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Anglo-Saxon or Old English (OE Englisc) is the ancestor of Modern English. It is a West Germanic Language and like Dutch and Low Saxon (Low German) it did not go through the High German Consonant Shift.

Spoken in: Anglo-Land (England) (Angelcynn)
Conworld: Real world
Total speakers: unknown
Genealogical classification: Indo-European
West Germanic
Basic word order: Unimportant/V2
Morphological type: inflecting
Morphosyntactic alignment: nominative-accusative
Writing system:
Created by:
unknown 400-1066 C.E.


English has had 4 primary stages:

The separation of Anglo-Saxon from Middle English is marked by The Battle of Hastings in 1066. The separation of Middle English and the Modern English stages is the Great Vowel Shift.

Modern English words have many different origins, but a majority come from Anglo-Saxon, Old Norman French, and a little Old Norse. However in the global world today, many words from many other languages have entered the English language.

The People, Dialects, and Literature

The story was that the British leader Vortigern invited the Saxons to Britain to help fight off the Picts and Scots. A large migration of Saxons, Frisians, Franks, Jutes and Angles later moved from modern Northern Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands to England. The next few centuries they expanded westward constantly and gained more land. The Anglo-Saxons then fought with the Romano-British people already living there until they owned most of Modern England.

In the 9th and 10th centuries, Danish Vikings invaded the Northern parts of England. The Old Norse influence can still be seen today including things such as the pronoun they.

The Dialects were split into 4 major ones: Northumbrian, Midlands, Kentish, and West Saxon. The majority of the texts we have are from the West Saxon region.

The most well known text in Anglo-Saxon is that of the Heroic Epic, Beowulf. Old English literature is known for alliteration. There are many Anglo-Saxon riddles, religious documents, heroic tales, and poems. A chronicle known as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was a chronicle of the events of the Kingdom, and was likely started in the 10th century and was continually updated into the 12th, although there are differences in the key Chronicle documents.

There is no standard spelling in Anglo-Saxon, so many words had more than one spelling.

Orthography and Phonology


Anglo-Saxon Runic alphabet

Early forms of Anglo-Saxon writing was in Runic. It was an expansion of the original 24 rune Fuþark, and had become Fuþorc. Because the language had shifted to include new sounds, the alphabet itself shifted and included several new letters that had not been in the Elder Fuþark. However they did not develop the one Staff system similar to the runic designs in Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

When the Latin Alphabet was introduced, Anglo-Saxon added two symbols to the Latin alphabet from Runic, those would be "þ" /θ/ and "Ƿ" /w/ from runic, called Thorn and Wynn respectively.



Bilabial Labiod. Inter-dental Alveolar Post-alv. Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive p b t d k g
Fricative f v θ ð s z ʃ (ʒ) ç x h
Affricate (ʦ) (ʣ) ʧ ʤ
Approximants & glides ʍ w j
Trill ̥r r
Lateral Approximant ̥l l/ɫ
Ƿƿ wynn, Old English w, which is missing in many Unicode fonts.
  • Placing h- before r, l, or w/ƿ yields the voiceless form of each sound /̥r ̥l ʍ/.
  • When c, g or sc are next to a front vowel (most often i but e and y can affect it sometimes too) they become /ʧ j ʃ/ respectively. This is how words like gear became year. -g is often not pronounced or becomes part of a diphtong, such as dæg /daj/. When it ends with -ig it has a pronunciation of /-i/, dropping the g altogether. From this, Modern English gets the -y ending (like halig > holy, sceadwig > shady, manig > many)
  • The diagraph cg is pronounced /ʤ/.
  • þ and ð is pronounced /θ/ except in the case below.
  • Fricatives, particularly f, þ/ð, s are voiceless most of the time /f θ s/, and are voiced intevocalically or adjacent to voiced consonants as /v ð z/. This is why v and f were not in Old English.
  • h is pronounaced /ç/ after front vowels and /x/ after back vowels.
  • The sound /w/ is often spelt with the letter Ƿ/ƿ (wynn). From the Runic Alphabet.


