30 Medieval Texts Translated in 2016.

This list from Medievalists.net makes me want to spend a week or two ensconced in a really good research library (ideally, Sterling Memorial, where I spent so much of the 1970s), pulling down one book after another and reading to my heart’s content. I can’t even pretend I want to own them — they’re almost all so far from any foreseeable reading pattern that they would glare even more reproachfully than the currently ignored piles of books. But what fun to browse them if I didn’t have to have them on my own shelves! The Faroe-Islander Saga (Faereyinga saga), Giovanni Villani’s New Chronicle (which “traces the history of Florence, Italy, and Europe over a vast sweep of time-from the destruction of the Tower of Babel to the outbreak of the Black Death”), The Divorce of King Lothar and Queen Theutberga, Petrarch’s My Secret Book, A Chinese Traveler in Medieval Korea, John Benet’s Chronicle, 1399-1462 (by “a Londoner who was exceptionally well-informed about events and people in the period of the Wars of the Roses”), A Corresponding Renaissance: Letters Written by Italian Women, 1375-1650… I’m afraid even to click through to the publisher/Amazon pages to see how much they cost, but it’s fun just to riffle their pages in my imagination. Thanks, Trevor!

Comments

  1. > The Book of Horsemanship by Duarte I of Portugal

    Includes essays on a wide variety of topics besides knighting. His discussion on the “melancholic humour”, how he fell into it from overworking, and how he got better, is surprisingly similar to modern treatments of depression.

  2. This is totally unrelated, but while reading this edition of Voltaire’s Dictionnaire philosophique, I was surprised to find that the very first entry (“A”), which deals with the pronunciation of the French diphthong oi, appears to say categorically that it was pronounced with the vowel /a/ rather than /e/. This article doesn’t appear in the other, older, editions on Wikisource, which makes me suspect it’s a later 19th-century addition. Anyone have any idea how to make sense of this?

  3. Doesn’t the footnote explain?

  4. Ah, yes, I didn’t notice that. However, I thought the /wa/ pronunciation wasn’t standard in 1770?

  5. David Marjanović says:

    It doesn’t say oi is pronounced with [a] at all. It talks about the monophthongization from oi to ai which had by then happened in some words but (as today) not in others: françois > français, anglois > anglais, but danois and suédois remain unchanged. How ai is pronounced isn’t mentioned.

  6. January First-of-May says:

    françois > français

    Apparently early 1790s French coins (between Bastille and the Revolution) used the spelling Roi des Français in Strasbourg and Roi des François everywhere else.
    I thought it was a difference along the lines of “King of France” vs. “King of the French”, but of course the former would presumably be Roi de France. Yet somehow I didn’t realize that it could have been a dialectal pronunciation difference reflected in orthography – I guess I thought that things like that didn’t happen anymore by the late 18th century.

  7. marie-lucie says:

    YT: while reading this edition of Voltaire’s Dictionnaire philosophique, I was surprised to find that the very first entry (“A”), which deals with the pronunciation of the French diphthong oi, appears to say categorically that it was pronounced with the vowel /a/ rather than /e/.

    This is not quite what the text says, since it confuses spelling with pronunciation.

    All the examples are of the suffixes then written -ois, -oit which reflected a much older, diphthongal pronunciation [oi], later evolving into [we]. In turn, [we] became [wa] in most contexts (as in moi or chinois) but [e] in a minority of others, including the verbal suffixes now written -ais, -ait, used in imperfect and conditional forms (eg je voulais, je voudrais ‘I wanted, I would like’. The author refers to the letters o and a in those forms as if they were sounds instead of just spelling conventions.

    The divergent evolution of [we] into [wa] and [e] is the reason why the personal name François(e) and the adjective français(e), originally the same word, are pronounced (and spelled) differently, as the author recommends since the difference in pronunciation was already general at the time of writing. But the author does not mention whether the remaining diphthong (now standard [wa]) was [wa] or still [we]. His quoting of “visual rhymes” which no longer rhyme when pronounced seems to suggest [wa], even if that pronunciation was not yet accepted as “standard” ([we] was still widespread in the early 20C, in France and especially in Canada).

    I am not sure why -oi- [we] evolved into [e] in français, anglais ‘French, English’ but [wa] in chinois, danois ‘Chinese, Dane/Danish’. Perhaps the loss of [w] occured after a consonant cluster (including one involving a still pronounced nasal consonant), but not after a single or double consonant, but this could also vary according to regional or other sociolinguistic criteria. Does anyone know of a study of the phenomenon?

  8. marie-lucie says:

    My mother taught kindergarten and early primary for more than 40 years, mostly in small towns in Southern Normandy (a region of conservative rural speech). Sometimes she would comment on things the children said. Once a child objected to how she pronounced the word boîte ‘box’: Maîtresse, on dit pas une [bwa:t], on dit une [bwE:t]! ‘Teacher, we don’t say [bwa:t], we say [bwE:t]’.

