I was reading a book and encountered a phrase in early modern English:

"The Gothes speake dowche, which I knowe by a dowcheman, my servunt, that was with me there : for they understode one an other well enough, as we understande a furlane {i.e., a man of Forli) or a florentine."

I have asked this question because grammatically and, most importantly, logically it is very coherent with the modern English, despite being orthographicly dissimilar. But the usage of the preposition "by" here is ambiguos to me. What is the meaning of "to know something by someone" and dowche? Is dowche the name of a language? I couldn't find its definition.

  • 2
    Note that this is not Old English, nor even really old English. It’s (Early) Modern English. Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 8:24

1 Answer 1


To know something by someone here means that you know something because that someone has told/explained it to you. You got the knowledge of that something through that someone.

The speaker of that phrase got to know that 'the Gothes speake dowche' through his servant who is a dowcheman.

  • 6
    'Dowche' is presumably 'Dutch'. In this context it probably means German (Deutsch) which used to be called 'High Dutch' by English speakers. Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 7:49

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