Sunday, December 9, 2007

Almost As Good As Chocolate

Catholic Bibliophagist not only loves reading, she loves languages. That's one of the reasons I fell so in love with The Lord of the Rings. For me, it was the philological groundwork in Tolkien's writing that gave such reality to the mythology of Middle Earth. I suppose that's why no other fantasy "in the tradition off J.R.R. Tolkien" ever seems to have the same depth and resonance.

I never had the opportunity to formally study linguistics, but I love catching glimpses of the connections between the different branches of the tree of language.

In honor of yesterday's Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Zero Summer has posted a link to a site which offers the text of the Hail Mary* in dozens of languages from Afrikaans to Zurituutsch.

By chance, I found myself looking at the Norwegian translation, trying to puzzle out possible links with English:

Hill deg, Maria, full av nåde, Herren er med deg, velsignet er du iblant kvinnene, og velsignet er ditt livs frukt, Jesus. Hellige Maria, Guds Mor, bed for oss syndere, nå og i vår dødstime. Amen.

Okay, maybe I'm jumping on a lot of false cognates, but I'm betting that "Hill" is the equivalent of "hail," and "full av" reminds me of "full of" in the phrase "full of grace." Could "kvinnene" be related to our word "women"? Hmm, would "frukt" be related to the English "fruit"? The Latin is "fructus" Did Norwegian do any borrowing from Latin?

"Hellige Maria" has got to be "Holy Mary" just from the position, "Guds Mor" -- "God's mother," obviously. "Bed for oss" must be pray for us since "bede" is a very old word for "pray" in English. "Syndere" must be "sinners" from its position, and now we notice that both words begin similarly. Looking at "nå og i vår dødstime" I'm guessing that "nå" means "now" just because I know what the prayer is supposed to say at that point. Since I can't pronounce Norwegian I have no idea how much it sounds like the English word. But look at the last word, "dødstime" -- doesn't it look like "deathtime"? The English at this point is "hour of our death."

That was fun! (Okay, not as good as chocolate, but what is?)
*English text here if you aren't familiar with it.


jawats said...


I highly recommend Tom Shippey's book on Tolkien. It's called "Author of the Century" - see here for review:

BTW - loosely translated - Eomer is "Horse-Man" from the Old English and Theoden is either Man of God or Bringer Together, from the Old English.


Theocoid said...

Norwegian and English are both Germanic languages, with modern English borrowing a good 90% of its vocabulary from French, Latin and Greek. So you should see cognates for both German (such as Hellige/Heilig) and for English (usually the more basic vocabulary). My guess is that the cognate frukt comes not from Latin but is a cognate they share with the proto-Indoeuropean language from which both of them stem.

Catholic Bibliophagist said...


The link doesn't seem to work, but I looked the link up on Amazon. It looks like one that I'll have to put on my library list.


Makes sense!

berenike said...

"Gnade" is German for grace.

mit = for "with"