niht eft gefremede morðbeala mare ond no mearn fore, fæhðe ond fyrene; wæs to fæst on þam.

þa wæs eaðfynde þe him elles hwær gerumlicor ræste sohte, bed æfter burum, ða him gebeacnod wæs, gesægd soðlice sweotolan tacne healðegnes hete; heold hyne syðþan fyr ond fæstor se þæm feonde ætwand. Swa rixode ond wið rihte wan, ana wið eallum, oðþæt idel stod husa selest. Wæs seo hwil micel; XII wintra tid torn geþolode wine weana gehwelcne, sidra sorga. Forðam secgum wearð, ylda bearnum, undyrne cuð, gyddum geomore, þætte wan hwile wið heteniðas wæg, fyrene ond fæhðe fela missera, singale sæce, sibbe ne wolde wið manna hwone mægenes feorhbealo feorran, fea þingian, ne þær nænig witena wenan þorfte beorhtre bote to banan folmum, ac se æglæca ehtende wæs, deorc deaþscua, duguþe ond geogoþe, seomade ond syrede, sinnihte heold mistige moras.

Men ne cunnon hwyder helrunan hwyrftum scriþað. Swa fela fyrena feond mancynnes, atol angengea, oft gefremede, heardra hynða. Heorot eardode, sincfage sel sweartum nihtum; no he þone gifstol gretan moste, maþðum for metode, ne his myne wisse. þæt wæs wræc micel wine modes brecða. Monig oft gesæt rice to rune; ræd eahtedon hwæt swiðferhðum selest wære wið færgryrum to gefremmanne. Hwilum hie geheton æt hærgtrafum wigweorþunga, wordum bædon þæt him gastbona geoce gefremede wið þeodþreaum. Swylc wæs þeaw hyra, hæþenra hyht; helle gemundon in modsefan, metod hie ne cuþon, dæda demend, ne wiston hie drihten god, ne hie huru heofena helm herian ne cuþon, wuldres waldend.

Wa bið þæm ðe sceal þurh sliðne nið sawle bescufan in fyres fæþm, frofre ne wenan, wihte gewendan; wel bið þæm þe mot æfter deaðdæge drihten secean ond to fæder fæþmum freoðo wilnian. Swa ða mælceare maga singala seað, ne mihte snotor hæleð wean onwendan; wæs þæt gewin to swyð, laþ ond longsum, þe on ða leode becom, nydwracu niþgrim, nihtbealwa mæst. þæt fram ham gefrægn þegn, god mid, dæda; se wæs moncynnes mægenes strengest on þæm dæge þysses lifes, æþele ond eacen. Het him yðlidan godne gegyrwan, cwæð, hu guðcyning ofer swanrade secean wolde, mærne þeoden, þa him wæs manna þearf. ðone siðfæt him snotere ceorlas lythwon logon, þeah he him leof wære; hwetton higerofne, hæl sceawedon.

Hæfde se goda leoda cempan gecorone þara þe he cenoste findan mihte; XVna sum sundwudu sohte; secg wisade, lagucræftig mon, landgemyrcu. Fyrst forð gewat. Flota wæs on yðum, bat under beorge. Beornas gearwe on stefn stigon; streamas wundon, sund wið sande; secgas bæron on bearm nacan beorhte frætwe, guðsearo geatolic; guman ut scufon, weras on wilsið, wudu bundenne. Gewat þa ofer wægholm, winde gefysed, flota famiheals fugle gelicost, oðþæt ymb antid oþres dogores het secgan sigedrihten min, astdena, þæt he eower æþelu can, ond ge him syndon ofer sæwylmas heardhicgende hider wilcuman.

15 Comments

Filed under Linguistics, Spot the Language

15 responses to “What Language Is This?

  1. Old English. They should have kept the old dh, th, and ae in the modern one.

    • Good job! Do you know what the text is?

      • Sami

        I’ve heard it would be easier to learn Dutch than to learn Old English/Anglo-Saxon.

        • Sami

          For an English speaker, that is.

