SUMMARY & DESCRIPTION OF THE ANGLO-SAXON TONGUE



Old English (West-Saxon)
Published, formatted, edited, images & captions by Kenneth S. Doig


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



Old English (Ænglisc, Anglisc, Englisc) or Anglo-Saxon is an early form of the English language that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons and their descendants in parts of what are now England and southeastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century. What survives through writing represents primarily the literary register of Anglo-Saxon.
It is a West Germanic language and is closely related to Old Frisian. Old English was fully inflected with five grammatical cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, and instrumental, though the instrumental was very rare), which had dual forms for referring to groups of two objects (but only in the personal pronouns) in addition to the usual singular and plural forms. It also assigned gender to all nouns, including those that describe inanimate objects: for example, sēo sunne (the sun) was feminine, while se mōna (the moon) was masculine (cf. modern German die Sonne and der Mond). From the 9th century, Old English experienced heavy influence from Old Norse, a member of the related North Germanic group of languages.

History

Old English is a West Germanic language, developing out of common Ingvaeonic or "North-Sea Germanic" from the 5th century. Anglo-Saxon literacy develops after Christianisation in the late 7th century. The oldest surviving text of Old English literature is Cædmon's Hymn, composed between 658 and 680. There is a limited corpus of runic inscriptions from the 5th to 7th centuries, but the oldest coherent runic texts (notably Franks Casket) date to the 8th century.
The history of Old English can be subdivided in:
  • Prehistoric Old English (c. 450 to 650); for this period, Old English is mostly a reconstructed language as no literary witnesses survive (with the exception of limited epigraphic evidence).
  • Early Old English (ca. 650 to 900), the period of the oldest manuscript traditions, with authors such as Cædmon, Bede, Cynewulf and Aldhelm.
  • Late Old English (c. 900 to 1066), the final stage of the language leading up the the Norman conquest of England and the subsequent transition to Early Middle English.
The Old English period is followed by Middle English (12th to 15th century), Early Modern English (ca. 1480 to 1650) and finally Modern English (after 1650).
Viking Invasion-Routes

 Influence of other languages

In the course of the Early Middle Ages, Old English assimilated some aspects of a few languages with which it came in contact, such as the two dialects of Old Norse from the contact with the Norsemen or "Danes" who by the late 9th century controlled large tracts of land in northern and eastern England which came to be known as the Danelaw.

 Latin influence

Anglo-Saxon Shilling
A large percentage of the educated and literate population of the time were competent in Latin, which was the scholarly and diplomatic lingua franca of Europe at the time. It is sometimes possible to give approximate dates for the entry of individual Latin words into Old English based on which patterns of linguistic change they have undergone. There were at least three notable periods of Latin influence. The first occurred before the ancestral Angles and Saxons left continental Europe for Britain. The second began when the Anglo-Saxons were converted to Christianity and Latin-speaking priests became widespread.
The third and largest single transfer of Latin-based words happened after the Norman Conquest of 1066, when an enormous number of Norman words began to influence the language. Most of these Oïl language words were themselves derived from Old French and ultimately from classical Latin, although a notable stock of Norse words were introduced or re-introduced in Norman form. The Norman Conquest approximately marks the end of Old English and the advent of Middle English.
One of the ways the influence of Latin can be seen is that many Latin words for activities came to also be used to refer to the people engaged in those activities, an idiom carried over from Anglo-Saxon but using Latin words. This can be seen in words like militiaassemblymovement, and service.
The language was further altered by the transition away from the runic alphabet (also known as futhorc or fuþorc) to the Latin alphabet, which was also a significant factor in the developmental pressures brought to bear on the language. Old English words were spelled, more or less, as they were pronounced. Often, the Latin alphabet fell short of being able to adequately represent Anglo-Saxon phonetics. Spellings, therefore, can be thought of as best-attempt approximations of how the language actually sounded. The "silent" letters in many Modern English words were pronounced in Old English: for example, the c and h in cniht, the Old English ancestor of the modern knight, were pronounced. Another side-effect of spelling Old English words phonetically using the Latin alphabet was that spelling was extremely variable. A word's spelling could also reflect differences in the phonetics of the writer's regional dialect. Words also endured idiosyncratic spelling choices of individual authors, some of whom varied spellings between works. Thus, for example, the word and could be spelt either and or ond.

Norse influence


The approximate extent of Old Norse and related languages in the early 10th century:
   Old West Norse dialect
  Old East Norse dialect
   Old Gutnish dialect
   Crimean Gothic
   Old English
   Other Germanic languages with which Old Norse still retained some mutual intelligibility
The second major source of loanwords to Old English were the Scandinavian words introduced during the Viking invasions of the 9th and 10th centuries. In addition to a great many place names, these consist mainly of items of basic vocabulary, and words concerned with particular administrative aspects of the Danelaw (that is, the area of land under Viking control, which included extensive holdings all along the eastern coast of England and Scotland).
The Vikings spoke Old Norse, a language related to Old English in that both derived from the same ancestral Proto-Germanic language. It is very common for the intermixing of speakers of different dialects, such as those that occur during times of political unrest, to result in a mixed language, and one theory holds that exactly such a mixture of Old Norse and Old English helped accelerate the decline of case endings in Old English.
Apparent confirmation of this is the fact that simplification of the case endings occurred earliest in the north and latest in the southwest, the area farthest away from Viking influence. Regardless of the truth of this theory, the influence of Old Norse on the English language has been profound: responsible for such basic vocabulary items as skyleg, the pronoun they, the verb form are, and hundreds of other words.

 Celtic influence

Traditionally, many maintain that the influence of Celtic on English has been small, citing the small number of Celtic loanwords taken into the language. The number of Celtic loanwords is of a lower order than either Latin or Scandinavian. However, a minority view is that distinctive Celtic traits can be discerned in syntax from the post-Old English period. Why these traits appear to be restricted to syntax and do not include vocabulary is not clear.

 Dialects

Old English should not be regarded as a single monolithic entity just as Modern English is also not monolithic. Within Old English, there was language variation. Thus it is misleading, for example, to consider Old English as having a single sound system. Rather, there were multiple Old English sound systems. Old English has variation along regional lines as well as variation across different times. For example, the language attested in Wessex during the time of Æthelwold of Winchester, which is named Late West Saxon (or Æthelwoldian Saxon), is considerably different from the language attested in Wessex during the time of Alfred the Great's court, which is named Early West Saxon (or Classical West Saxon or Alfredian Saxon). Furthermore, the difference between Early West Saxon and Late West Saxon is of such a nature that Late West Saxon is not directly descended from Early West Saxon (despite what the similarity in name implies).

The four main dialectal forms of Old English were Mercian, Northumbrian, Kentish, and West Saxon. Each of those dialects was associated with an independent kingdom on the island. Of these, all of Northumbria and most of Mercia were overrun by the Vikings during the 9th century. The portion of Mercia and all of Kent that were successfully defended were then integrated into Wessex.
After the process of unification of the diverse Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in 878 by Alfred the Great, there is a marked decline in the importance of regional dialects. This is not because they stopped existing; regional dialects continued even after that time to this day, as evidenced both by the existence of Middle and Modern English dialects later on, and by common sense—people do not spontaneously adopt another dialect when there is a sudden change of political power.


