Shakespeare’s German

I have yesterday both Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the German Language studied. And, in doing so, I have betwixt Shakespeare’s English and contemporary German a few similarities noticed. 

Perfect Tense Sentence Construction:

Your typical contemporary English sentence is constructed with its subject in the first position, its auxiliary/helping verb in the second position, and its past participial in the position thereafter.

Typical contemporary English: I have walked from city to city.

Typical contemporary German: Ich bin von Stadt zu Stadt gelaufen.

Not exactly bedfellows.

Notice, however, The Bard’s choice in sentence construction here:

“Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.”

 Hamlet, du hast deinen Vater sehr verärgert.

Not, Hamlet you have offended my father very much?

The Bard prefers here the Teutonic. Oh, heavy deed is right. And siehst you not this second-person singular conjugation of “hast?” Shakespearian English’s 2nd and 3rd-person singular and plural verb conjugations (of either present or past tense) of “to be,” “to have,” and “to do” whisper of contemporary German linage:

Shakespearian English (wast, hast/hath, dost, doth)

Contemporary German (warst, hast/hat, tust, tut)

Unlike modern English, which just uses “you” for both the 2nd-person singular and plural pronoun, Shakespearian English accounts for the second-person plural pronoun with “ye.” German also makes this distinction with Ihr/Sie (honorific).

And think you not, that I another distinction in the first example forgotten have. 

In contemporary English, we use “have/had” as the auxiliary/helping verb for nearly all perfect-tense constructions. But, in our first example, the German switches from the verb “to have (haben)” to “to be (sein).” This is because the German language marks sentences with intransitive main verbs with the auxiliary verb “to have” and transitive main verbs with the auxiliary verb “to be.” Shakespearian English prefers this as well:

Contemporary English: The actors have come.

Shakespearian English “The actors are come…” 

Contemporary German: Die Schauspieler sind (are) gekommen (come).

Contemporary English: My hour has almost come (this still sounds a trifle archaic and might most likely be spoken as “my hour is almost here”).

Shakespearian English: “My hour is almost come.”

Contemporary German: Meine Stunde ist (is) fast gekommen (come). 

And then there is the use of pronominal adverbs, which, in contemporary English, are but mostly unfairly fettered away upon the faded parchment of legalese. 

But they’re alive and well in both Shakespearian English and contemporary German.

A pronominal adverb is a kind of adverb that exists in Germanic languages. It is formed by turning a preposition and a pronoun into a prepositional adverb and a locative adverb and then connecting them in reverse order.

Contemporary preference: in that; in here. Pronominal adverbs: therein; herein.

Your friend would ask “Where…”

Your German friend would ask “Wohin…” (whereto [to where] or wither)

Hamlet asks: “Wither wilt thou lead me?”

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