Covering Gothic, Old Norse, Old Saxon, Old English, Old Frisian, Old Low Franconian and Old Low German, each chapter on each language covers the orthography, phonology and a certain set of grammatical features enabling comparison between the languages. Each chapter also has short sample texts in the language - where possible this includes the parable of the sower to give a comparison, although a couple of the languages don't have a version of this so another text is selected instead. A glossary is given, and although there are translations in the back, the reader is encouraged to work through the passages and translate for himself.
Each chapter also begins with a potted history of the speakers of the language, and after the grammatical section each chapter has some sections considering other aspects of the language which may touch on one of more of the other languages too; so for example the chapter on Old Saxon has a section on Germanic poetry via examples from Old Saxon and also from Old Norse, as being two forms at either end of a spectrum.
There is also an introductory chapter followed by another with a grammatical overview of Germanic languages, and at the end a chapter considering the phylogenetic grouping of the languages, indicating that the standard division of East, North and West Germanic languages is not so simple as it seems and rather more problematical.
It's all at a relatively introductory level (pitched at undergraduate introductory text perhaps, but also accessible to the non-specialist and interested amateur) but none the worse for that. It's a good précis of comparative Germanic linguistics.
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This is the finest introductory comparative linguistic analysis of the early Germanic languages. Robinson writes in a lucid style that captures your interest even if some of the technical discussions found after the texts for each language might be beyond the interest of non-linguists. Still the reader is given the same text from the Gospel of Mark, The Parable of the Seed and the Sower, in five of the seven available old Germanic languages. Robinson works through time (diachronically) first introducing the reader to Gothic, then Old Norse, Old Saxon, Old English, Old Frisian, Old Low Franconian, and finally Old High German. Robinson helps the reader along by providing verbal similarities to the old Germanic words by placing similar English and German words alongside the texts. There is a glossary at the end of each chapter as well as a translation of the texts in the appendix. There is also a brief survey and comparison of the languages as they developed, primarily, but not exclusively, based on their relation to Gothic since it is by far the earliest of the Germanic languages. And so for example:
"Jah sum gaudras in airtha goda, jah gaf akran (acorn = fruit) urrinnando jah wahsjando (wachsend) jah bar (bore) ain (one) 30 jah ain 60 jah ain 100."
And some fell in earth good, and gave fruit going up and growing and bore one 30 and one 60 and one 100.
"En sumt kom (came) i gotha (good) jorth ok varth (ward) at avokti (wax) hundrath (hundred) hlutum meira (more) en hann sathi (sowed)"
But some came on good earth and became and grew one hundred times more than he sowed.
"Sum uuarth it than bifallen, thar so filu stodun thiccero (thick) thorno (thorn) an themu dage (day); uuarth imu thar an erthu endi eft up gigeng ..."
Some was it then fallen, where so many stood of thick thorns in the day; it became there on [the] earth and afterwards up went ...
"And sum feoll on god (good) land, and hit sealde uppstigendne and wexende (waxing) waestm; and an brohte thritigfealdne (thirtyfold), sum syxtigfealdne (sixtyfold), sum hundfealdne (hundredfold)."
And some fell on good land, and it gave climbing up and growing fruit; and one brought thirtyfold, one sixtyfold, one [a] hundredfold.
Old High German
"Sumiu fielun in thorna (thorn); tho uuohsun (wuchsen) thie thorna inti furthamftun (daempften) iz (it). Andaru fielun in guota (good) erda inti gabun (gave) uuahsmon, andaru zehenzugfalto (ten-ty-fold), andaru sehszugfalto (sixtyfold), andaru thrizgufalto (thirtyfold)."
Some fell in thorns; then grew the thorns and choked it. Others fell on good earth and gave fruit, some [a] hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
Most comparative analyses I know of are limited to comparisons of just two languages such as Gothic and Old High German or Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse, so this work is a veritable treasure for those interested in a broad, sweeping introduction to our linguistic heritage. I doubt this work will be surpassed, though it can be complemented with more detailed analyses Robinson himself recommends at the end of each chapter.
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