Old English

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This article is about the early medieval language of the Anglo-Saxons. Old English_sentence_0

For other uses, see Old English (disambiguation). Old English_sentence_1

Old English_table_infobox_0

Old EnglishOld English_header_cell_0_0_0
PronunciationOld English_header_cell_0_1_0 [ˈeŋɡliʃOld English_cell_0_1_1
RegionOld English_header_cell_0_2_0 England (except the extreme south-west and north-west), southern and eastern Scotland, and the eastern fringes of modern Wales.Old English_cell_0_2_1
EraOld English_header_cell_0_3_0 Mostly developed into Middle English and Early Scots by the 13th centuryOld English_cell_0_3_1
Language familyOld English_header_cell_0_4_0 Indo-EuropeanOld English_cell_0_4_1
DialectsOld English_header_cell_0_5_0 Old English_cell_0_5_1
Writing systemOld English_header_cell_0_6_0 Runic, later Latin (Old English alphabet).Old English_cell_0_6_1
Language codesOld English_header_cell_0_7_0
ISO 639-2Old English_header_cell_0_8_0 Old English_cell_0_8_1
ISO 639-3Old English_header_cell_0_9_0 Old English_cell_0_9_1
ISO 639-6Old English_header_cell_0_10_0 angoOld English_cell_0_10_1
GlottologOld English_header_cell_0_11_0 Old English_cell_0_11_1

Old English (Englisc, pronounced [ˈeŋɡliʃ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language, spoken in England and southern and eastern Scotland in the early Middle Ages. Old English_sentence_2

It was brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers in the mid-5th century, and the first Old English literary works date from the mid-7th century. Old English_sentence_3

After the Norman conquest of 1066, English was replaced, for a time, as the language of the upper classes by Anglo-Norman, a relative of French. Old English_sentence_4

This is regarded as marking the end of the Old English era, as during this period the English language was heavily influenced by Anglo-Norman, developing into a phase known now as Middle English. Old English_sentence_5

Old English developed from a set of Anglo-Frisian or Ingvaeonic dialects originally spoken by Germanic tribes traditionally known as the Angles, Saxons and Jutes. Old English_sentence_6

As the Anglo-Saxons became dominant in England, their language replaced the languages of Roman Britain: Common Brittonic, a Celtic language, and Latin, brought to Britain by Roman invasion. Old English_sentence_7

Old English had four main dialects, associated with particular Anglo-Saxon kingdoms: Mercian, Northumbrian, Kentish and West Saxon. Old English_sentence_8

It was West Saxon that formed the basis for the literary standard of the later Old English period, although the dominant forms of Middle and Modern English would develop mainly from Mercian. Old English_sentence_9

The speech of eastern and northern parts of England was subject to strong Old Norse influence due to Scandinavian rule and settlement beginning in the 9th century. Old English_sentence_10

Old English is one of the West Germanic languages, and its closest relatives are Old Frisian and Old Saxon. Old English_sentence_11

Like other old Germanic languages, it is very different from Modern English and impossible for Modern English speakers to understand without study. Old English_sentence_12

Within Old English grammar nouns, adjectives, pronouns and verbs have many inflectional endings and forms, and word order is much freer. Old English_sentence_13

The oldest Old English inscriptions were written using a runic system, but from about the 8th century this was replaced by a version of the Latin alphabet. Old English_sentence_14

Terminology Old English_section_0

Englisc, from which the word English is derived, means 'pertaining to the Angles'. Old English_sentence_15

In Old English, this word was derived from Angles (one of the Germanic tribes who conquered parts of Great Britain in the 5th century). Old English_sentence_16

During the 9th century, all invading Germanic tribes were referred to as Englisc. Old English_sentence_17

It has been hypothesised that the Angles acquired their name because their land on the coast of Jutland (now mainland Denmark) resembled a fishhook. Old English_sentence_18

Proto-Germanic also had the meaning of 'narrow', referring to the shallow waters near the coast. Old English_sentence_19

That word ultimately goes back to Proto-Indo-European , also meaning 'narrow'. Old English_sentence_20

Another theory is that the derivation of 'narrow' is the more likely connection to angling (as in fishing), which itself stems from a Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root meaning bend, angle. Old English_sentence_21

The semantic link is the fishing hook, which is curved or bent at an angle. Old English_sentence_22

In any case, the Angles may have been called such because they were a fishing people or were originally descended from such, and therefore England would mean 'land of the fishermen', and English would be 'the fishermen's language'. Old English_sentence_23

History Old English_section_1

Further information: History of English Old English_sentence_24

Old English was not static, and its usage covered a period of 700 years, from the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain in the 5th century to the late 11th century, some time after the Norman invasion. Old English_sentence_25

While indicating that the establishment of dates is an arbitrary process, Albert Baugh dates Old English from 450 to 1150, a period of full inflections, a synthetic language. Old English_sentence_26

