“Hwæt sceolan we drinkan?”, what looks like an odd mixture of English and German is actually correct English – just more or less 1300 years old. One can still rather easily recognize the interrogative pronoun “what” only that the “hw” is nowadays reversed. “Sceolan” is probably a little hard to decipher at first glance, however at least for German natives it should – especially in combination with the last word of the question – be quickly identifiable as the equivalent to Modern English “shall” (or sollen – in OE the “sc” was pronounced as “sh”). The fellow who phrased this particular question therefore spoke perfect (Old) English, and yet how come that it looks more like a heavy German dialect than proper English? This issue will be one of the leading questions for this seminar. Where did the English language come from? Why is it even called English? Where did the languages before English go? Was there something like an “Old English period”? To answer those (and other questions) a period of language history lasting around 800 years will be examined. The focus will thereby not only lay with understanding the basics of Old English spelling, phonology and surface structure, but also in identifying key concepts of language contact and language change and how they have left traces within the everyday language we use.
The course is part of admission "Anmeldung gesperrt (global)".
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