Medieval OE Manuscript
However, the bulk of the surviving documents from the Anglo-Saxon period are written in the dialect of Wessex, Alfred's kingdom. It seems likely that with consolidation of power, it became necessary to standardize the language of government to reduce the difficulty of administering the more remote areas of the kingdom. As a result, documents were written in the West Saxon dialect. Not only this, but Alfred was passionate about the spread of the vernacular, and brought many scribes to his region from Mercia to record previously unwritten texts.
The Church was affected likewise, especially since Alfred initiated an ambitious programme to translate religious materials into English. To retain his patronage and ensure the widest circulation of the translated materials, the monks and priests engaged in the programme worked in his dialect. Alfred himself seems to have translated books out of Latin and into English, notably Pope Gregory I's treatise on administration, Pastoral Care.
Because of the centralization of power and the Viking invasions, there is little or no written evidence for the development of non-Wessex dialects after Alfred's unification.
Reconstructed Anglo-Saxon Village

Phonology

The inventory of classical Old English (i.e. Late West Saxon) surface phones, as usually reconstructed, is as follows.
Bilabial
Labiodental
Dental
Alveolar
Postalveolar
Palatal
Velar
Glottal
Stop
p  b
t  d
k  ɡ
Affricate
tʃ  (dʒ)
Nasal
m
n
(ŋ)
Fricative
f  (v)
θ  (ð)
s  (z)
ʃ
(ç)
(x)  (ɣ)
h
Approximant
r
j
w
Lateral approximant
l
The sounds marked in parentheses in the chart above are allophones:
  • [dʒ] is an allophone of /j/ occurring after /n/ and when geminated
  • [ŋ] is an allophone of /n/ occurring before /k/ and /ɡ/
  • [v, ð, z] are allophones of /f, θ, s/ respectively, occurring between vowels or voiced consonants
  • [ç, x] are allophones of /h/ occurring in coda position after front and back vowels respectively
  • [ɣ] is an allophone of /ɡ/ occurring after a vowel, and, at an earlier stage of the language, in the syllable onset.
Monophthongs
Short
Long
Front
Back
Front
Back
Close
i  y
u
iː  yː
Mid
e  (ø)
o
eː  (øː)
Open
æ
ɑ
æː
ɑː
The front mid rounded vowels /ø(ː)/ occur in some dialects of Old English, but not in the best attested Late West Saxon dialect.
Diphthongs
Short (monomoraic)
Long (bimoraic)
First element is close
iy
iːy
Both elements are mid
eo
eːo
Both elements are open
æɑ
æːɑ

 Grammar

 Morphology

Unlike modern English, Old English is a language rich with morphological diversity. It maintains several distinct cases: the nominative, accusative, genitive, dative and (vestigially) instrumental, remnants of which survive only in a few pronouns in modern English.

 Syntax

Old-English Bible

 Word-order (ordföljd)

The word order of Old English is widely believed to be subject-verb-object (SVO) as in modern English and most Germanic languages. The word order of Old English, however, was not overly important because of the aforementioned morphology of the language. As long as declension was correct, it did not matter whether you said, "My name is..." as "Mīn nama is..." or "Nama mīn is..."
 Questions
Because of its similarity with Old Norse, it is believed that the word order of Old English changed when asking a question, from SVO to VSO; i.e. swapping the verb and the subject.
"I am..." becomes "Am I...?"
"Ic eom..." becomes "Eom ic...?"

Orthography

 
The runic alphabet used to write Old English before the introduction of the Latin alphabet.
English Runestone
Old English was first written in runes (futhorc) but shifted to a (minuscule) half-uncial script of the Latin alphabet introduced by Irish Christian missionaries from around the 9th century. This was replaced by insular script, a cursive and pointed version of the half-uncial script. This was used until the end of the 12th century when continental Carolingian minuscule (also known as Caroline) replaced the insular.
The letter ðæt ‹ð› (called eth or edh in modern English) was an alteration of Latin ‹d›, and the runic letters thorn ‹þ› and wynn ‹ƿ› are borrowings from futhorc. Also used was a symbol for the conjunction and, a character similar to the number seven (‹›, called a Tironian note), and a symbol for the relative pronoun þæt, a thorn with a crossbar through the ascender (‹›). Macrons ‹¯› over vowels were rarely used to indicate long vowels. Also used occasionally were abbreviations for following m’s or n’s. All of the sound descriptions below are given using IPA (international phonetic alphabet) symbols.