Perhaps around 85% of Old English words are no longer in use, but those that survived are the basic elements of Modern English vocabulary. Old English_sentence_27

Old English is a West Germanic language, developing out of Ingvaeonic (also known as North Sea Germanic) dialects from the 5th century. Old English_sentence_28

It came to be spoken over most of the territory of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms which became the Kingdom of England. Old English_sentence_29

This included most of present-day England, as well as part of what is now southeastern Scotland, which for several centuries belonged to the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria. Old English_sentence_30

Other parts of the island – Wales and most of Scotland – continued to use Celtic languages, except in the areas of Scandinavian settlements where Old Norse was spoken. Old English_sentence_31

Celtic speech also remained established in certain parts of England: Medieval Cornish was spoken all over Cornwall and in adjacent parts of Devon, while Cumbric survived perhaps to the 12th century in parts of Cumbria, and Welsh may have been spoken on the English side of the Anglo-Welsh border. Old English_sentence_32

Norse was also widely spoken in the parts of England which fell under Danish law. Old English_sentence_33

Anglo-Saxon literacy developed after Christianisation in the late 7th century. Old English_sentence_34

The oldest surviving work of Old English literature is Cædmon's Hymn, which was composed between 658 and 680 but not written down until the early 8th century. Old English_sentence_35

There is a limited corpus of runic inscriptions from the 5th to 7th centuries, but the oldest coherent runic texts (notably the inscriptions on the Franks Casket) date to the early 8th century. Old English_sentence_36

The Old English Latin alphabet was introduced around the 8th century. Old English_sentence_37

With the unification of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms (outside the Danelaw) by Alfred the Great in the later 9th century, the language of government and literature became standardised around the West Saxon dialect (Early West Saxon). Old English_sentence_38

Alfred advocated education in English alongside Latin, and had many works translated into the English language; some of them, such as Pope Gregory I's treatise Pastoral Care, appear to have been translated by Alfred himself. Old English_sentence_39

In Old English, typical of the development of literature, poetry arose before prose, but Alfred chiefly inspired the growth of prose. Old English_sentence_40

A later literary standard, dating from the late 10th century, arose under the influence of Bishop Æthelwold of Winchester, and was followed by such writers as the prolific Ælfric of Eynsham ("the Grammarian"). Old English_sentence_41

This form of the language is known as the "Winchester standard", or more commonly as Late West Saxon. Old English_sentence_42

It is considered to represent the "classical" form of Old English. Old English_sentence_43

It retained its position of prestige until the time of the Norman Conquest, after which English ceased for a time to be of importance as a literary language. Old English_sentence_44

The history of Old English can be subdivided into: Old English_sentence_45

Old English_unordered_list_0

  • 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). This language, or closely related group of dialects, spoken by the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, and pre-dating documented Old English or Anglo-Saxon, has also been called Primitive Old English.Old English_item_0_0
  • Early Old English (c. 650 to 900), the period of the oldest manuscript traditions, with authors such as Cædmon, Bede, Cynewulf and Aldhelm.Old English_item_0_1
  • Late Old English (c. 900 to 1170), the final stage of the language leading up to the Norman conquest of England and the subsequent transition to Early Middle English.Old English_item_0_2

The Old English period is followed by Middle English (12th to 15th century), Early Modern English (c. 1480 to 1650) and finally Modern English (after 1650). Old English_sentence_46

Dialects Old English_section_2

Just as Modern English is not monolithic, Old English varied over space. Old English_sentence_47

Whatever the diversity of language of the Germanic-speaking migrants who established Old English in Britain, however, it is possible to reconstruct proto-Old English as a fairly unitary language: for the most part, the differences between the attested regional dialects of Old English developed within Britain, rather than on the Continent. Old English_sentence_48

Although from the tenth century Old English writing from all regions tended to conform to a written standard based on West Saxon, in speech Old English continued to exhibit much local and regional variation, which remained in Middle English and to some extent Modern English dialects. Old English_sentence_49

The four main dialectal forms of Old English were Mercian, Northumbrian, Kentish, and West Saxon. Old English_sentence_50

Mercian and Northumbrian are together referred to as Anglian. Old English_sentence_51

In terms of geography the Northumbrian region lay north of the Humber River; the Mercian lay north of the Thames and south of the Humber River; West Saxon lay south and southwest of the Thames; and the smallest, Kentish region lay southeast of the Thames, a small corner of England. Old English_sentence_52

The Kentish region, settled by the Jutes from Jutland, has the scantest literary remains. Old English_sentence_53

Each of these four dialects was associated with an independent kingdom on the island. Old English_sentence_54

Of these, Northumbria south of the Tyne, and most of Mercia, were overrun by the Vikings during the 9th century. Old English_sentence_55