        • SHI

          Dutch/Flemish etc. are the easiest languages to pick up for an English speaker. There are only slight difference in syntax: Subject-Object-Verb for Dutch as against Subject-Verb-Object for English.

          Dutch is not full of as many arcane words as German. Neither will you encounter weird word combinations of French. You only need to memorize the basic vocab (1000 words or so) and you’re good to go.

          So much of spoken Dutch actually sounds like English.

          I told you not to give her any money. She’ll spend it all on drugs. (English).

          k vertelde u niet om haar geld te geven. Ze vindt het allemaal te besteden aan drugs. (Dutch)

        • Kerf

          SHI: “Flemish” is Dutch. Flemish is just a name for a regional variation of the Dutch language in Flanders.

  2. Stary Wylk

    The story I read was that the King of France drove out the Huguenots, many of whom were printers. They settled in England in such numbers as to dominate the industry, though their sets of type did not include eth, thorn or ae.

  3. I immediately recognized it as Old English. Sadly I was beaten to the punch. I have no idea what the text is. Beowulf?

  4. SHI

    Old English.

    One of my favorite quotes is from a 10th century Old English poem, around the time of Viking Invasions of England. The poem is written from the perspective of the losing side (Anglo-Saxons) and speaks volumes about Anglo-Saxon grit and humor in the face of certain defeat. Very uplifting lines.

    Hige sceal þē heardra, heorte þē cēnre,
    mōd sceal þē māre, þē ūre mægen lytlað.

    Modern translation:

    Thought must be the harder. The heart: the keener.
    Courage must be more as our strength grows less.

  5. James Schipper

    “I told you not to give her any money. She’ll spend it all on drugs.” The correct translation should be: Ik heb je gezegd haar geen geld te geven. Ze gaat het allemaal aan drugs uitgeven.

    In the Germanic languages, English is the odd man out because it has undergone such extensive Latinization.

    Fr – La majorité de la population parle anglais, mais il y a aussi une minorité qui parle français.
    En – The majority of the population speaks English, but there is also a minority which speaks French.
    Du – De meerderheid van de bevolking spreekt Engels, maar er is ook een minderheid die Frans spreekt.
    Ge – Die Mehrheit der Bevölkerung spricht Englisch, aber es gibt auch eine Minderheit, die Französisch spricht.
    Sw – Flertalet av befolkningen talar engelsk, men det finns även ett mindretal som talar fransk.

    Fr – Aucun dictionnaire contient tous les mots qui sont parlés dans une certaine langue.
    En – No dictionary contains all the words which are spoken in a certain language.
    Du – Geen woordenboek bevat alle woorden die in een zekere taal gesproken worden.
    Ge – Kein Wörterbuch enthällt alle Wörter, die in einer bestimmten Sprache gesprochen werden.
    Sw – Ingen ordbok innehåller alla ord som talas i ett visst språk.

    Fr – La science est plus importante pour le progrès de l’humanité que l’art.
    En – Science is more important for the progress of humanity than art is.
    Du – De wetenschap is voor de vooruitgang van de mensheid belangrijker dan de kunst.
    Ge – Die Wissenschaft ist für den Fortschritt der Menschheit wichtiger als die Kunst.
    Sw – Vetenskapen är viktigare för framsteget av människosläktet an konsten.

    • James Schipper

      I made at least 2 mistakes in the sentences above. Can you find them?

      • I believe this sentence is incorrect:

        Sw – Vetenskapen är viktigare för framsteget av människosläktet an konsten.

        • James Schipper

          You are right. I should have written än instead of an.

          The other mistake is in “Aucun dictionnaire (ne) contient tous les mots qui sont parlés dans une certaine langue.” I missed the ne. French has double negatives. In Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, only one negative is sufficient if the subject is negative. Not so in French.

          Nadie lo sabe. Ningún niño entiende eso.
          Nessuno lo sa. Nessun bambino capisce questo.
          Ninguém sabe isso. Nenhuma criança entende isso.
          Personne ne le sait. Aucun enfant ne comprend ça.

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