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Influence of other languages. • Latin influence; • due to the arrival of Christianity which most text were in Latin. A large percentage of the educated and literate population of the time were competent in Latin. • 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. • Often, the Latin alphabet fell short of being able to adequately represent Anglo-Saxon phonetics.
Norse influence; • The second major source of loanwords to Old English were the Scandinavian words introduced during the Viking invasions of the 9th and 10th centuries. Example of words: • anger • angr ("=trouble, affliction"); root ang (="strait, straitened, troubled"); related to anga, plural öngur (="straits, anguish") • English provenance = c 1250 CE
Bleak • bleikr (= "pale") • die • deyja (="pass away") • get • geta, gat (> got), gittan (> gotten) • guest • gestr (= "guest")
Celtic influence; • Traditionally, and following the Anglo-Saxon preference prevalent in the nineteenth century, many maintain that the influence of Brythonic Celtic on English has been small, citing the small number of Celtic loanwords taken into the language. • Celtic and English have formal identity between intensifier and reflexive pronoun. • They share this feature only with Dutch, Maltese, Finnish, Estonian and Hungarian in Europe.
In Middle English, the old intensifier "self" was replaced by a fusion of pronoun + "self" which is now used in a communication to emphasize the object in question e.g. "A woman who is conspicuously generous to others less fortunate than herself.“ • Among the phonetic anomalies is the continued use of w, θ and ð in Modern English (_w_in , brea_th_, brea_th_e). English is remarkable in being the only language (except Welsh/Cornish) to use all three of these sounds in the region.
Dialects • The four main dialectal forms of Old English were Mercian, Northumbrian, Kentish, and West Saxon. • 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.
Phonology • The inventory of classical Old English (i.e. Late West Saxon) surface phones, as usually reconstructed, is as follows.
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.
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 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. • 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-changing.
Noun. • Old English is an inflected language, and as such its nouns, pronouns, adjectives and determiners must be declined in order to serve a grammatical function. • 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 case indicated the direct object of the sentence, for example Æþelbaldlufodeþonecyning 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. • Thegenitive case indicated possession, for example the þæscyningesscip 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 hringasþæmcyningemeans "rings for the king" or "rings to the king". There were also several verbs that took direct objects in the dative.
The instrumental case indicated an instrument used to achieve something, for example, lifdesweorde, "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.
Strong & Weak Nouns. • Strong nouns; For the '-u/–' forms above, the '-u' is used with a root consisting of a single short syllable or ending in a long syllable followed by a short syllable, while roots ending in a long syllable or two short syllables are not inflected.
Other nouns: • Irregular strong nouns • Mutating strong nouns • Nouns of relationship • Neuter nouns with -r- in the plural
Adjectives & Determiners. • Adjectives in Old English are declined using the same categories as nouns: • Five cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, and instrumental), three genders (masculine, feminine, neuter), and two numbers (singular, plural). In addition, they can be declined either strong or weak. • The weak forms are identical to those for nouns, while the strong forms use a combination of noun and pronoun endings, the '-u/–' forms is the same as for strong nouns.
Both the æ/a variation and the -u forms in the feminine singular and neuter plural. • Old English had two main determiners: se, which could function as both 'the' or 'that', and þes for 'this'. • Modern English 'that' descends from the neuter nominative/accusative form,[ and 'the' from the masculine nominative form, with 's' replaced analogously by the 'th' of the other forms. • The feminine nominative form was probably the source of Modern English 'she.
Old English Syntax. • Old English syntax was similar in many ways to that of modern English. • However, there were some important differences. • Some were simply consequences of the greater level of nominal and verbal inflection – e.g., word order was generally freer. • But there are also differences in the default word order, and in the construction of negation, questions, relative clauses and subordinate clauses.
In addition: • The default word order was verb-second and more like modern German than modern English. • There was no do-support in questions and negatives. • Multiple negatives could stack up in a sentence, and intensified each other (negative concord). • Sentences with subordinate clauses of the type "When X, Y" did not use a wh-type word for the conjunction, but instead used interrogative pronouns asa word related to "when", but instead a th-type correlative conjunction (e.g. þā X, þā Y in place of "When X, Y").
Old English Literature. • The epic poem Beowulf, it is so old that no record had been made of its writer or where nor when it was written.
Charter of Cnut, a proclamation from King Cnut the Great to his earl Thorkell the Tall and the English people written in AD 1020.