Overcoming the Language Barrier

One of the difficulties in writing about the Saxon time period is the language barrier. Saxons spoke Old English, a Germanic ancestor of modern English. Old English looks to most modern readers like a different language that has some similarities to English.

So a modern writer has to translate. The question becomes how far to translate: new words or new forms of old words, new sentence style and punctuation or a variety of the old. If the writer tries to translate only a little, the prose will sound overly formal. If the translation is full, the characters will sound modern. This question was covered well by Ursula LeGuin in her book, “The Language of the Night.”

Translating Norman French to modern English is far easier because the reader knows and accepts that translation is happening. So the writer is free to use modern words and style.

In “Precious Norman Honor” I chose a middle level of translation. The Saxons speak in modern sentence layout without contractions, and the word choice is, by and large, new words which have old forms. I did consciously choose to use American English where a difference exists between US and British usage, because this novel is aimed primarily at the US reading market. Though I hope it finds readers everywhere.

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About Alettas

Technical Writer interested in Children's Lit, Victorian Lit, Theology, Charity Work, and Health/Nutrition.
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