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.
| Anglo-Saxon |
|Spoken in:||Anglo-Land (England) (Angelcynn)|
|Basic word order:||Unimportant/V2|
- 1 Stages
- 2 The People, Dialects, and Literature
- 3 Orthography and Phonology
- 4 Grammar
- 4.1 Nouns
- 4.2 Articles
- 4.3 Personal Pronouns
- 4.4 Adjectives
- 4.5 Prepositions and Conjunctions
- 4.6 Verbs
- 5 Texts
- 6 Sources and External Links
- 7 Translations
English has had 4 primary stages:
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
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.
|Approximants & glides||ʍ||w||j|
- 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.
|High||iː - i||yː - y||uː - u|
|Mid||eː - e||ə||oː - o|
|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.
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.
|Cases||Dæg¹ 'Day'||Dagas 'Days'||Stān 'Stone'||Stānas 'Stones'|
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'|
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'|
⁴Scip is pronounced the same way as the modern equivalent, Ship.
⁵Dēor, 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)|
|Instrumental||ðē, ðon||ðǣre||ðē, ðon||ðǣm, ðām|
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:
|Nominative||ic, ih||Ƿit, wit||Ƿē, wē|
|Cases||Mascu. Sing.||Fem. Sing.||Neut. Sing.||Plural|
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)|
|Cases||Masculine||Feminine||Neuter||Pl. Masc.||Pl. Fem.||Pl. Neut.|
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.
|Infinitive||Lufian to love||Fremman to do|
|Infinitive||Singan to sing||Niman to take|
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.
|Infinitive||Bēon to be||Wesan to be|
|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)|
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.