Conventions of modern-editions

A number of changes are traditionally made in published modern editions of the original Old English manuscripts. Some of these conventions include the introduction of punctuation and the substitutions of symbols. The symbols ‹e›, ‹f›, ‹g›, ‹r›, ‹s› are used in modern editions, although their shapes in the insular script are considerably different. The long s ‹ſ› is substituted by its modern counterpart ‹s›. Insular ‹› is usually substituted with its modern counterpart ‹g› (which is ultimately a Carolingian symbol).
Additionally, modern manuscripts often distinguish between a velar and palatal ‹c› and ‹g› with diacritic dots above the putative palatals: ‹ċ›, ‹ġ›. The wynn symbol ‹ƿ› is usually substituted with ‹w›. Macrons are usually found in modern editions to indicate putative long vowels, while they are usually lacking in the originals. In older printed editions of Old English works, an acute accent mark was used to maintain cohesion between Old English and Old Norse printing.
The alphabetical symbols found in Old English writings and their substitute symbols found in modern editions are listed below:
Symbol
Description and notes
a
Short /ɑ/. Spelling variations like ‹land› ~ ‹lond› "land" suggest it may have had a rounded allophone [ɒ] before [n] in some cases)
ā
Long /ɑː/. Rarely found in manuscripts, but usually distinguished from short ‹a› in modern editions.
æ
Short /æ/. Before 800 the digraph ‹ae› is often found instead of ‹æ›. During the 8th century ‹æ› began to be used more frequently was standard after 800. In 9th century Kentish manuscripts, a form of ‹æ› that was missing the upper hook of the ‹a› part was used. Kentish ‹æ› may be either /æ/ or /e/ although this is difficult to determine.
ǣ
Long /æː/. Rarely found in manuscripts, but usually distinguished from short ‹æ› in modern editions.
b
Represented /b/. Also represented [v] in early texts before 800. For example, the word "sheaves" is spelled ‹scēabas› in an early text but later (and more commonly) as ‹scēafas›.
c
Anglo-Saxon Women
Except in the digraphs ‹sc›, ‹cg›, either /tʃ/ or /k/. The /tʃ/ pronunciation is sometimes written with a diacritic by modern editors: most commonly ‹ċ›, sometimes ‹č› or ‹ç›. Before a consonant letter the pronunciation is always /k/; word-finally after ‹i› it is always /tʃ/. Otherwise, a knowledge of the historical linguistics of the word is needed to predict which pronunciation is needed. (See The distribution of velars and palatals in Old English for details.)
cg
[ddʒ] (the surface pronunciation of geminate /jj/); occasionally also for /ɡɡ/
d
Represented /d/. In the earliest texts, it also represented /θ/ but was soon replaced by ‹ð› and ‹þ›. For example, the word meaning "thought" (lit. mood-i-think, with -i- as in "handiwork") was written ‹mōdgidanc› in a Northumbrian text dated 737, but later as ‹mōdgeþanc› in a 10th century West Saxon text.
ð
Represented /θ/ and its allophone [ð]. Called ðæt in Old English (now called eth in Modern English), ‹ð› is found in alternation with thorn ‹þ› (both representing the same sound) although it is more common in texts dating before Alfred. Together with ‹þ› it replaced earlier ‹d› and ‹th›. First attested (in definitely dated materials) in the 7th century. After the beginning of Alfred's time, ‹ð› was used more frequently for medial and final positions while ‹þ› became increasingly used in initial positions, although both still varied. Some modern editions attempt to regularise the variation between ‹þ› and ‹ð› by using only ‹þ›.
e
Short /e/.
ę
Either Kentish /æ/ or /e/ although this is difficult to determine. A modern editorial substitution for a form of ‹æ› missing the upper hook of the ‹a› found in 9th century texts.
ē
Long /eː/. Rarely found in manuscripts, but usually distinguished from short ‹e› in modern editions.
ea
Short /æɑ/; after ‹ċ›, ‹ġ›, sometimes /æ/ or /ɑ/.
ēa
Long /æːɑ/. Rarely found in manuscripts, but usually distinguished from short ‹ea› in modern editions. After ‹ċ›, ‹ġ›, sometimes /æː/.
eo
Short /eo/; after ‹ċ›, ‹ġ›, sometimes /o/
ēo
Long /eːo/. Rarely found in manuscripts, but usually distinguished from short ‹eo› in modern editions.
f
/f/ and its allophone [v]
g
/ɡ/ and its allophone [ɣ]/j/ and its allophone [dʒ] (when after ‹n›). In Old English manuscripts, this letter usually took its insular form ‹ᵹ›. The /j/ and [dʒ] pronunciations are sometimes written ‹ġ› by modern editors. Before a consonant letter the pronunciation is always [ɡ] (word-initially) or [ɣ] (after a vowel). Word-finally after ‹i› it is always /j/. Otherwise a knowledge of the historical linguistics of the word in question is needed to predict which pronunciation is needed. (See The distribution of velars and palatals in Old English for details.)
h
/h/ and its allophones [ç, x]. In the combinations ‹hl›, ‹hr›, ‹hn›, ‹hw›, the second consonant was certainly voiceless.
i
Short /i/.
ī
Long /iː/. Rarely found in manuscripts, but usually distinguished from short ‹i› in modern editions.
ie
Short /iy/; after ‹ċ›, ‹ġ›, sometimes /e/.
īe
Long /iːy/. Rarely found in manuscripts, but usually distinguished from short ‹ie› in modern editions. After ‹ċ›, ‹ġ›, sometimes /eː/.
k
/k/ (rarely used)
l
/l/; probably velarised (as in Modern English) when in coda position.
m
/m/
n
/n/ and its allophone [ŋ]
o
Short /o/.
ō
Long /oː/. Rarely found in manuscripts, but usually distinguished from short ‹o› in modern editions.
oe
Short /ø/ (in dialects with this sound).
ōe
Long /øː/ (in dialects with this sound). Rarely found in manuscripts, but usually distinguished from short ‹oe› in modern editions.
p
/p/
qu
A rare spelling of /kw/, which was usually written as ‹cƿ› (= ‹cw› in modern editions).[8]
r
/r/; the exact nature of /r/ is not known. It may have been an alveolar approximant [ɹ] as in most modern accents, an alveolar flap [ɾ], or an alveolar trill [r].
s
/s/ and its allophone [z].
sc
/ʃ/ or occasionally /sk/.
t
/t/
th
Denmark, Whence Anglic & Jutish Tribes Came
Represented /θ/ in the earliest texts but was soon replaced by ‹ð› and ‹þ›. For example, the word meaning "thought" was written ‹mōdgithanc› in a 6th century Northumbrian text, but later as ‹mōdgeþanc› in a 10th century West Saxon text.
þ
An alternate symbol called thorn used instead of ‹ð›. Represents /θ/ and its allophone [ð]. Together with ‹ð› it replaced the earlier ‹d› and ‹th›. First attested (in definitely dated materials) in the 8th century. Less common than ‹ð› before Alfred's time, from then onward ‹þ› was used increasingly more frequently than ‹ð› at the beginning of words while its occurrence at the end and in the middle of words was rare. Some modern editions attempt to regularise the variation between ‹þ› and ‹ð› by using only ‹þ›.
u
/u/ and /w/ in early texts of continental scribes. The /w/ ‹u› was eventually replaced by ‹ƿ› outside of the north of the island.
uu
/w/ in early texts of continental scribes. Outside of the north, it was generally replaced by ‹ƿ›.
ū
Long /uː/. Rarely found in manuscripts, but usually distinguished from short ‹u› in modern editions.
w
/w/. A modern substitution for ‹ƿ›.
ƿ
Runic wynn. Represents /w/, replaced in modern print by ‹w› to prevent confusion with ‹p›.
x
/ks/ (but according to some authors, [xs ~ çs])
y
Short /y/.
ȳ
Long /yː/. Rarely found in manuscripts, but usually distinguished from short ‹y› in modern editions.
z
/ts/. A rare spelling for ‹ts›. Example: /betst/ "best" is rarely spelled ‹bezt› for more common ‹betst›.
Doubled consonants are geminated; the geminate fricatives ‹ðð›/‹þþ›, ‹ff› and ‹ss› cannot be voiced.

Literature

Old English literature, though more abundant than literature of the continent before AD 1000, is nonetheless scant. In his supplementary article to the 1935 posthumous edition of Bright's Anglo-Saxon Reader, Dr. James Hulbert writes:
In such historical conditions, an incalculable amount of the writings of the Anglo-Saxon period perished. What they contained, how important they were for an understanding of literature before the Conquest, we have no means of knowing: the scant catalogs of monastic libraries do not help us, and there are no references in extant works to other compositions....How incomplete our materials are can be illustrated by the well-known fact that, with few and relatively unimportant exceptions, all extant Anglo-Saxon poetry is preserved in four manuscripts.
Some of the most important surviving works of Old English literature are Beowulf, an epic poem; the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a record of early English history; the Franks Casket, an early whalebone artifact; and Caedmon's Hymn, a Christian religious poem. There are also a number of extant prose works, such as sermons and saints' lives, biblical translations, and translated Latin works of the early Church Fathers, legal documents, such as laws and wills, and practical works on grammar, medicine, and geography. Still, poetry is considered the heart of Old English literature. Nearly all Anglo-Saxon authors are anonymous, with a few exceptions, such as Bede and Caedmon.
Gmc Tribes Mentioned in Beowulf

