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英语的起源 – 译学馆
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英语的起源

Where did English come from? - Claire Bowern

当我们谈到英语
When we talk about English,
我们常常想到它是一种语言
we often think of it as a single language
但是那些遍布世界
but what do the dialects spoken
各国不同的方言呢
in dozens of countries around the world
它们彼此间有什么相似之处
have in common with each other,
或者说和乔叟(英国诗人)笔下的诗句有什么相似之处呢
or with the writings of Chaucer?
它们和《贝奥武夫》(一部古英语史诗)里让人看不懂的单词又有什么共同之处呢
And how are any of them related to the strange words in Beowulf?
答案就是英语和大多数语言一样
The answer is that like most languages,
在数代运用这门语言的人中进化
English has evolvedthrough generations of speakers,
随着时间的流逝经历了重大的改变
undergoing major changes over time.
如果还原这些变化
By undoing these changes,
我们可以将现代英语
we can trace the languagefrom the present day
追溯到它古老的源头
back to its ancient roots.
虽然现代英语 和源于拉丁语的罗曼斯语
While modern Englishshares many similar words
比如法语和西班牙语
with Latin-derived romance languages,
有很多单词是相似的
like French and Spanish,
但是这其中绝大部分的单词起初并不属于英语
most of those words were not originally part of it. Instead,
而是在1066年诺曼入侵英格兰时
they started cominginto the language
才开始变为英语的
with the Norman invasionof England in 1066.
当说法语的诺曼人征服英格兰
When the French-speaking Normansconquered England
成为那里的统治阶级时
and became its ruling class,
他们的语言也深深影响了英格兰
they brought their speech with them,
为英格兰当地的本土英语
adding a massive amountof French and Latin vocabulary
增添了大量法语和拉丁语词汇现如今
to the English languagepreviously spoken there. Today,
我们称那时的英语为“古英语”
we call that language Old English.
《贝奥武夫》就是用这种古英语写成的
This is the language of Beowulf.
古英语也许让人看起来觉得陌生
It probably doesn’t look very familiar,
但如果你懂一些德语 就会更加容易辨认它了
but it might be more recognizableif you know some German.
这是因为古英语属于德语的日耳曼语系
That’s because Old Englishbelongs to the Germanic language family,
起初是在5世纪
first brought to the British Isles
和6世纪
in the 5th and 6th centuries
被盎格鲁人 萨克逊人和朱特人带入不列颠群岛
by the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes.
他们所讲的日耳曼方言就是我们今天所知道的盎格鲁撒克逊方言
The Germanic dialects they spoke wouldbecome known as Anglo-Saxon.
8世纪到11世纪时的维京入侵者
Viking invaders in the 8thto 11th centuries
又将更多古诺尔斯语加入到了英语之中
added more borrowingsfrom Old Norse into the mix.
因为有太多从法语 拉丁语
It may be hard to see the rootsof modern English
古诺尔斯语和其他语言中借来的词汇 所以也许很难从中
underneath all the words borrowed from French, Latin,
找出现代英语的源头
Old Norse and other languages.
但比较语言学可以通过专注于语法结构
But comparative linguistics can help usby focusing on grammatical structure,
声音变化的模式 以及某些核心词汇来帮助我们找出源头例如说
patterns of sound changes, and certain core vocabulary.
在6世纪之后
For example, after the 6th century,
德语中以“p”开头的单词的发音全都系统地转换成了“pf”
German words starting with”p,”systematically shifted to a”pf” sound
而与之相对应的古英语却没有发生变化
while their Old English counterpartskept the”p” unchanged.
在其他方面 那些具有“sk”发音的瑞典语词汇
In another split, wordsthat have”sk” sounds in Swedish
在英语中变成了“sh”的发音
developed an”sh” sound in English.
英语词汇中还是有很多单词具有“sk”发音
There are still some Englishwords with”sk,”
比如“裙子”(skirt)和“头骨”(skull)
like”skirt,” and”skull,”
但是它们是从古诺尔斯语中直接借鉴来的
but they’re direct borrowingsfrom Old Norse
这种借鉴发生的时间在从“sk”到“sh”的转换之后
that came after the”sk” to”sh” shift.
这些例子告诉我们
These examples show us that just
正如很多罗曼斯语言来源于拉丁语英语
as the various Romance languages descended from Latin, English,
瑞典语 德语 以及很多其他语言
Swedish, German,and many other languages
都来源于它们共同的祖先“古日耳曼语”
descended from their own common ancestorknown as Proto-Germanic
这种语言在公元前500年被广泛使用
spoken around 500 B.C.E.
由于这种历史古老的语言从未被转化成文字
Because this historical languagewas never written down,
我们只能通过比较它的衍生语言来重建它
we can only reconstruct itby comparing its descendants,
而这可能要归功于这些衍生语言变化的一致性
which is possible thanksto the consistency of the changes.
我们甚至可以用同样
We can even use the same
的办法再往前跨一步
process to go back one step further,
追溯到古日耳曼语来源于古印欧语
and trace the origins of Proto-Germanicto a language called Proto-Indo-European,
这种古印欧语来自6000年前的东欧大草原
spoken about 6000 years ago
也就是今天的乌克兰和俄罗斯地区
on the Pontic steppein modern day Ukraine and Russia.
这就是重建的印欧语系的祖先
This is the reconstructed ancestorof the Indo-European family
囊括了历史上欧洲以及西南亚很大一部分地区
that includes nearly all languageshistorically spoken in Europe,
所出现的所有语言
as well as large parts of Southernand Western Asia.
尽管需要多费点儿功夫
And though it requires a bit more work,
我们仍从不同的印欧语系分支里有关联的词汇中
we can find the same systematicsimilarities, or correspondences,
找到系统的相似或者一致之处
between related words in differentIndo-European branches.
如果将英语和拉丁语相比较
Comparing English with Latin,
我们会发现拉丁语中以“d”开头的单词 英语却以“t”开头
we see that English has”t”where Latin has”d”,
拉丁语中以“p”开头的单词 在英语中却变成了“f”
and”f” where latin has”p”at the start of words.
而有些英语的“远亲” 包括北印度语
Some of English’s more distant relativesinclude Hindi, Persian
波斯语以及波斯语 则被转换成了现在的大不列颠英语
and the Celtic languages it displacedin what is now Britain.
古印欧语本身源于一种深知更加古老的语言
Proto-Indo-European itself descendedfrom an even more ancient language,
不幸的是
but unfortunately, this is as far back
这种语言实在太古老
as historical and archeological evidence
目前还没有历史和考古学证据能让我们了解它
will allow us to go.
很多谜团都还无法被解开
Many mysteries remain just out of reach,
比如印欧语系及其他语系会不会
such as whether there might be a linkbetween Indo-European
与在先于它们出现在欧洲的语言特性
and other major language families,
有某种关联
and the nature of the languages spoken in Europe prior to its arrival.
但这仍然改变不了一个令人
But the amazing fact remains
不可思议的事实 那就是全世界近30亿人
that nearly 3 billion people around the world,
尽管他们中的一些人听不懂彼此所说的语言
many of whom cannot understand each other,
但他们却说着历经6000年历史淬炼的相同的词汇
are nevertheless speaking the same words shaped by 6000 years of history.

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