The portion of Mercia that was successfully defended, and all of Kent, were then integrated into Wessex under Alfred the Great. Old English_sentence_56

From that time on, the West Saxon dialect (then in the form now known as Early West Saxon) became standardised as the language of government, and as the basis for the many works of literature and religious materials produced or translated from Latin in that period. Old English_sentence_57

The later literary standard known as Late West Saxon (see History, above), although centred in the same region of the country, appears not to have been directly descended from Alfred's Early West Saxon. Old English_sentence_58

For example, the former diphthong /iy/ tended to become monophthongised to /i/ in EWS, but to /y/ in LWS. Old English_sentence_59

Due to the centralisation of power and the Viking invasions, there is relatively little written record of the non-West Saxon dialects after Alfred's unification. Old English_sentence_60

Some Mercian texts continued to be written, however, and the influence of Mercian is apparent in some of the translations produced under Alfred's programme, many of which were produced by Mercian scholars. Old English_sentence_61

Other dialects certainly continued to be spoken, as is evidenced by the continued variation between their successors in Middle and Modern English. Old English_sentence_62

In fact, what would become the standard forms of Middle English and of Modern English are descended from Mercian rather than West Saxon, while Scots developed from the Northumbrian dialect. Old English_sentence_63

It was once claimed that, owing to its position at the heart of the Kingdom of Wessex, the relics of Anglo-Saxon accent, idiom and vocabulary were best preserved in the dialect of Somerset. Old English_sentence_64

For details of the sound differences between the dialects, see Phonological history of Old English § Dialects. Old English_sentence_65

Influence of other languages Old English_section_3

Further information: Celtic influence in English, Latin influence in English, and Scandinavian influence in English Old English_sentence_66

The language of the Anglo-Saxon settlers appears not to have been significantly affected by the native British Celtic languages which it largely displaced. Old English_sentence_67

The number of Celtic loanwords introduced into the language is very small, although dialect and toponymic terms are more often retained in western language contact zones (Cumbria, Devon, Welsh Marches and Borders and so on) than in the east. Old English_sentence_68

However, various suggestions have been made concerning possible influence that Celtic may have had on developments in English syntax in the post-Old English period, such as the regular progressive construction and analytic word order, as well as the eventual development of the periphrastic auxiliary verb "do". Old English_sentence_69

These ideas have generally not received widespread support from linguists, particularly as many of the theorized Brittonicisms do not become widespread until the late Middle English and Early Modern English periods, in addition to the fact that similar forms exist in other modern Germanic languages. Old English_sentence_70

Old English contained a certain number of loanwords from Latin, which was the scholarly and diplomatic lingua franca of Western Europe. Old English_sentence_71

It is sometimes possible to give approximate dates for the borrowing of individual Latin words based on which patterns of sound change they have undergone. Old English_sentence_72

Some Latin words had already been borrowed into the Germanic languages before the ancestral Angles and Saxons left continental Europe for Britain. Old English_sentence_73

More entered the language when the Anglo-Saxons were converted to Christianity and Latin-speaking priests became influential. Old English_sentence_74

It was also through Irish Christian missionaries that the Latin alphabet was introduced and adapted for the writing of Old English, replacing the earlier runic system. Old English_sentence_75

Nonetheless, the largest transfer of Latin-based (mainly Old French) words into English occurred after the Norman Conquest of 1066, and thus in the Middle English rather than the Old English period. Old English_sentence_76

Another source of loanwords was Old Norse, which came into contact with Old English via the Scandinavian rulers and settlers in the Danelaw from the late 9th century, and during the rule of Cnut and other Danish kings in the early 11th century. Old English_sentence_77

Many place-names in eastern and northern England are of Scandinavian origin. Old English_sentence_78

Norse borrowings are relatively rare in Old English literature, being mostly terms relating to government and administration. Old English_sentence_79

The literary standard, however, was based on the West Saxon dialect, away from the main area of Scandinavian influence; the impact of Norse may have been greater in the eastern and northern dialects. Old English_sentence_80

Certainly in Middle English texts, which are more often based on eastern dialects, a strong Norse influence becomes apparent. Old English_sentence_81

Modern English contains a great many, often everyday, words that were borrowed from Old Norse, and the grammatical simplification that occurred after the Old English period is also often attributed to Norse influence. Old English_sentence_82

The influence of Old Norse certainly helped move English from a synthetic language along the continuum to a more analytic word order, and Old Norse most likely made a greater impact on the English language than any other language. Old English_sentence_83

The eagerness of Vikings in the Danelaw to communicate with their Anglo-Saxon neighbours produced a friction that led to the erosion of the complicated inflectional word-endings. Old English_sentence_84

Simeon Potter notes: "No less far-reaching was the influence of Scandinavian upon the inflexional endings of English in hastening that wearing away and leveling of grammatical forms which gradually spread from north to south. Old English_sentence_85