 Text-samples

Beowulf

The first example is taken from the opening lines of the epic poem Beowulf. This passage describes how Hrothgar's legendary ancestor Scyld was found as a baby, washed up on the shore, and adopted by a noble family. The translation is quite literal and represents the original poetic word order. As such, it is not typical of Old English prose. The modern cognates of original words have been used whenever practical to give a close approximation of the feel of the original poem. The words in brackets are implied in the Old English by noun case and the bold words in parentheses are explanations of words that have slightly different meanings in a modern context. Notice how what is used by the poet where a word like lo or behold would be expected. This usage is similar to what-ho!, both an expression of surprise and a call to attention.
Line
Original
Translation
[1]
Hwæt! wē Gār-Dena in ġeār-dagum,
What! We of Gare-Danes (lit. Spear-Danes) in yore-days,
[2]
þēod-cyninga, þrym ġefrūnon,
of thede(nation/people)-kings, did thrum (glory) frayne (learn about by asking),
[3]
hū ðā æþelingas ellen fremedon.
how those athelings (noblemen) did ellen (fortitude/courage/zeal) freme (promote).
[4]
Oft Scyld Scēfing sceaþena þrēatum,
Oft did Scyld Scefing of scather threats (troops),
[5]
monegum mǣġþum, meodosetla oftēah,
of many maegths (clans; cf. Irish cognate Mac-), of mead-settlements atee (deprive),
[6]
egsode eorlas. Syððan ǣrest wearð
[and] ugg (induce loathing in, terrify; related to "ugly") earls. Sith (since, as of when) erst (first) [he] worthed (became)
[7]
fēasceaft funden, hē þæs frōfre ġebād,
[in] fewship (destitute) found, he of this frover (comfort) aboded,
[8]
wēox under wolcnum, weorðmyndum þāh,
[and] waxed under welkin (firmament/clouds), [and amid] worthmint (honour/worship) threed (thrived/prospered)
[9]
oðþæt him ǣġhwylc þāra ymbsittendra
oth that (until that) him each of those umsitters (those "sitting" or dwelling roundabout)
[10]
ofer hronrāde hȳran scolde,
over whale-road (kenning for "sea") hear should,
[11]
gomban gyldan. Þæt wæs gōd cyning!
[and] yeme (heed/obedience; related to "gormless") yield. That was [a] good king!
A semi-fluent translation in Modern English would be:
Lo! We have heard of majesty of the Spear-Danes, of those nation-kings in the days of yore, and how those noblemen promoted zeal. Scyld Scefing took away mead-benches from bands of enemies, from many tribes; he terrified earls. Since he was first found destitute (he gained consolation for that) he grew under the heavens, prospered in honours, until each of those who lived around him over the sea had to obey him, give him tribute. That was a good king!

 The Lord's Prayer

This text of the Lord's Prayer is presented in the standardised West Saxon literary dialect.

Original
Translation

Fæder ūre þū þe eart on heofonum,
Father of ours, thou who art in heaven,

Sī þīn nama ġehālgod.
Be thy name hallowed.

Tōbecume þīn rīċe,
Come thy riche (kingdom),

ġewurþe ðīn willa, on eorðan swā swā on heofonum.
Worth (manifest) thy will, on earth as also in heaven.

Ūrne ġedæġhwāmlīcan hlāf syle ūs tō dæġ,
Our daily loaf do sell (give) to us today, 

and forgyf ūs ūre gyltas, swā swā wē forgyfað ūrum gyltendum.
And forgive us of our guilts as also we forgive our guilty

And ne ġelǣd þū ūs on costnunge, ac ālȳs ūs of yfele.
And do not lead thou us into temptation, but alese (release/deliver) us of (from) evil.

Sōþlīċe.
Soothly. (sooth, [true] is cognate to north-gmc, sw sann, icel. msn, sannur, fsn  sönn, nsn satt. from proto-gmc *sanþuz, the [also occured in scandinavian, but only before s,e.g. sw oss, da & no os] was lost 7 with compensatory vowel-lengthening, in OE due to a process call the "ingvaeonic spirant-law", cp. non-ingvaeonic dialects
high-german [HG] & gothic uns,dutch ons [us]
 OE ús, frisian, ús. By the way, the pronoun uns/us/os is cognate to latin, spanish, etc. nos from proto-IE *ns
Examples of loss of nasal-sounds, n, m before spirants [a.k.a. fricatives], s, f, z, þ [hissing-type sound], HG sanft/soft, HG Gans/goose, [sw gås],
the 3rs person plur indic-mood verb-ending -and/anþ, cp. gothic -and, in proto-northwest germanic is was *-anþ, as in *manniz etanþ (menn eat), in OE the ending became -aþ,-ath,-að, híe béoþ [they are], wé hafaþ, [we have], gé séoð, [ye see], híe gath, [they go]. This 3rd pers-plur ending in all ingaveonic[anglo-frisian] dialects became the plural-ending for all person, we, ye, they. K.S. Doig)

 Charter of Cnut

This is a proclamation from King Cnut the Great to his earl Thorkell the Tall and the English people written in AD 1020. Unlike the previous two examples, this text is prose rather than poetry. For ease of reading, the passage has been divided into sentences while the pilcrows represent the original division.
Original
Translation
¶ Cnut cyning gret his arcebiscopas and his leod-biscopas and Þurcyl eorl and ealle his eorlas and ealne his þeodscype, twelfhynde and twyhynde, gehadode and læwede, on Englalande freondlice.
¶ Cnut, king, greets his archbishops and his lede'(people's)'-bishops and Thorkell, earl, and all his earls and all his peopleship, greater (having a 1200 shilling weregild) and lesser (200 shilling weregild), hooded(ordained to priesthood) and lewd(lay), in England friendly.
And ic cyðe eow, þæt ic wylle beon hold hlaford and unswicende to godes gerihtum and to rihtre woroldlage.
And I kithe(make known/couth to) you, that I will be [a] hold(civilised) lord and unswiking(uncheating) to God's rights(laws) and to [the] rights(laws) worldly.
¶ Ic nam me to gemynde þa gewritu and þa word, þe se arcebiscop Lyfing me fram þam papan brohte of Rome, þæt ic scolde æghwær godes lof upp aræran and unriht alecgan and full frið wyrcean be ðære mihte, þe me god syllan wolde.
¶ I nam(took) me to mind the writs and the words that the Archbishop Lyfing me from the Pope brought of Rome, that I should ayewhere(everywhere) God's love(praise) uprear(promote), and unright(outlaw) lies, and full frith(peace) work(bring about) by the might that me God would(wished) [to] sell'(give).
¶ Nu ne wandode ic na minum sceattum, þa hwile þe eow unfrið on handa stod: nu ic mid godes fultume þæt totwæmde mid minum scattum.
¶ Now, ne went(withdrew/changed) I not my shot(financial contribution, cf. Norse cognate in scot-free) the while that you stood(endured) unfrith(turmoil) on-hand: now I, mid(with) God's support, that [unfrith] totwemed(separated/dispelled) mid(with) my shot(financial contribution).
Þa cydde man me, þæt us mara hearm to fundode, þonne us wel licode: and þa for ic me sylf mid þam mannum þe me mid foron into Denmearcon, þe eow mæst hearm of com: and þæt hæbbe mid godes fultume forene forfangen, þæt eow næfre heonon forð þanon nan unfrið to ne cymð, þa hwile þe ge me rihtlice healdað and min lif byð.
Tho(then) [a] man kithed(made known/couth to) me that us more harm had found(come upon) than us well liked(equalled): and tho(then) fore(travelled) I, meself, mid(with) those men that mid(with) me fore(travelled), into Denmark that [to] you most harm came of(from): and that[harm] have [I], mid(with) God's support, afore(previously) forefangen(forestalled) that to you never henceforth thence none
Old English morphology
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The morphology of Old English is quite different from that of Modern English, predominantly by being much more highly inflected. As an old Germanic language, Old English's morphological system is similar to that of the hypothetical Proto-Germanic reconstruction, retaining many of the inflections theorized to have been common in Proto-Indo-European and also including characteristically Germanic constructions such as umlaut.
Among living languages, Old English morphology most closely resembles that of modern Icelandic, which is among the most conservative of the Germanic languages; to a lesser extent, the Old English inflectional system is similar to that of modern High German.

