Collected Name Resources from LoARs (2010-present): - German -
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Collected Name Resources from LoARs (2010-present)

Articles from Juliana de Luna and Lillia de Vaux

- German -

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November 2013 - Juliana de Luna Link to LoAR Cover Letter

After a digression, I am returning to our trip through Eastern and Central Europe. This month, I want to talk about German languages and naming practice. First, a reminder: Germany as a country only came into existence in the 19th century. Before that "the Germanies" were a grouping of smaller units bound together in the confines of the Holy Roman Empire (which as the joke goes, was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire). This entity extended in the west to include the Low Countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg), in the east to Poland, and in the south through Austria and Switzerland into Italy. Not surprisingly, residents of many of those areas speak some kind of German to this day (though those of the Low Countries do not).

We divide up the dialects spoken in this area into two language groups: High German and Low German. High German is the modern standard national language of Germany, and was always found mainly in central and southern Germany. It is also the national language of Austria and one of the national languages of Switzerland. In the Middle Ages, the various dialects of High German were quite different, with Swiss German particularly different from the German of Nürnberg. Some scholars consider northern dialects of this language Middle German, but in the SCA we consider those dialects part of High German.

Low German is another Germanic language, spoken along the northern coast of Germany. It's called "Low" because it's the language of the lowlands. Historically, it was the language spoken in all the coastal areas controlled by "Germans:" Poland, Lithuania, and even parts of Russia. It was the language of the Hanseatic League.

While these languages and the naming pools that go with them are different, the naming pools are related in ways that make it hard for the non-expert to always distinguish between them. Published books on German names (like Bahlow and Brechenmacher) rarely distinguish Low German and High German names. An expert reader can identify which names are which: sometimes by recognizing spelling or grammar associated with one language or the other, at other times by noting the location in which the name was recorded and identifying that area as speaking Low or High German. As this is too high a standard to hold submitters (or submission heralds) to, we treat Low and High German as part of a single language pool under SENA. However, we will continue to distinguish between the two for purposes of authenticity requests.

Next month, we'll put this into practice, with some recommended articles for information on High German and Low German names.

December 2013 - Juliana de Luna Link to LoAR Cover Letter

Last month we discussed languages in Germany: High German, focused in the south, and Low German, focused in the north. This month, we're going to talk about resources for German.

For family names, books remain important. It's relatively easy to find the Edda Gentry translation of Hans Bahlow's German Names (in German, Deutsches Namenlexikon). Many kingdoms have the German-only Etymologisches Worterbuch der deutschen Familiennamen by Josef Brechenmacher. Both of these books are highly recommended, though you need to remember that non-dated forms aren't likely to be period. These books have one large issue: they don't clearly distinguish High German forms from Low German ones. There are many other German-language books that are useful as well; I'm not going to spend time on them here.

For given names, the most useful resources that are readily available are online articles. Each deals with a single dialect of High or Low German. For High German, I tend to start with Talan Gwynek's "Medieval German Given Names from Silesia" (http://heraldry.sca.org/names/bahlow_v.htm). Silesia overlaps southeastern Germany, southwestern Poland, and the eastern Czech Republic. The caveat here is that some names are Slavic or at least show Slavic influence, so a few names are not typical for the rest of Germany. Also useful for High German are a group of articles by Aryanhwy merch Catmael. "German Names from Nürnberg, 1497" (http://heraldry.sca.org/names/german/nurnberg1497.html) records the names of thousands of people, including given names and family names. Again in High German, "German Names from Rottweil, Baden-Württemberg, 1441" (http://www.ellipsis.cx/~liana/names/german/rottweil1441.html) gives the names of 1350 men and women, again including given names and family names.

We have a shortage of Low German name resources. The only readily available source is Aryanhwy merch Catmael "15th Century Low German Men's Names from Mecklenburg" (http://www.ellipsis.cx/~liana/names/german/mecklenburg.html).

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