Front Central Back
Unround Rounded Unrounded Rounded
High iː - i yː - y uː - u
Mid eː - e ə oː - o
Low æ aː/a
All entries are: Tense - Lax
  • With a macron the vowel becomes long.
  • ī, ȳ, ē, ǣ, ā, ō, and ū are pronounced /iː yː eː æː aː oː uː/ respectively.
  • Without a macron the vowels are short.
  • i, y, e, æ, a, o, and u are pronounced /i y e æ a o u/ or /ɪ ʏ ɛ æ ɔ ʊ/ respectively, depending on the source.
  • e at the end of a word, and unstressed often becomes /ə/.



Main Article: Anglo-Saxon Nouns

Gender and Number

There are there Genders in Old English: Masculine, Feminine, and Neuter. These are the same genders in Latin, as well as modern Russian and German. Like most languages which have genders, Nouns which reflect living things are usually indicated in the Gender of the noun, but a majority is completely random.

The two numbers of Anglo-Saxon are Singular and Plural. Pronouns have the Dual number as well.


Unlike Modern English, Anglo-Saxon was filled with noun inflections denoting the case of the noun. The only one that survived through the Middle English era was the -'s ending denoting the original Genitive case. The cases were Nominative, Accusative, Genitive, and Dative.

Strong and Weak

Like with Verbs, Anglo-Saxon had many nouns which changed their stems, both in the plural and sometimes during some of the cases of the singular. These are the reasons for irregular nouns in Modern English with stem changes, such as Man-Men (AS Mann-Menn in Nom.). This is often how Anglo-Saxon nouns are categorized.

Example charts


Cases Dæg¹ 'Day' Dagas 'Days' Stān 'Stone' Stānas 'Stones'
Nominative dæg dagas stān stānas
Genitive dæges daga stānes stāna
Dative dæge dagum stāne stānum
Accusative dæg dagas stān stānas

¹Dæg was pronounced much like the word Die in Modern English, or the Australian/Cockney pronunciation of "Day."

  • Note that both Nouns here are Strong


Cases Hond² 'Hand' Honda 'Hands' Ƿynn³ 'Joy' Ƿynna 'Joys'
Nominative hond hondu Ƿynn Ƿynna
Genitive honda honda Ƿynne Ƿynna
Dative honda hondum Ƿynne Ƿynnum
Accusative hond honda Ƿynne Ƿynna

²Hond could also be spelt/pronounced Hand.
³Ƿ could also be spelt W, so Ƿynn could easily be Wynn.

  • Note the Hond is strong ja-stemmed and Wynn is regular strong.


Cases Scip⁴ 'Ship' Scipu 'Ships' Dēor⁵ 'Animal' Dēor 'Animals'
Nominative scip scipu dēor dēor
Genitive scipes scipa dēores dēora
Dative scipe scipum dēore dēorum
Accusative scip scipu dēor dēor

Scip is pronounced the same way as the modern equivalent, Ship.
Dēor, related to the German word Tier (animal), slowly became used for game animals, and later becomes Deer in Modern English.

  • Note that both nouns are strong here.


During the earlier ages of the Anglo-Saxon language, there were no articles. Later, especially after the Viking invasion and towards the end of the Anglo-Saxon era, articles were developed. They too declined by case and number, and included the Instrumental case, which was the same as Dative Nouns. This also includes the meaning of that in the demonstrative sense. Here are the articles:

Cases Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural (all Genders)
Nominative sēo ðæt ðā
Genitive ðæs ðǣre ðæs ðāra, ðǣra
Dative ðǣm ðǣre ðǣm ðǣm, ðām
Accusative ðone ðā ðæt ðā
Instrumental ðē, ðon ðǣre ðē, ðon ðǣm, ðām

Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns in Anglo-Saxon are quite different than Modern English. They too are declined according to the four major cases, but also have an extra number illustration when there 2, Dual. With the dual, the verbs take the plural endings, and it only applies to the first and second person pronouns. Here are the Charts for the Pronouns:
First person:

Cases Singular Dual Plural
Nominative ic, ih Ƿit, wit Ƿē, wē
Genitive mīn uncer ūre
Dative unc ūs
Accusative unc ūs

Second person:

Cases Singular Dual Plural
Nominative þū git
Genitive þīn incer ēoǷer, ēower
Dative þē inc ēoǷ, ēow
Accusative þē inc ēoǷ, ēow

Third person:

Cases Mascu. Sing. Fem. Sing. Neut. Sing. Plural
Nominative hēo hit hīe
Genitive his hiere his hiera
Dative him hiere him him, heom
Accusative hine hīe hit hīe


Adjectives also decline by gender, number, and case. Because one adjective has to cover all three genders, two numbers, and four (five with the Strong) cases, there are more adjective forms than there are any other part of speech, with the possible exception of the verb. They too have Strong and Weak forms and can have root vowel stems which are umlauted. The plurals of the Weak forms are uniform across genders, but not in the Strong forms. The same adjective could be Weak or Strong depending on context and the noun.


Gōd = Good

Cases Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural (all Genders)
Nominative gōda gōde gōde gōdan
Genitive gōdan gōdan gōdan gōdena
Dative gōdan gōdan gōdan gōdum
Accusative gōdan gōdan gōde gōdan


Cases Masculine Feminine Neuter Pl. Masc. Pl. Fem. Pl. Neut.
Nominative gōd gōd gōd gōde gōda gōd
Genitive gōdes gōdre gōdes gōdra gōdra gōdra
Dative gōdum gōdre gōdum gōdum gōdum gōdum
Accusative gōdne gōde gōd gōde gōda gōd
Instrumental gōde gōdre gōde gōdum gōdum gōdum

Prepositions and Conjunctions

Here is a list of Prepositions and Conjuctions.


æt - (dat.) at, from, (acc.) until, to
tō - (dat.) to, towards, at,
wið, wiþ - against,
æfter - (dat.) after,
on - (dat.) in, on, (acc.) into, onto
mid - (dat.) with,
of - (dat.) of, from,
be - (dat. and acc.) by, near, along, about,
beforan - (dat. and acc.) before, ahead of
fram - (dat.) from, by,
ofer - (dat.) over, upon (acc.) over to, across,
þurh - (acc.) through
under - (dat.) under (acc.) under,
ymbe - (acc.) near, by, about,
in - (dat.) in, (acc.) into,
būtan - (dat. or acc.) outside, except, without,
betweox - (dat. or acc.) between, among,
binnan - (dat.) within, (acc.) to within,
oð - (acc.) up to, until,
geond - (acc.) through, throughout,
bufan (dat.) above, (acc.) upwards,
innan - (dat.) within (acc.) into,


æfter - after,
ǣr - before
gif - if,
hwæðer, hwæþer - whether
þā, ðā - when,
hwīle - while,
swā - as, such, (this word has a phonetic/semantic cognate in Old Norse, sva.)
swelce - as if,
þæt, ðæt - that, so that,
þǣr, ðǣr - where,
þēah, ðēah - though,
siððan, siþþan - since, after, (this one is also in Old Norse and Middle English such as the first line in Sir Gawayn and the Grene Knyght.)


Main Page: Anglo-Saxon Verbs <i>

Verbal Comparison, Patterns, and General Overview

Like nouns and adjectives, Verbs have Strong and Weak forms. The Strong forms usually involve vowel shifts in the stem, even in the present tense. It is also inflected based on person, number, tense, and mood.

