Sunday, April 23, 2017

Runes and writing

the elder futhark 

Saga thing this week has a discussion of runes in ancient Scandanavia/Germany. MP3 link

While you may think of runes as the alphabet of the Vikings, it’s important to remember that runes come in many different forms and date back at least to the 2nd century CE. In fact, some point to the inscription on the controversial Meldorf fibula, a kind of brooch for pinning clothes, as evidence of runic writing in the early 1st century...
This alphabet was designed for cutting or carving simple strokes into wood, leather, bone, metal, and stone. Each letter is drawn by combining verticle strokes (staves) and diagonal protrusions (branches).
The Tolkien gateway has an article on the history of runes, and how Tolkien used them in his stories.

Guess where they got it?

One theory says that Runes evolved from Etruscan writing, however other quasi-runic scripts in other parts of the world (Rovásírás and Orkhon Script) also exist.

The alphabet was not indigenous but probably borrowed and changed to be easy to carve.

I recently read that an African was modifying the Latin alphabet to make it more friendly to Bantu speech. Actually, when I lived in Zimbabwe, the old books used a modified alphabet for certain sounds (e.g. Implosive B vs puffed B) but it was no longer used by the time I worked there in the 1970's.

The Roman alphabet comes from the Etruscans, who borrowed it from the Greeks, and of course, Eastern Europe uses a revised alphabet via Greek.

Similarly, the Philippines had it's own alphabet, the Baybayin, probably originally based on Sanskrit via Borneo. However, it does not have vowels, but like Arabic or Phoenician scripts, they are implied or uses small signs to designate them.

Most of the alphabets come from the Phoenicians, who removed the vowels from the letters, meaning you didn't have to memorize a couple dozen signs for each syllable, bu could add vowels (or not: Hebrew and Arabic just let you imply the vowels: It was the Greeks who added letters for the vowels).

the advantage of every civilization having their own alphabets is that they are easier for people to learn to read since the signs fit the language  problem, of course, is that you have to learn new letters for every language.   Here, we often see instructions or food labeling using Thai scripts or the Vietnamese modified Latin alphabet.

Even the Chinese only increased their literacy when they started using Pinyin, even though the Latin alphabet had to be modified for the inflections by adding tone marks...

There are programs to input Pinyin for your computer, or you can input the strokes of the symbols.

more HERE.

There is an article in the paper today about the difficulty of Icelandic for computers.

The problem is compounded because many new computer devices are designed to recognize English but they do not understand Icelandic.
"Not being able to speak Icelandic to voice-activated fridges, interactive robots and similar devices would be yet another lost field," Jonsson said.
Icelandic ranks among the weakest and least-supported language in terms of digital technology - along with Irish Gaelic, Latvian, Maltese and Lithuanian - according to a report by the Multilingual Europe Technology Alliance assessing 30 European languages.

since most people know English, and the kids are mixing English with Icelandic, the pure language is threatened.

given the universality of computers and english in entertainment, this is a world wide problem. Here it is called "taglish".

English, of course, tends to pick up word from all over, and doesn't usually get excited about it... so if your kids are learning "spanglish", thanks to all those immigrants, remember, so are the Latin American countries learning Spanglish too.

Finally, John B. has 2 podcasts on the idea of "German", and how Tacitus is to blame for the Nazis. LINK LINK2

 When Tacitus wrote a not-very-flattering little book about the ancient Germans in 98 CE, at the height of the Roman Empire, he could not have foreseen that the Nazis would extol it as "a bible," nor that Heinrich Himmler, the engineer of the Holocaust, would vow to resurrect Germany on its grounds. 

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