It was, after all, a salutary influence. Old English_sentence_86

The gain was greater than the loss. Old English_sentence_87

There was a gain in directness, in clarity, and in strength." Old English_sentence_88

The strength of the Viking influence on Old English appears from the fact that the indispensable elements of the language – pronouns, modals, comparatives, pronominal adverbs (like "hence" and "together"), conjunctions and prepositions – show the most marked Danish influence; the best evidence of Scandinavian influence appears in the extensive word borrowings for, as Jespersen indicates, no texts exist in either Scandinavia or in Northern England from this time to give certain evidence of an influence on syntax. Old English_sentence_89

The effect of Old Norse on Old English was substantive, pervasive, and of a democratic character. Old English_sentence_90

Old Norse and Old English resembled each other closely like cousins and with some words in common, they roughly understood each other; in time the inflections melted away and the analytic pattern emerged. Old English_sentence_91

It is most "important to recognize that in many words the English and Scandinavian language differed chiefly in their inflectional elements. Old English_sentence_92

The body of the word was so nearly the same in the two languages that only the endings would put obstacles in the way of mutual understanding. Old English_sentence_93

In the mixed population which existed in the Danelaw these endings must have led to much confusion, tending gradually to become obscured and finally lost." Old English_sentence_94

This blending of peoples and languages resulted in "simplifying English grammar". Old English_sentence_95

Phonology Old English_section_4

Main article: Old English phonology Old English_sentence_96

The inventory of Early West Saxon surface phones is as follows. Old English_sentence_97

Old English_table_general_1

ConsonantsOld English_table_caption_1
Old English_header_cell_1_0_0 LabialOld English_header_cell_1_0_1 DentalOld English_header_cell_1_0_2 AlveolarOld English_header_cell_1_0_3 Post- alveolarOld English_header_cell_1_0_4 PalatalOld English_header_cell_1_0_5 VelarOld English_header_cell_1_0_6 GlottalOld English_header_cell_1_0_7
NasalOld English_header_cell_1_1_0 mOld English_cell_1_1_1 Old English_cell_1_1_2 () nOld English_cell_1_1_3 Old English_cell_1_1_4 Old English_cell_1_1_5 (ŋ)Old English_cell_1_1_6 Old English_cell_1_1_7
StopOld English_header_cell_1_2_0 p bOld English_cell_1_2_1 Old English_cell_1_2_2 t dOld English_cell_1_2_3 Old English_cell_1_2_4 Old English_cell_1_2_5 k (ɡ)Old English_cell_1_2_6 Old English_cell_1_2_7
AffricateOld English_header_cell_1_3_0 Old English_cell_1_3_1 Old English_cell_1_3_2 Old English_cell_1_3_3 ()Old English_cell_1_3_4 Old English_cell_1_3_5 Old English_cell_1_3_6 Old English_cell_1_3_7
FricativeOld English_header_cell_1_4_0 f (v)Old English_cell_1_4_1 θ (ð)Old English_cell_1_4_2 s (z)Old English_cell_1_4_3 ʃOld English_cell_1_4_4 (ç)Old English_cell_1_4_5 x ɣOld English_cell_1_4_6 (h)Old English_cell_1_4_7
ApproximantOld English_header_cell_1_5_0 Old English_cell_1_5_1 Old English_cell_1_5_2 () lOld English_cell_1_5_3 Old English_cell_1_5_4 jOld English_cell_1_5_5 () wOld English_cell_1_5_6 Old English_cell_1_5_7
TrillOld English_header_cell_1_6_0 Old English_cell_1_6_1 Old English_cell_1_6_2 () rOld English_cell_1_6_3 Old English_cell_1_6_4 Old English_cell_1_6_5 Old English_cell_1_6_6 Old English_cell_1_6_7

The sounds enclosed in parentheses in the chart above are not considered to be phonemes: Old English_sentence_98

Old English_unordered_list_1

  • [dʒ] is an allophone of /j/ occurring after /n/ and when geminated (doubled).Old English_item_1_3
  • [ŋ] is an allophone of /n/ occurring before [k] and [ɡ].Old English_item_1_4
  • [v, ð, z] are voiced allophones of /f, θ, s/ respectively, occurring between vowels or voiced consonants when the preceding sound was stressed.Old English_item_1_5
  • [h, ç] are allophones of /x/ occurring at the beginning of a word or after a front vowel, respectively.Old English_item_1_6
  • [ɡ] is an allophone of /ɣ/ occurring after /n/ or when doubled. At some point before the Middle English period, [ɡ] also became the pronunciation word-initially.Old English_item_1_7
  • the voiceless sonorants [w̥, l̥, n̥, r̥] occur after [h] in the sequences /xw, xl, xn, xr/.Old English_item_1_8

