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The Story of English. 450 AD - 2011. Related languages. The Runic Alphabet. Ye Old English Alphabet. Old English Letters. S and G – had a different shape J = G V = F Q, X, and Z are rarely used W = Ρ Æ (ash) = between a and e ð (eth) and Þ (thorn) = th

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The Story of English


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old english letters
Old English Letters
  • S and G – had a different shape
  • J = G
  • V = F
  • Q, X, and Z are rarely used
  • W = Ρ
  • Æ (ash) = between a and e
  • ð (eth) and Þ (thorn) = th
  • Numbers were written in the Roman style
celtic influence
Celtic Influence
  • Only about two dozen loan words in Old English
    • Crag
    • Carr (rock)
    • Torr (peak)
    • Luh (lake)
    • Dunn (grey)
    • Rice (rule)
latin influence
Latin Influence
  • Less than 200 Latin loan words in Old English
    • Describing plants, animals, food, and drink
      • Pise (pea)
      • Win (wine)
      • Plante (plant)
      • Cyse (cheese)
      • Catte (cat)
norse influence
Norse Influence
  • Due to Viking invasions
  • Nearly 1000 loan words in Old English
    • Both
    • Same
    • Get
    • Give
    • To be
what made old english old english
What Made Old English Old English?
  • Inflections
    • The modification of a word to express different grammatical categories such as tense, mood, gender, and case. Conjugation is the inflection of verbs.
  • Syntax (word order)
    • Word order did not matter in Old English because of inflections
  • Vocabulary
    • Very few loan words from other languages
  • Pronunciation
old english 450 1100 ad
Old English (450-1100 AD)

Faeder ure, thu the eart on heofonum,

Si thin nama gehalgod.

Tobecume thin rice.

Gewurthe thin willa on eorthan swa swa on heofonum.

Urne gedaeghwamlican hlaf syle us to daeg.

And forgyf us ure gyltas, swa swa we forgyvath urum gyltendum.

And ne gelead thu us on costnunge,

Ac alys us ofyvele. Soplice.

middle english 1100 1500 ad
Middle English (1100 – 1500 AD)

Oure fadir that art in heuenes,

Halowid be thi name.

Thi kyngdom come,

Be thi wille don in erthe as in heuene.

Yeve to us this day oure breed ouir.

And foryeue ti us oure dettis, as we foryeuen to oure detouris.

And lede us not in to temptacion,

But delyuer us from yuel. Amen.

modern english 1500 present
Modern English (1500 – Present)

Our Father who art in Heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil. Amen.

how do we know how old english sounded
How do we know how Old English sounded?
  • Alphabetical logic
    • Based on Roman sound system
    • Phonetic
  • Reconstruction
    • Working backwards from what we know
  • Sound changes
    • Looking at patterns of sound changes that we do know
  • Poetic evidence
    • Looking at the way poets rhyme and/or alliterate, and poetic meter
beowulf in old english
Hwæt! We Gardena         in geardagum, þeodcyninga,         þrym gefrunon, hu ða æþelingas         ellen fremedon. Oft Scyld Scefing         sceaþena þreatum,

monegum mægþum,         meodosetla ofteah, egsode eorlas.         Syððan ærest wearð feasceaft funden,         he þæs frofre gebad, weox under wolcnum,         weorðmyndum þah, oðþæt him æghwylc         þara ymbsittendra

ofer hronrade         hyran scolde, gomban gyldan.         þæt wæs god cyning! ðæm eafera wæs         æfter cenned, geong in geardum,         þone god sende folce to frofre;         fyrenðearfe ongeat

þe hie ær drugon         aldorlease lange hwile.         Him þæs liffrea, wuldres wealdend,         woroldare forgeaf; Beowulf wæs breme         (blæd wide sprang), Scyldes eafera         Scedelandum in.

Swa sceal geong guma         gode gewyrcean, fromum feohgiftum         on fæder bearme, þæt hine on ylde         eft gewunigen wilgesiþas,         þonne wig cume, leode gelæsten;         lofdædum sceal

in mægþa gehwære         man geþeon. Him ða Scyld gewat         to gescæphwile felahror feran         on frean wære. Hi hyne þa ætbæron         to brimes faroðe, swæse gesiþas,         swa he selfa bæd,

þenden wordum weold         wine Scyldinga; leof landfruma         lange ahte.