  9. marie-lucie says:

    January: Apparently early 1790s French coins (between Bastille and the Revolution) used the spelling Roi des Français in Strasbourg and Roi des François everywhere else.

    In Strasbourg at the time the majority of the population would have spoken the Alsatian dialect of German rather than a French dialect. Administrators sent from Paris at that time of revolutionary ferment could have imposed their own, (originally low-class) Parisian pronunciation and therefore spelling. In the rest of France, the coin makers would have kept to a more traditional spelling.

  10. I addressed the unconditioned split between [wɛ] and [ɛ] back in 2014; the short version is that standardization froze the results of an incomplete sound change in place.2

  11. Trond Engen says:

    14. A Chinese traveler in medieval Korea : Xu Jing’s illustrated account of the Xuanhe embassy to Koryo

    Translated by Sam Vermeersch (University of Hawai’i Press)

    [… T]he Koryŏ period is still very much terra incognita in world history because of the lack of translated source materials. The present work, the first fully annotated, complete translation of a key source text on Koryŏ, fills this gap.

    I found this odd. I understand that an annotated translation is welcome, but “very much terra incognita” and “fills this gap”? Surely there are blilingual scholars of Korean history.

  12. Good point, but you can’t expect publishers to undersell the significance of their books. “Here’s a mildly interesting work that presents a slightly different look at a pretty well-known person/place/phenomenon” would be an accurate description of most monographs, after all.

  13. Trond Engen says:

    Oh, those are blurbs, not reviews by medievalist.net! I really should have noticed that. Anyway, that one stood out for me.

  14. Of course anyone doing serious research on Koryo would by definition already read classical Chinese, but that “world history” is the key–doesn’t matter how familiar regional specialists are with something; until it gets Englished it ain’t part of “world history.”

  15. Two Dumbarton Oaks and two i Tattis, I see.

    But no Murty?

    Can’t have everything, I suppose.

  16. Trond Engen says:

    doesn’t matter how familiar regional specialists are with something; until it gets Englished it ain’t part of “world history.

    Sure. But the output of those regional specialist would for a great part already be in English and available to those concerned with synoptic world history. Now, the translation makes the bilingual work of those regional experts easier, it might make it easier to contribute to regional history without a working command of Classical Chinese, and it makes the traveller’s account available to interested non-expert readers. Those are all important effects, and the blurb doesn’t mention them.

  17. His quoting of “visual rhymes” which no longer rhyme when pronounced seems to suggest [wa]

    Exactly.

    The author says that français does not rhyme with lois, rois, exploits, and that poets artificially pronounced français as françois in poems to make it rhyme, giving as an example these lines from Corneille:

    Quel spectacle d’effroi, grand Dieu ! si toutefois
    Quelque chose pouvoit effrayer des François.

    Such a roundabout to explain the rhyming of these two words would not make sense if the author pronounced the words with [we] and [e], or if he pronounced ois as /wa/ and /we/ was still widely used in Standard French. If this were the case, the rhyming of these two words would not require a special explanation. To me, the only way it would make sense that the author would resort to this explanation would be if he himself pronounced ois as /wa/, and furthermore were unaware that the /we/ pronunciation was ever considered standard. Am I wrong?

  18. David Marjanović says:

    Such a roundabout to explain the rhyming of these two words would not make sense if the author pronounced the words with [we] and [e]

    You’re assuming a real consonantal [w] here. If you assume a diphthong instead – a diphthong where the first part, [o], is subsyllabic, not the second as in all English (or German) diphthongs –, this might not work. My experience with modern Parisian oi suggests that it is such a diphthong – it comes with strong lip rounding that extends to a preceding consonant, sure, but there’s still no [w] in it. That’s why such words as vois and voie are pronounceable without rendering the [v] syllabic or assimilating it into the [w].

    Are u and iu considered to rhyme in Mandarin? While iu may be /ju/ or even /jw/ phonologically, it’s a diphthong [ɪ̯ʊ] phonetically – when it doesn’t turn into a triphthong [ɪ̯ou̯], that is.

  19. According to the Hànyǔ Pīnyīn Fāng’àn, iu is an orthographic shortening for iou; in verse, syllables with -iu do rhyme with -ou.

  20. The ultimate ambition in the arts of erudition

    Hatman, my hatman, your description of freereading in the Sterling Library in the seventies reminds me of my freereading little scholarly monographs re the Odyssey in the Macpherson Library of Uvic in the late eighties.

    Browsing (qv) forever!

  21. David Marjanović says:

    syllables with –iu do rhyme with –ou

    Oh. Well, that settles that.

  22. Stephen C. Carlson says:

    syllables with –iu do rhyme with –ou
    For completeness, or just triviality, I might add that syllables in –ui rhyme with –ei.

  23. David Marjanović says:

    That’s already not surprising in the light of such developments as shuí > shéi “who” (apparently both forms are accepted as standard) or guī > gēi “give, for” (which has single-handedly reintroduced the sequence velar plosive + ei into the language, allowing OK and karaoke to be loaned with the otherwise inexistent syllable kēi).

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