The above system is largely similar to that of Modern English, except that [ç, x, ɣ, l̥, n̥, r̥] (and [w̥] for most speakers) have generally been lost, while the voiced affricate and fricatives (now also including /ʒ/) have become independent phonemes, as has /ŋ/. Old English_sentence_99

Old English_table_general_2

Vowels – monophthongsOld English_table_caption_2
Old English_header_cell_2_0_0 FrontOld English_header_cell_2_0_1 BackOld English_header_cell_2_0_3
unroundedOld English_header_cell_2_1_0 roundedOld English_header_cell_2_1_1 unroundedOld English_header_cell_2_1_2 roundedOld English_header_cell_2_1_3
CloseOld English_header_cell_2_2_0 i iːOld English_cell_2_2_1 y yːOld English_cell_2_2_2 Old English_cell_2_2_3 u uːOld English_cell_2_2_4
MidOld English_header_cell_2_3_0 e eːOld English_cell_2_3_1 Old English_cell_2_3_2 Old English_cell_2_3_3 o oːOld English_cell_2_3_4
OpenOld English_header_cell_2_4_0 æ æːOld English_cell_2_4_1 Old English_cell_2_4_2 ɑ ɑːOld English_cell_2_4_3 (ɒ)Old English_cell_2_4_4

The open back rounded vowel [ɒ] was an allophone of short /ɑ/ which occurred in stressed syllables before nasal consonants (/m/ and /n/). Old English_sentence_100

It was variously spelled either ⟨a⟩ or ⟨o⟩. Old English_sentence_101

The Anglian dialects also had the mid front rounded vowel /ø(ː)/, spelled ⟨oe⟩, which had emerged from i-umlaut of /o(ː)/. Old English_sentence_102

In West Saxon and Kentish, it had already merged with /e(ː)/ before the first written prose. Old English_sentence_103

Old English_table_general_3

DiphthongsOld English_table_caption_3
First

elementOld English_header_cell_3_0_0

Short

(monomoraic)Old English_header_cell_3_0_1

Long

(bimoraic)Old English_header_cell_3_0_2

CloseOld English_header_cell_3_1_0 iy̯Old English_cell_3_1_1 iːy̯Old English_cell_3_1_2
MidOld English_header_cell_3_2_0 eo̯Old English_cell_3_2_1 eːo̯Old English_cell_3_2_2
OpenOld English_header_cell_3_3_0 æɑ̯Old English_cell_3_3_1 æːɑ̯Old English_cell_3_3_2

Other dialects had different systems of diphthongs. Old English_sentence_104

For example, the Northumbrian dialect retained /i(ː)o̯/, which had merged with /e(ː)o̯/ in West Saxon. Old English_sentence_105

For more on dialectal differences, see Phonological history of Old English (dialects). Old English_sentence_106

Sound changes Old English_section_5

Main article: Phonological history of Old English Old English_sentence_107

Some of the principal sound changes occurring in the pre-history and history of Old English were the following: Old English_sentence_108

Old English_unordered_list_2

  • Fronting of [ɑ(ː)] to [æ(ː)] except when nasalised or followed by a nasal consonant ("Anglo-Frisian brightening"), partly reversed in certain positions by later "a-restoration" or retraction.Old English_item_2_9
  • Monophthongisation of the diphthong [ai], and modification of remaining diphthongs to the height-harmonic type.Old English_item_2_10
  • Diphthongisation of long and short front vowels in certain positions ("breaking").Old English_item_2_11
  • Palatalisation of velars [k], [ɡ], [ɣ], [sk] to [tʃ], [dʒ], [j], [ʃ] in certain front-vowel environments.Old English_item_2_12
  • The process known as i-mutation (which for example led to modern mice as the plural of mouse).Old English_item_2_13
  • Loss of certain weak vowels in word-final and medial positions; reduction of remaining unstressed vowels.Old English_item_2_14
  • Diphthongisation of certain vowels before certain consonants when preceding a back vowel ("back mutation").Old English_item_2_15
  • Loss of /x/ between vowels or between a voiced consonant and a vowel, with lengthening of the preceding vowel.Old English_item_2_16
  • Collapse of two consecutive vowels into a single vowel.Old English_item_2_17
  • "Palatal umlaut", which has given forms such as six (compare German sechs).Old English_item_2_18

For more details of these processes, see the main article, linked above. Old English_sentence_109

For sound changes before and after the Old English period, see Phonological history of English. Old English_sentence_110

Grammar Old English_section_6

Main article: Old English grammar Old English_sentence_111

Morphology Old English_section_7

Nouns decline for five cases: nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, instrumental; three genders: masculine, feminine, neuter; and two numbers: singular, and plural; and are strong or weak. Old English_sentence_112

The instrumental is vestigial and only used with the masculine and neuter singular and often replaced by the dative. Old English_sentence_113