Beowulf in Old English
from old to middle english
From Old to Middle English
  • Decay of inflections
  • Regularity of syntax (subject-verb-object order)
  • The Norman invasion 1066 AD
    • Brought a huge French vocabulary into the language
the canterbury tales in middle english
The Canterbury Tales in Middle English

Whan that aprill with his shoures soote

The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,

And bathed every veyne in swich licour

Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth

Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne

Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,

And smale foweles maken melodye,

That slepen al the nyght with open ye

(so priketh hem nature in hir corages);

Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,

And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,

To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;

And specially from every shires ende

Of engelond to caunterbury they wende,

The hooly blisful martir for to seke,

That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

from middle to modern english
From Middle to Modern English
  • Further standardization of spelling and grammar
  • Printing
  • The Great Vowel Shift
    • Each vowel changed its sound quality, but the distinction between the vowels remained
identity crisis
Identity Crisis

According to The Cambridge Encyclopedia of The English Language, “About 85% of Old English words are no longer in use. Moreover, only 3 percent of the words in Old English are loan words, compared with over 70% today. Old English vocabulary was thus profoundly Germanic, in a way that is no longer the case. Nearly half of Modern English general vocabulary comes from Latin or French, as a result of the huge influx of words in the Middle English period.”

old english poetry
Old English Poetry
  • Alliteration
    • Repetition of sounds at the beginning of words
  • Compounding
    • Combining of two words to make a new word
      • Feor (life) + Seoc (sick) = Feorhseoc (life-sick or mortally wounded)
      • Gar (spear) + Dena (Danes) = Gar-Dena (Spear-Danes)
  • Kennings
    • A form of compounding that is metaphorical
      • Ban (bone) + hus (house) = banhus (bone-house or human body)
      • Hron (whale) + rad (road) = Hronrad (whale road or sea)
      • Rodores (sky) + candel (candle) = Rodores candel (sky’s candle or the sun)
    • Beowulf has over 1000 compounds and kennings which comprise a third of all the words in the text.
more kennings
More Kennings
  • Seal-bath (the sea)
  • Fish-home (the sea)
  • Ring-giver (king)
  • Battle-sweat (blood)
  • Slaughter-dew (blood)
  • Raven-harvest (corpse)
  • Brow-stars (eyes)
  • Lip-streams (poetry)
  • Sea-steed (ship)
  • Bait-gallows (hook)
  • Spear-din (battle)
old english poetry1
Old English Poetry
  • Formulas
    • Stock phrases that fulfill the metrical needs of a line or half line
      • Gomban gyldan (to pay tribute)
      • Bearn Ecgþeow’s (Ecgþeow’s son)
  • Variation
    • Restatement of a concept or term using different words
    • Reminds the audience of important facts
    • Allows the poet to present an event from multiple perspectives
      • “The nobleman’s son then passed the steep rocky cliffs, the narrow path, the narrow single-file path, an unknown way, precipitous headland, the homes of many water monsters”
  • Versification
    • Beowulf is written in alliterative verse
    • Four stressed beats plus and undetermined number of unstressed beats per line
    • The third stress of a line always alliterates with the first and/or second stress and never with the fourth
    • Rhyming is very uncommon
      • Oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena þreatum

monegum maegþum meodosetla ofteah.

write your own poetry
Write Your Own Poetry
  • Requirements:
    • contains at least 2 compounds or kennings
    • contains at least 2 examples of alliteration
    • is written in heroic or mock heroic style
    • Uses at least 5 Old English words
      • Word bank: eorthan (earth), brim (sea), bryne (fire), wæter (water), rad (road), hus (house), wer (man), cwene (woman), bearn (child), fæder (father), modor (mother), broðor (brother), folme (hand), earm (arm), fot (foot), bileofa (food), drynce (drink), freond(friend), frendscipe (love), god (good), yvele(evil)