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Old English Sounds and Spellings

Old English Sounds and Spellings

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Old English Sounds and Spellings

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  1. Old English Sounds and Spellings EN307 History of the English Language

  2. Extra letters • þ ‘thorn’, upper case Þ taken from runic alphabet used for \θ\ and \ð\ often interchangeable with ð in manuscripts þis ‘this’ þing ‘thing’ þurfan ‘to need’

  3. ð ‘eth’, upper case Ð adapted from a Latin script, cross added used for \θ\ and \ð\ often interchangeable with þ in manuscripts (sometimes, þ at beginning, ð in middle or at end of word) drinceð ‘drinks’ lāð ‘hateful’ wið ‘with’

  4. æ ‘ash’, upper case Æ ‘digraph’ (two letters) used for \æ\ wæs ‘was’ ǣniġ ‘any’ ǣmettig ‘empty’

  5. ƿ ‘wynn’, upper case Ƿ borrowed from runic alphabet used for \w\ w was an alternative (used in modern editions for convenience) ƿynn ‘joy’ ƿæs ‘was’ ƿeorc ‘work’

  6. Latin letters q, x, z known but used infrequently axian, ascian ‘to ask’ • k used, but \k\ could always be represented by c cyning, kyning ‘king’ • Early OE: y represented \y\, but came to be interchangeable with i, ie hyran, hieran ‘to obey’ fylþ, filþ ‘filth’

  7. • \ǰ\ spelled cg ecg ‘edge’ wecg ‘wedge’ licgan ‘to lie’ (on the ground) • \š\ spelled sc fisc ‘fish’ scūfan ‘shove’ scieran ‘rend, tear’

  8. c could represent \k\ (before back vowels and consonants, or finally) cald ‘cold’ cweðan ‘to say’ ac ‘but’ āc ‘oak’ • c could also represent \č\ before front vowels ċild ‘child’ liċe ‘like, similar to’

  9. g stood for \g\ god ‘God’ gōd ‘good gamol ‘old, ancient’ • g also stood for \γ\ (voiced velar fricative) būgan ‘bend, bow’ magan ‘be able to, can’ • g also stood for \j\ ġiefan ‘give’ ġiedd ‘word, speech, riddle’ ġeorn ‘eager’

  10. Consonants • No phonemic voiced fricatives (\v\,\z\,\ð\) - allophones of voiceless fricatives (\f\,\s\,\θ\) • Fricatives voiced between voiced sounds (i.e., voiced consonants and all vowels) rīsan ‘to rise’ \rizan\ græs ‘grass’ \græs\ āð ‘oath’ \aθ\ wrīðan ‘writhe’ \wriðan\ cnīf ‘knife’ \cnif\ cnīfas ‘knives’ \cnivas\ • hence MnE path/paths, life/lives

  11. \ŋ\ was just an allphone of \n\ appearing before \k\ or \g\ drincan ‘to drink’ \driŋkan\ singan ‘to sing’ \siŋgan\ • in MnE, a phoneme (sinner/singer distinct) • \r\ an alveolar trill???

  12. \h\ • Wider distribution in OE than in MnE • Had several allophones not present in MnE • Initially before vowels or r,l,n,w: [h] hand ‘hand’ hlædel ‘ladle’ hræfn ‘raven’ hnappian ‘to take a nap’ • after front vowels, a palative fricative \ç\ sihþ ‘sight’ fæhð ‘feud’ • elsewhere, velar fricative \x\ þurh ‘through’ hēah ‘high’ eahta ‘eight’

  13. Phonemically long (‘doubled’) consonants • Indicated by double letters bed ‘prayer’ bedd ‘bed’ fȳlan ‘to befoul’ fyllan ‘to fill’ (cf. MnE bidden, red dog; homey, home-made)

  14. Consonant Clusters • hl, hr, hn, hw • hw became wh hwæt ‘what’ (pronounced or not?) • kn cniht ‘knight’ cnēo ‘knee’ • gn gnǣt ‘gnat’ gnornian ‘mourn, feel sorrow’

  15. Vowels • Long vs. short vowels: not like ‘rid/ride’) \rId\ \raid\ • genuinely held for longer!

  16. OE vowels a as the first vowel in ‘aha’ ā as the second vowel in ‘aha’ æ as in ‘mat’ ǣ as in ‘has’ (though called ‘short’) e as in ‘bet’ ē approx. as in ‘hate’, but a pure vowel [cf. German See] i as in ‘tin’ ī as in ‘seen’

  17. OE Vowels (cont’d) • o as in ‘cough’ • Ō approx. as in ‘so’, but a pure vowel [cf German so] • u as in ‘pull’ [NOT ‘hut’] • ū as in ‘cool’ • y as I, with lips in a whistling position [French tu] • Ȳ as \ī\, with lips in a whistling position [French ruse]

  18. OE diphthongs • ea e + a • ēa ē + a • eo e + o • ēo ē + o • ie i + e • īe ī + e