Only pronouns and strong adjectives retain separate instrumental forms. Old English_sentence_114

There is also sparse early Northumbrian evidence of a sixth case: the locative. Old English_sentence_115

The evidence comes from Northumbrian Runic texts (e.g., ᚩᚾ ᚱᚩᛞᛁ on rodi "on the Cross"). Old English_sentence_116

Adjectives agree with nouns in case, gender, and number, and can be either strong or weak. Old English_sentence_117

Pronouns and sometimes participles agree in case, gender, and number. Old English_sentence_118

First-person and second-person personal pronouns occasionally distinguish dual-number forms. Old English_sentence_119

The definite article sē and its inflections serve as a definite article ("the"), a demonstrative adjective ("that"), and demonstrative pronoun. Old English_sentence_120

Other demonstratives are þēs ("this"), and ġeon ("that over there"). Old English_sentence_121

These words inflect for case, gender, and number. Old English_sentence_122

Adjectives have both strong and weak sets of endings, weak ones being used when a definite or possessive determiner is also present. Old English_sentence_123

Verbs conjugate for three persons: first, second, and third; two numbers: singular, plural; two tenses: present, and past; three moods: indicative, subjunctive, and imperative; and are strong (exhibiting ablaut) or weak (exhibiting a dental suffix). Old English_sentence_124

Verbs have two infinitive forms: bare and bound; and two participles: present and past. Old English_sentence_125

The subjunctive has past and present forms. Old English_sentence_126

Finite verbs agree with subjects in person and number. Old English_sentence_127

The future tense, passive voice, and other aspects are formed with compounds. Old English_sentence_128

Adpositions are mostly before but are often after their object. Old English_sentence_129

If the object of an adposition is marked in the dative case, an adposition may conceivably be located anywhere in the sentence. Old English_sentence_130

Remnants of the Old English case system in Modern English are in the forms of a few pronouns (such as I/me/mine, she/her, who/whom/whose) and in the possessive ending -'s, which derives from the masculine and neuter genitive ending -es. Old English_sentence_131

The modern English plural ending -(e)s derives from the Old English -as, but the latter applied only to "strong" masculine nouns in the nominative and accusative cases; different plural endings were used in other instances. Old English_sentence_132

Old English nouns had grammatical gender, while modern English has only natural gender. Old English_sentence_133

Pronoun usage could reflect either natural or grammatical gender when those conflicted, as in the case of ƿīf, a neuter noun referring to a female person. Old English_sentence_134

In Old English's verbal compound constructions are the beginnings of the compound tenses of Modern English. Old English_sentence_135

Old English verbs include strong verbs, which form the past tense by altering the root vowel, and weak verbs, which use a suffix such as -de. Old English_sentence_136

As in Modern English, and peculiar to the Germanic languages, the verbs formed two great classes: weak (regular), and strong (irregular). Old English_sentence_137

Like today, Old English had fewer strong verbs, and many of these have over time decayed into weak forms. Old English_sentence_138

Then, as now, dental suffixes indicated the past tense of the weak verbs, as in work and worked. Old English_sentence_139

Syntax Old English_section_8

Old English syntax is similar to that of modern English. Old English_sentence_140

Some differences are consequences of the greater level of nominal and verbal inflection, allowing freer word order. Old English_sentence_141

Old English_unordered_list_3

  • Default word order is verb-second in main clauses, and verb-final in subordinate clauses, being more like modern German than modern English.Old English_item_3_19
  • No do-support in questions and negatives. Questions were usually formed by inverting subject and finite verb, and negatives by placing ne before the finite verb, regardless of which verb.Old English_item_3_20
  • Multiple negatives can stack up in a sentence intensifying each other (negative concord).Old English_item_3_21
  • Sentences with subordinate clauses of the type "when X, Y" (e.g. "When I got home, I ate dinner") don't use a wh-type conjunction, but rather a th-type correlative conjunction such as þā, otherwise meaning "then" (e.g. þā X, þā Y in place of "when X, Y"). The wh-words are used only as interrogatives and as indefinite pronouns.Old English_item_3_22
  • Similarly, wh- forms were not used as relative pronouns. Instead, the indeclinable word þe is used, often preceded by (or replaced by) the appropriate form of the article/demonstrative se.Old English_item_3_23

Orthography Old English_section_9

Main articles: Anglo-Saxon runes and Old English Latin alphabet Old English_sentence_142

Old English was first written in runes, using the futhorc – a rune set derived from the Germanic 24-character elder futhark, extended by five more runes used to represent Anglo-Saxon vowel sounds, and sometimes by several more additional characters. Old English_sentence_143

From around the 8th century, the runic system came to be supplanted by a (minuscule) half-uncial script of the Latin alphabet introduced by Irish Christian missionaries. Old English_sentence_144