It is known for having -st in the second person, which was used for thou in the Middle English era. It is also used in German for the du form, which is the cognate to þū and thou (which is also a cognate to Latin tu). Anglo-Saxon Verbs are known for the signature -ð/-þ ending in the 3rd person singular, which was also used into the Early Modern English era, which Shakespeare is apart of, examples from that era include the words: hath, goeth, doth, knoweth, etc.

The infinitive ending is commonly -an or -en, which is similar to the modern German -en infinitive ending. Also the orthographic cognate ge- is used in both German and Anglo-Saxon to represent the past tense, even if they are not pronounced the same way, and in Standard High German, the prefix is required, whereas the Anglo-Saxon one is more optional. The Weak past tense marker inserts -ed-, whereas the Strong past tense usually involves a vowel change.

Although Anglo-Saxon did have the Subjunctive and Imperative, the examples shall be focused on the Present and Past tenses.

Weak Examples

Present tense
Infinitive Lufian to love Fremman to do
sing. pl. sing. pl.
1st person lufie lufiað fremme fremmað
2nd person lufast lufiað fremest fremmað
3rd person lufað lufiað fremeð fremmað
Past tense
sing. pl. sing. pl.
1st person lufode lufodon fremede fremedon
2nd person lufodest lufodon fremedest fremedon
3rd person lufode lufodon fremede fremedon

Strong Examples

Present tense
Infinitive Singan to sing Niman to take
sing. pl. sing. pl.
1st person singe singað nime nimað
2nd person singest singað nimest nimað
3rd person singeð singað nimeð nimað
Past Tense
sing. pl. sing. pl.
1st person sang sungon nam nāmon
2nd person sunge sungon nāme nāmon
3rd person sang sungon nam nāmon

The Verb <i> Bēon <i> and <i> Wesan <i>

There are two forms of the verb <i>to be<i> in Anglo-Saxon. They both share the same past tense, rooted in wesan. The verb form wesan was preserved in the past tense, in the form of was and were.

These verb forms were also preserved into the Middle English era, in an Epic called Brut:
"Al swa muchel thu bist woruh, swa thu velden ært."
(All as much thou art worth, as thou kind art)
You are worth as much as you are kind.

Present tense
Infinitive Bēon to be Wesan to be
sing. pl. sing. pl.
1st person bēo bēoð eom sind, sindon
2nd person bist bēoð eart sind, sindon
3rd person bið bēoð is sind, sindon
Past Tense (for both)
sing. pl.
1st person wæs wǣron
2nd person wǣre wǣron
3rd person wæs wǣron


There are many primary texts in Anglo-Saxon. The most famous of which would be Beowulf. Other text's include, The Wife's Lament, The Wanderer, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Judith, Cædmon's Hymn, just to name a few.

Sources and External Links

Finegan, Edward. "English." The World’s Major Languages. Ed. Bernard Comrie. New York, NY Oxford University Press, 1990

Atherton, Mark. Teach Yourself Old English. Coventry, England, McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.: 2006.

Page written by Timothy Patrick Snyder.


Faind dhys peedx in Tawyr Oorthaagryfii.

This article is one of quite a few pages about Natlangs.

Indo-european natlangs:

Balto-Slavic Natlangs: Czech * Russian
Celtic Natlangs: Revived Middle Cornish * Pictish
Germanic Natlangs:
North Germanic Natlangs: Norwegian
West Germanic Natlangs: Anglo-Saxon * Dutch * English (Old English * Middle English * Modern English * Scots) * German (High German * Low German)
Indo-Iranian Natlangs: Pahlavi
Italic Natlangs: French * Italian * Latin * Spanish
Debated: Cimmerian

Uralic Natlangs: Finnish * Khanty * Mansi * Mordvinic * Proto-Uralic
Altaic (controversial): Japanese
Sino-Tibetan Natlangs:
Uto-Aztecan Natlangs: Nahuatl


Isolate Natlangs: Basque * *
Hypothetical/debated Natlangs and Natlang families: Danubian * Europic (obsolete)