 

Verbs

Verbs in Old English are divided into strong or weak verbs. Strong verbs indicate tense by a change in the quality of a vowel, while weak verbs indicate tense by the addition of an ending.


 Strong verbs (nowadays, incorrectly called irregular KSD)
Strong verbs use the Germanic form of conjugation known as ablaut. In this form of conjugation, the stem of the word changes to indicate the tense. Verbs like this persist in modern English, for example sing, sang, sung is a strong verb, as are swim, swam, swum and choose, chose, chosen. The root portion of the word changes rather than its ending. In Old English, there were seven major classes of strong verb; each class has its own pattern of stem changes. Learning these is often a challenge for students of the language, though English speakers may see connections between the old verb classes and their modern forms.
Thunaer, Thunor, Thunær, Þunor
The classes had the following distinguishing features to their infinitive stems:
  1. ī + 1 consonant.
  2. ēo or ū + 1 consonant.
  3. Originally e + 2 consonants (This was no longer the case by the time of written Old English).
  4. e + 1 consonant (usually l or r, plus the verb brecan 'to break').
  5. e + 1 consonant (usually a stop or a fricative).
  6. a + 1 consonant.
  7. No specific rule — first and second have identical stems (ē or ēo), and the infinitive and the past participle also have the same stem.
Stem Changes in Strong Verbs
Class
Infinitive
First Preterite
Second Preterite
Past Participle
I
ī
ā
i
i
II
ēo or ū
ēa
u
o
III
see table below
IV
e
æ
ǣ
o
V
e
æ
ǣ
e
VI
a
ō
ō
a
VII
ē or ēo
ē or ēo
The first preterite stem is used in the preterite, for the first and third persons singular. The second preterite stem is used for second person singular, and all persons in the plural (as well as the preterite subjunctive). Strong verbs also exhibit i-mutation of the stem in the second and third persons singular in the present tense.
The third class went through so many sound changes that it was barely recognisable as a single class. The first was a process called 'breaking'. Before <h>, and <r> + another consonant, <æ> turned into <ea>, and <e> to <eo>. Also, before <l> + another consonant, the same happened to <æ>, but <e> remained unchanged (except before combination <lh>).
The second sound-change to affect it was the influence of palatal sounds <g>, <c>, and <sc>. These turned anteceding <e> and <æ> to <ie> and <ea>, respectively.
The third sound change turned <e> to <i>, <æ> to <a>, and <o> to <u> before nasals.
Altogether, this split the third class into five sub-classes:
  1. e + two consonants (apart from clusters beginning with l).
  2. eo + r or h + another consonant.
  3. e + l + another consonant.
  4. g, c, or sc + ie + two consonants.
  5. i + nasal + another consonant.
Stem Changes in Class III
Sub-class
Infinitive
First Preterite
Second Preterite
Past Participle
a
e
æ
u
o
b
eo
ea
u
o
c
e
ea
u
o
d
ie
ea
u
o
e
i
a
u
u
Regular strong verbs were all conjugated roughly the same, with the main differences being in the stem vowel. Thus stelan 'to steal' represents the strong verb conjugation paradigm.
Conjugation
Pronoun
'steal'
Infinitives
stelan
tō stelanne
Present Indicative
ic
stele
þū
stilst
hē/hit/hēo
stilð
wē/gē/hīe
stelaþ
Past Indicative
ic
stæl
þū
stæle
hē/hit/hēo
stæl
wē/gē/hīe
stælon
Present Subjunctive
ic/þū/hē/hit/hēo
stele
wē/gē/hīe
stelen
Past Subjunctive
ic/þū/hē/hit/hēo
stǣle
wē/gē/hīe
stǣlen
Imperative
Singular
stel
Plural
stelaþ
Present Participle
stelende
Past Participle
(ge-)stolen

 Weak verbs (incorrectly called "regular" verbs in modern-english KSD)

Weak verbs are formed by adding alveolar (t or d) endings to the stem for the past and past-participle tenses. Some examples are love, loved or look, looked.
Originally, the weak ending was used to form the preterite of informal, noun-derived verbs such as often emerge in conversation and which have no established system of stem-change. By nature, these verbs were almost always transitive, and even today, most weak verbs are transitive verbs formed in the same way. However, as English came into contact with non-Germanic languages, it invariably borrowed useful verbs which lacked established stem-change patterns. Rather than invent and standardize new classes or learn foreign conjugations, English speakers simply applied the weak ending to the foreign bases.
The linguistic trends of borrowing foreign verbs and verbalizing nouns have greatly increased the number of weak verbs over the last 1,200 years. Some verbs that were originally strong (for example help, holp, holpen) have become weak by analogy; most foreign verbs are adopted as weak verbs; and when verbs are made from nouns (for example "to scroll" or "to water") the resulting verb is weak. Additionally, conjugation of weak verbs is easier to teach, since there are fewer classes of variation. In combination, these factors have drastically increased the number of weak verbs, so that in modern English weak verbs are the most numerous and productive form (although occasionally a weak verb may turn into a strong verb through the process of analogy, such as sneak (originally only a noun), where snuck is an analogical formation rather than a survival from Old English).
There are three major classes of weak verbs in Old English. The first class displays i-mutation in the root, and the second class none. There is also a third class explained below.
Class-one verbs with short roots exhibit gemination of the final stem consonant in certain forms. With verbs in <r> this appears as <ri> or <rg>, where <i> and <g> are pronounced [j]. Geminated <f> appears as <bb>, and that of <g> appears as <cg>. Class one verbs may receive an epenthetic vowel before endings beginning in a consonant.
Where class-one verbs have gemination, class-two verbs have <i> or <ig>, which is a separate syllable pronounced [i]. All class-two verbs have an epenthetic vowel, which appears as <a> or <o>.
In the following table, three verbs are conjugated. Swebban 'to put to sleep' is a class one verb exhibiting gemination and an epenthetic vowel. Hǣlan 'to heal' is a class-one verb exhibiting neither gemination nor an epenthetic vowel. Sīðian 'to journey' is a class-two verb.
Conjugation
Pronoun
'put to sleep'
'heal'
'journey'
Infinitives
swebban
hǣlan
sīðian
tō swebbanne
tō hǣlanne
tō sīðianne
Present Indicative
ic
swebbe
hǣle
sīðie
þū
swefest
hǣlst
sīðast
hē/hit/hēo
swefeþ
hǣlþ
sīðað
wē/gē/hīe
swebbaþ
hǣlaþ
sīðiað
Past Indicative
ic
swefede
hǣlde
sīðode
þū
swefedest
hǣldest
sīðodest
hē/hit/hēo
swefede
hǣle
sīðode
wē/gē/hīe
swefedon
hǣlon
sīðodon
Present Subjunctive
ic/þū/hē/hit/hēo
swebbe
hǣle
sīðie
wē/gē/hīe
swebben
hǣlen
sīðien
Past Subjunctive
ic/þū/hē/hit/hēo
swefede
hǣlde
sīðode
wē/gē/hīe
swefeden
hǣlden
sīðoden
Imperative
Singular
swefe
hǣl
sīða
Plural
swebbaþ
hǣlaþ
sīðiað
Present Participle
swefende
hǣlende
sīðiende
Past Participle
swefed
hǣled
(ge-)sīðod
During the Old English period the third class was significantly reduced; only four verbs belonged to this group: habban 'have', libban 'live', secgan 'say', and hycgan 'think'. Each of these verbs is distinctly irregular, though they share some commonalities.
Conjugation
Pronoun
'have'
'live'
'say'
'think'
Infinitive
habban
libban, lifgan
secgan
hycgan
Present Indicative
ic
hæbbe
libbe, lifge
secge
hycge
þū
hæfst, hafast
lifast, leofast
segst, sagast
hygst, hogast
hē/hit/hēo
hæfð, hafað
lifað, leofað
segð, sagað
hyg(e)d, hogað
wē/gē/hīe
habbaþ
libbað
secgaþ
hycgað
Past Indicative
(all persons)
hæfde
lifde, leofode
sægde
hog(o)de, hygde
Present Subjunctive
(all persons)
hæbbe
libbe, lifge
secge
hycge
Past Subjunctive
(all persons)
hæfde
lifde, leofode
sægde
hog(o)de, hygde
Imperative
Singular
hafa
leofa
sæge, saga
hyge, hoga
Plural
habbaþ
libbaþ, lifgaþ
secgaþ
hycgaþ
Present Participle
hæbbende
libbende, lifgende
secgende
hycgende
Past Participle
gehæfd
gelifd
gesægd
gehogod