This was replaced by Insular script, a cursive and pointed version of the half-uncial script. Old English_sentence_145

This was used until the end of the 12th century when continental Carolingian minuscule (also known as Caroline) replaced the insular. Old English_sentence_146

The Latin alphabet of the time still lacked the letters ⟨j⟩ and ⟨w⟩, and there was no ⟨v⟩ as distinct from ⟨u⟩; moreover native Old English spellings did not use ⟨k⟩, ⟨q⟩ or ⟨z⟩. Old English_sentence_147

The remaining 20 Latin letters were supplemented by four more: ⟨æ⟩ (æsc, modern ash) and ⟨ð⟩ (ðæt, now called eth or edh), which were modified Latin letters, and thorn ⟨þ⟩ and wynn ⟨ƿ⟩, which are borrowings from the futhorc. Old English_sentence_148

A few letter pairs were used as digraphs, representing a single sound. Old English_sentence_149

Also used was the Tironian note ⟨⁊⟩ (a character similar to the digit 7) for the conjunction and. Old English_sentence_150

A common scribal abbreviation was a thorn with a stroke ⟨ꝥ⟩, which was used for the pronoun þæt. Old English_sentence_151

Macrons over vowels were originally used not to mark long vowels (as in modern editions), but to indicate stress, or as abbreviations for a following m or n. Old English_sentence_152

Modern editions of Old English manuscripts generally introduce some additional conventions. Old English_sentence_153

The modern forms of Latin letters are used, including ⟨g⟩ in place of the insular G, ⟨s⟩ for long S, and others which may differ considerably from the insular script, notably ⟨e⟩, ⟨f⟩ and ⟨r⟩. Old English_sentence_154

Macrons are used to indicate long vowels, where usually no distinction was made between long and short vowels in the originals. Old English_sentence_155

(In some older editions an acute accent mark was used for consistency with Old Norse conventions.) Old English_sentence_156

Additionally, modern editions often distinguish between velar and palatal ⟨c⟩ and ⟨g⟩ by placing dots above the palatals: ⟨ċ⟩, ⟨ġ⟩. Old English_sentence_157

The letter wynn ⟨ƿ⟩ is usually replaced with ⟨w⟩, but æsc, eth and thorn are normally retained (except when eth is replaced by thorn). Old English_sentence_158

In contrast with Modern English orthography, that of Old English was reasonably regular, with a mostly predictable correspondence between letters and phonemes. Old English_sentence_159

There were not usually any silent letters—in the word cniht, for example, both the ⟨c⟩ and ⟨h⟩ were pronounced, unlike the ⟨k⟩ and ⟨gh⟩ in the modern knight. Old English_sentence_160

The following table lists the Old English letters and digraphs together with the phonemes they represent, using the same notation as in the Phonology section above. Old English_sentence_161

Doubled consonants are geminated; the geminate fricatives ⟨ðð⟩/⟨þþ⟩, ⟨ff⟩ and ⟨ss⟩ cannot be voiced. Old English_sentence_162

Literature Old English_section_10

Main article: Old English literature Old English_sentence_163

The corpus of Old English literature is small but still significant, with some 400 surviving manuscripts. Old English_sentence_164

The pagan and Christian streams mingle in Old English, one of the richest and most significant bodies of literature preserved among the early Germanic peoples. Old English_sentence_165

In his supplementary article to the 1935 posthumous edition of Bright's Anglo-Saxon Reader, Dr. James Hulbert writes: Old English_sentence_166

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 inscribed early whalebone artefact; and Cædmon's Hymn, a Christian religious poem. Old English_sentence_167

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. Old English_sentence_168

Still, poetry is considered the heart of Old English literature. Old English_sentence_169

Nearly all Anglo-Saxon authors are anonymous, with a few exceptions, such as Bede and Cædmon. Old English_sentence_170

Cædmon, the earliest English poet known by name, served as a lay brother in the monastery at Whitby. Old English_sentence_171

Beowulf Old English_section_11

The first example is taken from the opening lines of the folk-epic Beowulf, a poem of some 3,000 lines and the single greatest work of Old English. Old English_sentence_172

This passage describes how Hrothgar's legendary ancestor Scyld was found as a baby, washed ashore, and adopted by a noble family. Old English_sentence_173

The translation is literal and represents the original poetic word order. Old English_sentence_174

As such, it is not typical of Old English prose. Old English_sentence_175

The modern cognates of original words have been used whenever practical to give a close approximation of the feel of the original poem. Old English_sentence_176

The words in brackets are implied in the Old English by noun case and the bold words in brackets are explanations of words that have slightly different meanings in a modern context. Old English_sentence_177

Notice how what is used by the poet where a word like lo or behold would be expected. Old English_sentence_178

