The oldest work in your first language you can understand?

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TaylorS
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The oldest work in your first language you can understand?

Postby TaylorS » 2012-04-28, 0:19

For me the oldest things in English I can read without help (excluding looking up the occasional archaic word) is things from the late 1600s. Anything before John Milton and Thomas Hobbes (such as Shakespeare and St. Thomas Moore), I need help with, and the English of Chaucer is pretty much a foreign language.
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Re: The oldest work in your first language you can understand?

Postby Dormouse559 » 2012-04-28, 1:48

TaylorS wrote:Anything before John Milton and Thomas Hobbes (such as Shakespeare and St. Thomas Moore), I need help with, and the English of Chaucer is pretty much a foreign language.
We talkin' First Folio Shakespeare, or the more common versions with the spelling and other features updated? This may not be the best example, but here's what I came up with on a moment's notice:


First Folio

Sampson: Gregory: A my word wee'l not carry coales.
Greg.: No, for then we ſhould be Colliars.
Samp.: I mean, if we be in choller, wee'l draw.
Greg.: I, While you liue, draw your necke out o'th Collar.
Samp.: I ſtrike quickly, being mou'd.


Modernized

Sampson: Gregory, on my word, we'll not carry coals.
Gregory: No, for then we should be colliers.
Sampson: I mean, an we be in choler, we'll draw.
Gregory: Ay, while you live, draw your neck out of collar.
Sampson: I strike quickly, being moved.

I would understand if you were talking about the First Folio. The antiquated spellings can be a barrier to comprehension. But learning to read the modern versions is much easier; it takes practice, but it's not unintelligible by any stretch of the imagination, not even at first glance.
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Re: The oldest work in your first language you can understand?

Postby md0 » 2012-04-28, 5:30

I'd say the New Testament (Koiné Greek, 300BCC~300CE). Once a while there unfamiliar word usages and suffixes, but generally speaking, most educated Greeks and Greek-speaking Cypriots can understand written Koiné fairly well. They certainly do understand Medieval Greek.
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Re: The oldest work in your first language you can understand?

Postby Sol Invictus » 2012-04-28, 6:31

I can understand most of any old text. But the earliest know writings in Latvian are from 16th century. Provided it is printed and not in Gothic type - obviously orthography is huge issue. Beside that there are some curious gramatical forms and words used, but the general idea is quite clear.

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Re: The oldest work in your first language you can understand?

Postby JackFrost » 2012-04-28, 7:13

It gets fuzzier during the Great Vowel Shift around the beginning of the 16th century (the early-Tudor era) when Le Morte d'Arthur was one of the last Middle English texts ever written*, which can take us some time to understand. Then it gets clearer when the King James Bible and Shakespeare playscripts were published in the early 17th century.

*Note the difference between written and published. It was written down and sent to William Caxton, who was in process of creating a standard spelling convention in the first printing press of England. So, Caxton printed the work in Early Modern English
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Re: The oldest work in your first language you can understand?

Postby globetrottersara » 2012-04-28, 8:25

For me it is Dante and his dolce stil novo (late-1200s - 1300s).
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Re: The oldest work in your first language you can understand?

Postby Limagne » 2012-04-28, 8:30

I'd say the oldest works I can read in the original are those by Rabelais and Montaigne, albeit with difficulty sometimes.

There's always going to be a few non-transparent words I'll have to look up in the dictionary, like the verb cuider :)

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Re: The oldest work in your first language you can understand?

Postby ceid donn » 2012-05-21, 4:36

I took a whole course on Chaucer as an undergrad and managed to have a massive breakdown and not throw myself out a third story window before the final exam. It's not that bad if you have a prof who can explain some of the finer points.

Can't read Beowulf though. I saw a recitation performance of it once in the original Old English, and my friend who was with me described it as "Old German mixed with rude grunting."

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Re: The oldest work in your first language you can understand?

Postby Johanna » 2012-05-21, 7:36

I was able to get the meaning of most of the passages I read of the Old Westrogothian Law, which is from the 1200's, but it wasn't exactly easy and I had to rely on context a lot.

Anything older than that is written with runes (and counted as Old East Norse, not Old Swedish anyway), the Younger Futhark to be precise, and it uses one rune for several sounds, so even if I would be able to figure out the meaning of some of it when put in normalised spelling, reading what the stones say in the original form... nope.
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Re: The oldest work in your first language you can understand?

Postby Shiba » 2012-05-21, 14:31

Afrikaans is probably one of the few languages in which one can understand any written text all the way back to the language it's descended from. Nobody really wrote in it until the 1800s or so, anyway; and since then, the language hasn't changed enough to make it hard to understand.

In fact, Dutch, even modern Dutch, is much easier to understand from Afrikaans than Shakespearian English is from modern-day English. (It helps that the Dutch people I speak to don't make references to 16th and 17th century pop culture all the time.)
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Re: The oldest work in your first language you can understand?