 Preterite-present verbs

The preterite-present verbs are a class of verbs which have a present tense in the form of a strong preterite and a past tense like the past of a weak verb. These verbs derive from the subjunctive or optative use of preterite forms to refer to present or future time. For example, witan, "to know" comes from a verb which originally meant "to have seen" (cf. OE wise "manner, mode, appearance"; Latin videre "to see" from the same root). The present singular is formed from the original singular preterite stem and the present plural from the original plural preterite stem. As a result of this history, the first-person singular and third-person singular are the same in the present.
Few preterite present appear in the Old English corpus, and some are not attested in all forms.
Note that the Old English meanings of many of the verbs are significantly different than that of the modern descendants; in fact, the verbs "can, may, must" appear to have chain shifted in meaning.
Conjugation
Pronoun
'know, know how to'
'be able to, can'
'be obliged to, must'
'know'
'own'
'avail'
'dare'
'remember'
'need'
'be allowed to, may'
Modern Descendant
'can'
'may'
'shall'
'wit (obsolescent)'
'owe'
'dow (archaic)'
'dare'
--
--
'mote (archaic), must'
Infinitives
cunnan
magan
sculan
witan
āgan
dugan
durran
munan
mōtan
Present Indicative
ic
cann
mæg
sceal
wāt
āh
deah
dearr
man
þearf
mōt
þū
canst
meaht
scealt
wāst
āhst
dearst
manst
þearft
mōst
hē/hit/hēo
cann
mæg
sceal
wāt
āh
deah
dearr
man
þearf
mōt
wē/gē/hīe
cunnon
magon
sculon
witon
āgon
dugon
durron
munon
þurfon
mōton
Past Indicative
ic
cūðe
meahte
sceolde
wisse, wiste
āhte
dohte
dorst
munde
þorfte
mōste
þū
cūðest
meahtest
sceoldest
wissest, wistest
āhte
dohte
dorst
munde
þorfte
mōste
hē/hit/hēo
cūðe
meahte
sceolde
wisse, wiste
āhte
dohte
dorst
munde
þorfte
mōste
wē/gē/hīe
cūðon
meahton
sceoldon
wisson, wiston
Present Subjunctive
ic/þū/hē/hit/hēo
cunne
mæge
scule
wite
āge
dyge, duge
durre
myne, mune
þyrfe, þurfe
mōte
wē/gē/hīe
cunnen
mægen
sculen
witaþ
Past Subjunctive
ic/þū/hē/hit/hēo
cūðe
meahte
sceolde
wisse, wiste
wē/gē/hīe
cūðen
meahten
sceolden

 Anomalous verbs (irregular)

Additionally there is a further group of four verbs which are anomalous, the verbs "want" (modern "will"), "do", "go" and "be". These four have their own conjugation schemes which differ significantly from all the other classes of verb. This is not especially unusual: "want", "do", "go", and "be" are the most commonly used verbs in the language, and are very important to the meaning of the sentences in which they are used. Idiosyncratic patterns of inflection are much more common with important items of vocabulary than with rarely-used ones.
Dōn 'to do' and gān 'to go' are conjugated alike; willan 'to want' is similar outside of the present tense.
Conjugation
Pronoun
'do'
'go'
'will'
Infinitive
dōn
gān
willan
Present Indicative
ic
wille
þū
dēst
gǣst
wilt
hē/hit/hēo
dēð
gǣð
wile
wē/gē/hīe
dōð
gāð
willað
Past Indicative
ic/hē/hit/hēo
dyde
ēode
wolde
þū
dydest
ēodest
woldest
wē/gē/hīe
dydon
ēodon
woldon
Present Subjunctive
(all persons)
wille
Past Subjunctive
(all persons)
dyde
ēode
wolde
Present Participle
dōnde
willende
Past Participle
gedōn
gegān
The verb 'to be' is actually composed of three different stems:(that's called a suppletive verb.K.S. Doig)
Conjugation
Pronoun
sindon
bēon
wesan
Infinitive
sindon
bēon
wesan
Present Indicative
ic
eom
bēo
wese
þū
eart
bist
wesst
hē/hit/hēo
is
bið
wes(t)
wē/gē/hīe
sind(on)
bēoð
wesað
Past Indicative
ic
wæs
þū
wǣre
hē/hit/hēo
wæs
wē/gē/hīe
wǣron
Present Subjunctive
ic/þū/hē/hit/hēo
sīe
bēo
wese
wē/gē/hīe
sīen
bēon
wesen
Past Subjunctive
ic/þū/hē/hit/hēo
wǣre
wē/gē/hīe
wǣren
Imperative
(singular)
bēo
wes
(plural)
bēoð
wesað
Present Participle
bēonde
wesende
Past Participle
gebēon
The present forms of wesan are almost never used. Therefore, wesan is used as the past, imperative, and present participle versions of sindon, and does not have a separate meaning. The bēon forms are usually used in reference to future actions. Only the present forms of bēon contrast with the present forms of sindon/wesan in that bēon tends to be used to refer to eternal or permanent truths, while sindon/wesan is used more commonly to refer to temporary or subjective facts. This semantic distinction was lost as Old English developed into modern English, so that the modern verb 'to be' is a single verb which takes its present indicative forms from sindon, its past indicative forms from wesan, its present subjunctive forms from bēon, its past subjunctive forms from wesan, and its imperative and participle forms from bēon.