This usage is similar to what-ho!, both an expression of surprise and a call to attention. Old English_sentence_179

English poetry is based on stress and alliteration. Old English_sentence_180

In alliteration, the first consonant in a word alliterates with the same consonant at the beginning of another word, as with Gār-Dena and ġeār-dagum. Old English_sentence_181

Vowels alliterate with any other vowel, as with æþelingas and ellen. Old English_sentence_182

In the text below, the letters that alliterate are bolded. Old English_sentence_183

A semi-fluent translation in Modern English would be: Old English_sentence_184

The Lord's Prayer Old English_section_12

This text of the Lord's Prayer is presented in the standardised Early West Saxon dialect. Old English_sentence_185

Charter of Cnut Old English_section_13

This is a proclamation from King Cnut the Great to his earl Thorkell the Tall and the English people written in AD 1020. Old English_sentence_186

Unlike the previous two examples, this text is prose rather than poetry. Old English_sentence_187

For ease of reading, the passage has been divided into sentences while the pilcrows represent the original division. Old English_sentence_188

Dictionaries Old English_section_14

Early history Old English_section_15

The earliest history of Old English lexicography lies in the Anglo-Saxon period itself, when English-speaking scholars created English glosses on Latin texts. Old English_sentence_189

At first these were often marginal or interlinear glosses, but soon came to be gathered into word-lists such as the Épinal-Erfurt, Leiden and Corpus Glossaries. Old English_sentence_190

Over time, these word-lists were consolidated and alphabeticised to create extensive Latin-Old English glossaries with some of the character of dictionaries, such as the Cleopatra Glossaries, the Harley Glossary and the Brussels Glossary. Old English_sentence_191

In some cases, the material in these glossaries continued to be circulated and updated in Middle English glossaries, such as the Durham Plant-Name Glossary and the Laud Herbal Glossary. Old English_sentence_192

Old English lexicography was revived in the early modern period, drawing heavily on Anglo-Saxons' own glossaries. Old English_sentence_193

The major publication at this time was William Somner's Dictionarium Saxonico-Latino-Anglicum. Old English_sentence_194

The next substantial Old English dictionary was Joseph Bosworth's Anglo-Saxon Dictionary of 1838. Old English_sentence_195

Modern Old English_section_16

In modern scholarship, the following dictionaries remain current: Old English_sentence_196

Old English_unordered_list_4

  • Cameron, Angus, et al. (ed.) (1983-). Dictionary of Old English. Toronto: Published for the Dictionary of Old English Project, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto by the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies. Initially issued on microfiche and subsequently as a CD-ROM, the dictionary is now primarily published online at . This generally supersedes previous dictionaries where available. As of September 2018, the dictionary covered A-I.Old English_item_4_24
  • Bosworth, Joseph and T. Northcote Toller. (1898). An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press. The main research dictionary for Old English, unless superseded by the Dictionary of Old English. Various digitisations are available open-access, including at . Due to errors and omissions in the 1898 publication, this needs to be read in conjunction with:Old English_item_4_25
    • T. Northcote Toller. (1921). An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary: Supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Old English_item_4_26
    • Alistair Campbell (1972). An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary: Enlarged addenda and corrigenda. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Old English_item_4_27
  • Clark Hall, J. R.. (1969). A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary. 4th rev. edn by Herbet D. Meritt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Occasionally more accurate than Bosworth-Toller, and widely used as a reading dictionary. Various digitisations are available, including .Old English_item_4_28
  • Roberts, Jane and Christian Kay, with Lynne Grundy, A Thesaurus of Old English in Two Volumes, Costerus New Series, 131–32, 2nd rev. impression, 2 vols (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000), also available . A thesaurus based on the definitions in Bosworth-Toller and the structure of Roget's Thesaurus.Old English_item_4_29

Though focused on later periods, the Oxford English Dictionary, Middle English Dictionary, Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, and Historical Thesaurus of English all also include material relevant to Old English. Old English_sentence_197

Revivals Old English_section_17

Like other historical languages, Old English has been used by scholars and enthusiasts of later periods to create texts either imitating Anglo-Saxon literature or deliberately transferring it to a different cultural context. Old English_sentence_198

Examples include Alistair Campbell and J. Old English_sentence_199 R. R. Tolkien. Old English_sentence_200

Ransom Riggs uses several Old English words, such as syndrigast (singular, peculiar), ymbryne (period, cycle), etc., dubbed as "Old Peculiar" ones. Old English_sentence_201

A number of websites devoted to Modern Paganism and historical reenactment offer reference material and forums promoting the active use of Old English. Old English_sentence_202

There is also an . Old English_sentence_203

However, one investigation found that many Neo-Old English texts published online bear little resemblance to the historical language and have many basic grammatical mistakes. Old English_sentence_204

See also Old English_section_18

Old English_unordered_list_5


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old English.