The assorted finds of Artefact Publishing

End of geekiness

Yesterday I gave my last tutorial for the Tolkien course. It was more mad than usual (!) given interruptions for cake. At one point I removed myself to a corner to conduct the tut from there. I’ve really enjoyed these tutorials, and the people in them, to the extent that I would show up early in order to listen to the crazy stories that certain students reliably had. What was really nice was being thanked at the end for informative and entertaining tutorials. It’s all about being funny.

In thematically related news, today I checked in changes to our harvesting and display of names that have an authoritative form in a non-Latin script. This means that relatively soon you won’t have to be able to read Cyrillic or Gujarati (and if I’d been quicker on the draw, Arabic, Simplified Chinese and Ethiopic) to get the most from our site. A pity.

Posted by jamie on October 7, 2005 21:08+13:00


Casting nasturtiums at us on here, are you! The cake was very nice, and yes, laughter really helps learning. Maybe you should have been more entertaining on the subject of The Volsungs. You could have sung to us about them. I would have been more interested if you had. The Germans sung about them, and the relationships between their horses too. Can never distinguish between Signy, Sigmund, Sigurd etc myself. Sinfjotli has a nice name but drank too much right?

Posted by: Jane on October 9, 2005 17:52+13:00

By no means — everything I said is positive. Madness is often a positive trait.

I would like to be able to speak eloquently and entertainingly about the Volsungs — in fact, I think I did a couple of times, only for my other tutorial group. On the plus side, you missed out on my bad joke about the Viking trickle-down economy....

The name confusion becomes more acute if you’re well-versed in Beowulf and Wagner, where everything is different again. I can’t remember if any of them are changed in Der Niebelungenlied. Victory-this and victory-that; not an ounce of imagination in the lot.

Posted by: Jamie on October 9, 2005 18:08+13:00

Lied is neuter, thus "Das Nibelungenlied". And yes, the names are all different. They've been "Germanised": see here -- -- for brief synopsis.

Posted by: stephen on October 11, 2005 10:51+13:00

Thanks for spotting my gender confusion, Stephen. I should have checked it myself, given that all the German I know dates back to a single term’s study in fourth form.... (And isn’t German insane in having little to no correlation between gender and word form? Or is that my ignorance and poor memory talking?)

On the subject of Das Nibelungenlied, I remember the introduction to the translation I read stating that those coming from Wagner and expecting something similar would be in for a wee bit of a disappointment. I wasn’t coming from Wagner, but I still found the tale massively uninteresting. Vǫlsunga saga is at least a good deal shorter and (perhaps for that reason) more forceful.

Posted by: Jamie on October 11, 2005 11:11+13:00

Why would you expect gender to be reflected in the stem lexeme? Or are you expecting the full word form to contain a gender inflexion?

Oh, and for almost entirely unrelated amusement have a look at Chinese Measure Words

Posted by: Anita on October 12, 2005 15:25+13:00

I don't expect it to be reflected in the stem lexeme. I would find it easier to be able to look at the nominative singular form (stem plus inflectional ending, which in the case of Lied is ∅) and get at least some indication of gender. But then, I reckon that if you’re going to have inflections, you should inflect everything you can get your hands on.

Posted by: Jamie on October 12, 2005 17:45+13:00

There are actually several rules that hold for modern High German, mostly for suffixes: all nouns in -heit, -ung, schaft are feminine; names of countries are masculine; monosyllables are mostly neuter or masculine; diminutives in -lein or -chen are neuter; and so on and so forth. And I've never read this, but rhyme helps when you guess, eg Ball, Fall and Schall are all masculine. Probably you could come up with some nice mnemonic doggerel like those old ones for Latin.

Of course there are often exceptions, so they're more guidelines…

After a while, a certain amount of Sprachgefuehl kicks in and you just *know*. Also, with more uncommon words, native speakers can get it wrong too. And some words vary in gender from dialect to dialect. So don't feel bad...

Posted by: stephen on October 17, 2005 10:47+13:00