 Nouns

Old English nouns were declined – that is, the ending of the noun changed to reflect its function in the sentence. There were five major cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, and instrumental.
  • The nominative case indicated the subject of the sentence, for example se cyning means 'the king'. It was also used for direct address. Adjectives in the predicate (qualifying a noun on the other side of 'to be') were also in the nominative.
  • The accusative indicated the direct object of the sentence, for example Æþelbald lufode þone cyning means "Æþelbald loved the king", where Æþelbald is the subject and the king is the object. Already the accusative had begun to merge with the nominative; it was never distinguished in the plural, or in a neuter noun.
  • The genitive case indicated possession, for example the þæs cyninges scip is "the ship of the king" or "the king's ship". It also indicated partitive nouns.
  • The dative case indicated the indirect object of the sentence, for example hringas þæm cyninge means "rings for the king" or "rings to the king". There were also several verbs which took direct objects in the dative.
  • The instrumental case indicated an instrument used to achieve something, for example lifde sweorde, "he lived by the sword", where sweorde is the instrumental form of sweord. During the Old English period, the instrumental was falling out of use, having largely merged with the dative. Only pronouns and strong adjectives retained separate forms for the instrumental.
There were different endings depending on whether the noun was in the singular (for example, hring 'one ring') or plural (for example, hringas 'many rings').
Nouns are also categorised by grammatical gender – masculine, feminine, or neuter. Masculine and neuter words generally share their endings. Feminine words have their own subset of endings. The plural does not distinguish between genders.
Furthermore, Old English nouns are divided as either strong or weak. Weak nouns have their own endings. In general, weak nouns are easier than strong nouns, since they had begun to lose their declensional system. However, there is a great deal of overlap between the various classes of noun: they are not totally distinct from one another.

 Pronouns

Most pronouns are declined by number, case and gender; in the plural form most pronouns have only one form for all genders. Additionally, Old English pronouns reserve the dual form (which is specifically for talking about groups of two things, for example "we two" or "you two" or "they two"). These were uncommon even then, but remained in use throughout the period.
First Person
Case
Singular
Plural
Dual
Nominative
ic, īc
wit
Accusative
mec, mē
ūsic, ūs
uncit, unc
Genitive
mīn
ūre
uncer
Dative
ūs
unc
Second Person
Case
Singular
Plural
Dual
Nominative
þū
git
Accusative
þēc, þē
ēowic, ēow
incit, inc
Genitive
þīn
ēower
incer
Dative
þē
ēow
inc
Third Person
Case
Singular
Plural
Masc.
Neut.
Fem.
Nominative
hit
hēo
hiē m., hēo f.
Accusative
hine
hit
hīe
hiē m., hīo f.
Genitive
his
his
hire
hiera m., heora f.
Dative
him
him
hire
him
Many of the forms above bear strong resemblances to their contemporary English language equivalents: for instance in the genitive case ēower became "your", ūre became "our", mīn became "mine".

Old English prepositions

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This is a list of prepositions in the Old English language. Many of them, particularly those marked "etc.", are found in other variant spellings. Prepositions may govern the accusative, genitive, dative or instrumental cases - the question of which is beyond the scope of this short article.
Prepositions
Old English
Definition
Notes
æfter
after; along, through, during; according to, by means of; about.
Ancestor of modern after
ǣr
before
Related to modern German eher and Dutch eer, ancestor of modern ere
æt
at, to, before, next, with, in, for, against; unto, as far as.
Ancestor of modern at
and
against, before, on.
andlang
along
Ancestor of modern along
bæftan
after, behind; without.
be, bī
by, near to, to, at, in, on, upon, about, with; of, from, about, touching, concerning; for, because of, after, by, through, according to; beside, out of.
Related to modern German bei, ancestor of modern by
befōran
before.
Ancestor of modern before
begeondan
beyond.
Ancestor of modern beyond
behindan
behind.
Ancestor of modern behind
beinnan
in, within.
beneoðan
beneath.
Ancestor of modern beneath
betweonum, betweox, etc.
betwixt, between, among, amid, in the midst.
Ancestors of modern between and betwixt respectively
bīrihte
near.
būfan
above.
Ancestor of modern above through compound form onbúfan
būtan
out of, against; without, except.
eāc
with, in addition to, besides.
Related to modern German auch
for
for, on account of, because of, with, by; according to; instead of.
Ancestor of modern for
fōr, fōre
before.
fram
from; concerning, about, of.
Ancestor of modern from
gemang
among
Ancestor of modern among
geond
through, throughout, over, as far as, among, in, after, beyond.
Ancestor of modern yonder through comparative form geondra
in
in, on; into, to.
Ancestor of modern in
innan
in, into, within, from within.
intō
into
Ancestor of modern into
mid
with, against
Ancestor of modern amid through related form onmiddan
neāh
near
Ancestor of modern nigh
nefne
except
of
of, from, out of, off.
Ancestor of modern of and off
ofer
above, over; upon, on; throughout; beyond, more than
Ancestor of modern over
on
on; in, at;
Ancestor of modern on
onbūtan
about
Ancestor of modern about
ongeagn, etc.
opposite, against; towards; in reply to.
Ancestor of modern again
onuppan
upon, on.
to, unto, up to, as far as.
samod
with, at.
to, at.
Ancestor of modern to
tōeācan
in addition to, besides.
tōforan
before.
tōgeagnes
towards, against.
tōmiddes
in the midst of, amidst.
tōweard
toward.
Ancestor of modern toward
þurh
through
Related to modern German durch, ancestor of modern through
ufenan
above, besides.
under
under.
Ancestor of modern under
underneoþan
underneath.
Ancestor of modern underneath
uppan
upon, on.
Not the ancestor of modern upon, which came from "up on".
ūtan
without, outside of
Related to modern German außen, außer and Swedish utan
wið
towards, to; with, against; opposite to; by, near.
Ancestor of modern with
wiðæftan
behind.
wiðer
against.
Related to modern German wider
wiðinnan
within.
Ancestor of modern within
wiðforan
before.
wiðoutan
without, outside of.
Ancestor of modern without
ymb
about, by.
Related to Latin ambi
ymbūtan
about, around; concerning


Old-English Dialects

Kentish dialect (Old English)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kentish was a southern dialect of Old English spoken in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Kent. It was one of four dialect-groups of Old English, the other three being Mercian, Northumbrian (known collectively as the Anglian dialects), and West Saxon.
The dialect was spoken in what is now the modern-day county of Kent, southern Hampshire and the Isle of Wight by the Jutes.


Mercian

Mercian was a language spoken in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia (roughly speaking the Midlands of England an area in which four kingdoms had been united under one monarchy). Together with Northumbrian, it was one of the two Anglian dialects. The other two dialects of Old English were Kentish and West Saxon. Each of those dialects was associated with an independent kingdom on the island. Of these, all of Northumbria and most of Mercia were overrun by the Vikings during the 9th century. Part of Mercia and all of Kent were successfully defended but were then integrated into Wessex. Because of the centralisation of power and the Viking invasions, there is little or no written evidence for the development of non-Wessex dialects after Alfred's unification.

History

The Mercian dialect was spoken as far east as to border East Anglia and as far west as Offa's Dyke, bordering Wales. It was spoken as far north as Staffordshire, bordering Northumbria and Strathclyde; and as far south as South Oxfordshire/ Gloucestershire, where it bordered Wessex. Old Norse language also filtered in on a few occasions after the foundation of the Danelaw. This describes the situation before the unification of Mercia.

