This accessible introductory reference source surveys the linguistic and cultural background of the earliest known Germanic languages and examines their similarities and differences.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
For example -- here is a phrase in Old Frisian, which is a Germanic language that only grad students have ever heard of. The phrase is this, ""Thu skalt erja thinne feder and thine moder, thet tu theste langor libbe." Look familiar? If your life has ever brought you into contact with the Ten Commandments, it might remind you of the phrase "Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother, that you might longer live." That's good if you make that connection, because that's what it means. That isn't even in English! Isn't that cool?!?! The whole book is full of things like that.
In terms of layout, Robinson begins with two introductory chapters in which he walks us through some of the more salient ideas in historical linguistics. The second chapter is very important to understand the bulk of the book. Please dwell on it, and try to read it through at least twice before moving on. Seriously, do this, it will only help. Then there are seven chapters on seven "dialects" of Proto-Germanic, followed up by an interesting little chapter on some controversial issues over which scholars wrangle. Each chapter has several recommendations for further reading at the end of the chapter. I myself have only tried out the recommendation for two of the chapters, Old Frisian an Old Norse, but Robinson's recommendations were terrific for me.
One thing I need to mention -- there is a chart of correspondences in sounds and grammar, on pages 250-251. Somehow, this chart was left out of the table of contents. It is very helpful -- you might want to dog-ear page 250, so you can always find it easily for quick reference, as you're going through each chapter.
Anyway, this book is great for the undergrad linguist, or for any armchair time traveller. Two thumbs up!
The book summarizes the main common characteristics of the ancient Germanic languages, then moves on to describe 7 different languages individually. For each language the author describes significant features of its history, phonetics, and grammar. Moreover, for each language, a few short texts are presented to the reader. They are accompanied by a glossary with examples of words from modern English and German to ease the understanding of the words in the text. After the text a thorough vocabulary follows, where all the words are translated into English. Finally, at the end of the book there is complete translation of each text.
The book is clearly based on strict linguistic principles and methods, it's well-structured, and the author is able to keep the balance and avoid too many details - after all, the aim is to give a comparative survey of the language family. But most important, the author isn't just a scholar - he also knows how to teach.
I won't hesitate to recommend this book to anyone interested in comparative linguistics and the history of the Indo-European languages. However, knowledge of modern German is clearly an advantage when reading the text samples.
I particularly appreciate the discussion of Old Low Franconian (= Old Dutch, Old Netherlandic), the predecessor of modern Dutch that is the mother tongue of more than 20 million speakers in the Netherlands and Flanders (Belgium).
Although there are very few extant texts in OLF this language has undergone few sound changes (compared to e.g. OE or OHG) and therefore is very well suited for the comparative linguistic discipline.
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