Postby Bao » 2012-05-21, 19:37

The oldest text I tried to read without annotations so far was the Sachsenspiegel, early 13th century. Middle Low German - I can understand most of it when I read it aloud, same goes for Middle High German. I need annotations for the Old forms though.
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Re: The oldest work in your first language you can understand?

Postby Michael » 2012-05-21, 23:10

I can understand most of Lo cunto de li cunti without much of a significant hitch, although I'm not sure it's the oldest thing written in a Neapolitan dialect. :?
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Re: The oldest work in your first language you can understand?

Postby Lur » 2012-05-22, 19:41

I can read the Cantar de mio Cid (around year 1200), sometimes slowly and carefully. I might have to look something up.

That is without any study. I'll take on Latin later. :twisted:
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Re: The oldest work in your first language you can understand?

Postby Oleksij » 2012-05-27, 13:23

Disregarding the obsolete fonts, I can understand pretty much any Old Russian text, including the Primary Chronicle or the Tale of Igor's Campaign (Слово о плъку Игоревѣ), both allegedly written around the 12th century - the oldest surviving artifacts of East Slavic literature (disregarding the infamous 'Book of Veles', which is largely considered to be a forgery).
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Re: The oldest work in your first language you can understand?

Postby Oleksij » 2012-05-27, 13:30

meidei wrote:I'd say the New Testament (Koiné Greek, 300BCC~300CE). Once a while there unfamiliar word usages and suffixes, but generally speaking, most educated Greeks and Greek-speaking Cypriots can understand written Koiné fairly well. They certainly do understand Medieval Greek.

What about Plato or Aristotle? I don't get the impression that the language in which their works are normally rendered (since quite possibly no works written by either one of them in person actually survive) is drastically different from Koine Greek..
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Re: The oldest work in your first language you can understand?

Postby TaylorS » 2012-06-18, 5:09

Oleksij wrote:
meidei wrote:I'd say the New Testament (Koiné Greek, 300BCC~300CE). Once a while there unfamiliar word usages and suffixes, but generally speaking, most educated Greeks and Greek-speaking Cypriots can understand written Koiné fairly well. They certainly do understand Medieval Greek.

What about Plato or Aristotle? I don't get the impression that the language in which their works are normally rendered (since quite possibly no works written by either one of them in person actually survive) is drastically different from Koine Greek..

meidei wrote:I'd say the New Testament (Koiné Greek, 300BCC~300CE). Once a while there unfamiliar word usages and suffixes, but generally speaking, most educated Greeks and Greek-speaking Cypriots can understand written Koiné fairly well. They certainly do understand Medieval Greek.


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Re: The oldest work in your first language you can understand?

Postby maxd.ijn » 2012-06-19, 3:37

I read some excerpts from The Lusiads without problems. Portuguese doesn't seem to have considerable changes from the 15th century onwards.
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Re: The oldest work in your first language you can understand?

Postby Ciarán12 » 2012-07-14, 23:25

1700-Present: Fine, no problems at all.
1550/1600-1700: Bit of a Challenge.
1400-1600: A big struggle, but I wouldn't put it in the 'can't read' category. (Chaucer etc.)
Prior to 1400: No. I get the impression I'd have an easier time with modern Dutch (even if I hadn't had any exposure to it) than Old English.

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Re: The oldest work in your first language you can understand?

Postby JackFrost » 2012-07-15, 5:26

ciaran1212 wrote:1400-1600: A big struggle, but I wouldn't put it in the 'can't read' category. (Chaucer etc.)
Prior to 1400: No. I get the impression I'd have an easier time with modern Dutch (even if I hadn't had any exposure to it) than Old English.

Most of the 1400-1600 is Early Modern English. The shift was almost done when Le Morte d'Arthur was published in 1485. So, 1100-1400 would be Middle English... The Chaucer's language, although it's very rare to find a text written in it in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Or maybe it's just you? :?
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Re: The oldest work in your first language you can understand?

Postby Ciarán12 » 2012-07-15, 11:22

JackFrost wrote:
ciaran1212 wrote:1400-1600: A big struggle, but I wouldn't put it in the 'can't read' category. (Chaucer etc.)
Prior to 1400: No. I get the impression I'd have an easier time with modern Dutch (even if I hadn't had any exposure to it) than Old English.

Most of the 1400-1600 is Early Modern English. The shift was almost done when Le Morte d'Arthur was published in 1485. So, 1100-1400 would be Middle English... The Chaucer's language, although it's very rare to find a text written in it in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Or maybe it's just you? :?


You're right, sorry, I just picked those dates based on the texts I had read rather than on the periods of the evolution of English. For the '1560/1600-1700 ' bit read 'William Shakespeare' or 'Early Modern English' and for '1400-1600' read 'Geoffry Chaucer' or 'Middle English' (which I now know did not really coverthat time period).


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