The Old English Martyrology is a collection of over 230 hagiographies, probably compiled in Mercia, or by someone who wrote in the Mercian dialect of Old English, in the second half of the 9th century.

In later Anglo-Saxon England the dialect would have remained in use in speech but hardly ever in written documents. Some time after the Norman Conquest Middle English dialects emerge and are later found in such works as the Ormulum and the writings of the Gawain poet.

 Alphabet

The letters bdglmnpqstvw, and z behave like Modern English.

  • c is always pronounced hard, like cat, never soft like cell.
  • ċ is pronounced like ch in cheese.
  • h at the beginning of a word, hard as is hat. Before t and at the end of a syllable, pronounced like ch in loch or the German ich, e.g. niht (translates as night)
  • ġġ and cg are pronounced as dge as in wedge.
  •  before ao, and u, it has a guttural sound, like the French r, before ie, and y it sounds like the Modern English y.
  • r always rolled in Scottish style (rrr)
  •  and sc both give the 'sh' as in shoe,
  • f pronounced v as in very (as in found in Modern Welsh).
  • æ the a as in man
  • ā as in aah
  • a shortened as in barn
  • ē like the ay in bay
  • e like the e in bed
  • ī like the ee in creek
  • i as in bin
  • ō as in the o in the Scottish och
  • o as in cot
  • ū like oo in moo
  • u like the ou in Doug
  • ȳ like the u in the French tu
  • y shortened version of the above.

Mercian also uses the eth (Рand ð) and thorn (Þ and þ) both give the English 'th' sound as in 'thin'

 Grammar

Mercian grammar has the same structure as other West Germanic dialects so is very dense and often complex.

 Nouns

Nouns have three genders: masculine, feminine, neuter; and four cases: nominative, accusative, dative and genitive. These, in addition, all have singular and plural forms. They can also be strong or weak.

 Examples

  • Strong masculine noun stān (stone)
    • nominative (singular, plural): stān, stānes
    • accusative: stān, stānes
    • dative: stāne, stānen
    • genitive: stānes, stāne
  • Weak masculine noun name (name)
    • nominative: name, namen
    • accusative: namen/name, namen
    • dative: namen/name, namen
    • genitive: namen/name. namene/namen

 Pronouns

Personal pronouns (I/me, you,he,she, we, you (pl.) and they) come in all the above cases and come in three numbers: singular, dual ('you/we two'), plural.
Demonstrative pronouns vary in the same way described below for the indefinite article, based on 'ðes' only for thisThat and Those are the same as the definite article.
Relative pronouns (who, which, that) are usually 'ðe' and 'ðet.'

 Articles

The definite article is equally complex, with all genders changing in the singular in all cases, based on variations of 'ðe.' In the plural all genders take the same word. The indefinite article was often omitted in Mercian.

Adjectives

Adjectives are always declined, even with some verbs (which means they can double up as adverbs), e.g. I am cold. Having split into weak and strong declensions (depending on the strength of the noun), these split again into all four cases, both singular and plural.
Comparative adjectives (e.g. bigger) always add 're.' Example: Æðelen (noble), æðelenre (nobler).

 Verbs

Verbs can be conjugated from the infinitive into the present tense, the past singular, the past plural and the past participle. There exist strong and weak verbs in Mercian that too conjugate in their own ways. The future tense requires an auxiliary verb, like will (Mercian wyllen). There are three moods: indicative, subjunctive and imperative. Like most inflected languages, Mercian has a few irregular verbs (such as 'to be' bēon and 'have' habben). For basic understanding the four principal parts must be known for each strong verb: weak verbs are easier and more numerous, they all form the past participle with -ed.

 Vocabulary

Mercian vocabulary is largely derived from Proto-Germanic, with Latin loanwords coming via the use of Latin as the language of the Catholic Church, and Norse loanwords that arrived as part of the Norse incursions and foundation of the Danelaw which covered much of the midlands and north of England.

 

Northumbrian dialect


Northumbrian was a dialect of the Old English language spoken in the Anglian Kingdom of Northumbria. Together with Mercian, Kentish and West Saxon, it forms one of the sub-categories of Old English devised and employed by modern scholars.
The dialect was spoken from the Humber, now within England, to the Firth of Forth, now within Scotland. During the Viking invasions of the 9th century, Northumbrian came under the influence of the languages of the Viking invaders.
The earliest surviving Old English texts were written in Northumbrian: these are Caedmon's Hymn and Bede's Death Song. Other works including the bulk of Caedmon's poetry have been lost. Other examples of this dialect are the Runes on the Ruthwell Cross from the Dream of the Rood. Also in Northumbrian are the Leiden Riddle and the glosses in the Lindisfarne Gospels (mid 10th century).
The Viking invasion forced the dialect to split in two. The southern Northumbrian dialect was heavily influenced by Norse. The northern Northumbrian dialect not only retained a lot of the Old English words (replaced in the south by Norse words) but was also a strong influence on the development of the English language in northern England, especially the dialects of modern North east England and Scotland. The north-south split was around the Tees river.

 The Lord's Prayer

Examples of the first English literature include Christ's Prayer in Old English from c. 650, which begins "Faeder ure, Thu the eart on heofonum,". Some Scottish and Northumbrian folk still say /uːr ˈfeðər/ or /uːr ˈfɪðər/"our father" and [ðuː eːrt] "thou art".
FADER USÆR ðu arðin heofnu
Sie gehalgad NOMA ÐIN.
Tocymeð RÍC ÐIN.
Sie WILLO ÐIN
suæ is in heofne and in eorðo.
HLAF USERNE of'wistlic sel ús todæg,
and f'gef us SCYLDA USRA,
suæ uoe f'gefon SCYLDGUM USUM.
And ne inlæd usih in costunge,
ah is in heofne and in eorðo


West Saxon

West Saxon, primarily spoken in Wessex, was one of four distinct dialects of Old English. The three others were Kentish, Mercian and Northumbrian (the latter two known as the Anglian dialects).
There were two stages of the West Saxon dialect: Early West Saxon and Late West Saxon.
Early West Saxon was the language of King Alfred (849–899). By the eleventh century, the language had evolved into Late West Saxon.
Late West Saxon was the dialect that became the first "standardised" written English ("Winchester standard"). This dialect was spoken mostly in the south and west of England around the important monastery at Winchester, which was also the 'capital city' of the English kings. However, while other Old English dialects were still spoken in other parts of the country, it seems that all scribes wrote and copied manuscripts in this prestigious written form. Well-known poems recorded in this language include Beowulf and Judith. However, both these poems appear to have been written originally in other Old English dialects, but they were later "translated" into the standard Late West Saxon literary language when they were copied by scribes.
The "Winchester standard" gradually fell out of use after the Norman Conquest in 1066. Monasteries did not keep the standard going because English bishops were soon replaced by Norman bishops who brought their own Latin textbooks and scribal conventions, and there was less need to copy or write in Old English. Latin soon became the "language for all serious writing", with Anglo-Norman as the language of the aristocracy, and any standard written English became a distant memory by the mid-twelfth century as the last scribes trained as boys before the conquest in West Saxon, died as old men.
Late West Saxon is the distant ancestor of the West Country dialects.

Good folks who follow this blog