Question for those knowledgeable about Germanic languages

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Question for those knowledgeable about Germanic languages

Postby Ead_Gar » Fri 05 Jun 2009 8:30 am

I'm not sure if this is the right place to post this, but I couldn't find a place that seemed more appropriate for discussing natlangs.

I'm aware of a word in German, "heißen," which means "to be called, to call oneself." I know this word has cognates in a lot of Germanic languages. In Icelandic/Old Norse it's "heita." In Norwegian, it's "hete." In Swedish it's "heta." In Dutch it's "heten." In Danish it's "hedde."

My question is, what's the cognate for this word in English? I can't think of one, but it seems very probable that one exists. Could it perhaps have existed in Old English, but fallen out of use since then?
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Re: Question for those knowledgeable about Germanic languages

Postby ILuvEire » Fri 05 Jun 2009 10:08 am

Yes, there was an Old English form, hātan, but it must have fallen out of use.
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Re: Question for those knowledgeable about Germanic languages

Postby Anders » Fri 05 Jun 2009 10:55 am

What would 'hatan' sound like today if the word existed?
'Haite'?

'I haite Anders' or something like that. Sounds a bit hatefull but not to bad.
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Re: Question for those knowledgeable about Germanic languages

Postby linguoboy » Fri 05 Jun 2009 3:25 pm

Anders wrote:What would 'hatan' sound like today if the word existed?
'Haite'?

Actually, it does exist, at least in poetic use. It survived in ordinary use at least into the 15th century with the present tense hate. At first, the usual past tense was hight and past participle (y)hote. But, over time, hight began to spread at the expense of the other forms, so by the time this verb was revived during the Romantic period, hight could be used in any tense. E.g.:

"Father he hight and he was in the parish." (Longfellow)
"A little pest, hight Tommy Moore." (Washington Irving)
"Childe Harold was he hight." (Byron)
"The Miller he hecht her a heart leal and loving." (Burns; hecht is a Scots form of hight.)
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Re: Question for those knowledgeable about Germanic languages

Postby Ead_Gar » Fri 05 Jun 2009 9:57 pm

Thanks so much for your answers! Apparently, the Old English "hatan" also gave us the "*-hest" in Modern English "behest." In fact, it was a short while after making my original post, while I was trying to fall asleep, that I had an aha moment and thought "behest" might be related somehow. I looked it up in my copy of Skeat's "Dictionary of English Etymology," and sure enough it was, which led me also to "hight." According to Skeat, "hight" is the only English verb that is passive by default. Interesting stuff.
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Re: Question for those knowledgeable about Germanic languages

Postby goofy » Wed 10 Jun 2009 5:19 pm

Ead_Gar wrote:Thanks so much for your answers! Apparently, the Old English "hatan" also gave us the "*-hest" in Modern English "behest." In fact, it was a short while after making my original post, while I was trying to fall asleep, that I had an aha moment and thought "behest" might be related somehow. I looked it up in my copy of Skeat's "Dictionary of English Etymology," and sure enough it was, which led me also to "hight." According to Skeat, "hight" is the only English verb that is passive by default. Interesting stuff.


hest isn't derived from hatan - hest developed from an early form *hait-ti-, the noun form of the verb *haitan.
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Re: Question for those knowledgeable about Germanic languages

Postby linguoboy » Wed 10 Jun 2009 7:38 pm

goofy wrote:
Ead_Gar wrote:hest isn't derived from hatan - hest developed from an early form *hait-ti-, the noun form of the verb *haitan.

*Haitan and hatan are etymologically identical. Hatan is just *haitan after it's been through the pre-Anglo-Saxon shift of *ai > /a:/. So, yes, technically hest isn't derived from hatan in the sense that both come from a common root, but that's an awful nitpicky distinction to make around laymen.
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Re: Question for those knowledgeable about Germanic languages

Postby danniebenedi » Fri 09 Oct 2009 1:29 am

I have a question: In most languages I know, you ask someone their name by saying, essentially, 'What do you call yourself' or 'What are you called', or even 'How are you called'.

Why in English is it directly 'What is your name'?
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Re: Question for those knowledgeable about Germanic languages

Postby linguoboy » Fri 09 Oct 2009 3:17 am

danniebenedi wrote:I have a question: In most languages I know, you ask someone their name by saying, essentially, 'What do you call yourself' or 'What are you called', or even 'How are you called'.

Why in English is it directly 'What is your name'?

In my experience, both forms are widespread. Asking why a particular language prefers one to the other is like asking why a particular language prefers a synthetic past tense to an analytic one or "Good bye!" to "See you!"

Other languages which use "What is your name?" or a close equivalent:

Irish: Cad is ainm duit? ("What is name to-you?")
Welsh: Beth yw d'enw di? ("What is your name you?")
Korean: 당신의 성함은 무엇입니까? ("Your[*] name what is?")
Vietnamese: Tên anh là gì? ("Name elder-brother[*] is what?")
Arabic (Lebanese): Shu ismak? ("What name-your?")
Hindi: आप का नाम क्या है? ("self's name what is?")
Persian: اسمتان چيست? ("Name-your what is?")

That's just off the top of my head; there are many many more.



[*] Many possibilities here but this isn't a lesson in Asian honorifics and pronominal systems.
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