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Old English / Anglo-Saxon (Englisc)

Old English was the West Germanic language spoken in the area now known as England between the 5th and 11th centuries. Speakers of Old English called their language Englisc, themselves Angle, Angelcynn or Angelfolc and their home Angelcynn or Englaland.

Old English began to appear in writing during the early 8th century. Most texts were written in West Saxon, one of the four main dialects. The other dialects were Mercian, Northumbrian and Kentish.

The Anglo-Saxons adopted the styles of script used by Irish missionaries, such as Insular half-uncial, which was used for books in Latin. A less formal version of minuscule was used for to write both Latin and Old English. From the 10th century Anglo-Saxon scribes began to use Caroline Minuscule for Latin while continuing to write Old English in Insular minuscule. Thereafter Old English script was increasingly influenced by Caroline Minuscule even though it retained a number of distinctive Insular letter-forms.

Anglo-Saxon runes (futhorc/fuþorc)

Old English / Anglo-Saxon was first written with a version of the Runic alphabet known as Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-Frisian runes, or futhorc/fuþorc. This alphabet was an extended version of Elder Futhark with between 26 and 33 letters. Anglo-Saxon runes were used probably from the 5th century AD until about the 10th century. They started to be replaced by the Latin alphabet from the 7th century, and after the 9th century the runes were used mainly in manuscripts and were mainly of interest to antiquarians. Their use ceased not long after the Norman conquest.

Runic inscriptions are mostly found on jewellery, weapons, stones and other objects, and only about 200 such inscriptions have survived. Most have been found in eastern and southern England.

Anglo-Saxon Futhorc

Old English alphabet

Old English alphabet

Notes

  • Long vowels were marked with macrons. These were not written originally used in Old English but are a more modern invention to distinguish between long and short vowels.
  • The alternate forms of g and w (yogh and wynn/wen respectively) were based on the letters used at the time of writing Old English. Today they can be substituted for g and w in modern writing of Old English.
  • Yogh originated from an insular form of g and wynn/wen came from a runic letter and was used to represent the non-Latin sound of [ w ]. The letters g and w were introduced later by French scribes. Yogh came to represent [ ç ] or [ x ].

Old English pronunciation

Old English pronunciation

Notes

Notes on Old English pronunciation

Sample text in Old English (Prologue from Beowulf)

Old English sample text (Prologue from Beowulf)

Modern English version

LO, praise of the prowess of people-kings
of spear-armed Danes, in days long sped,
we have heard, and what honor the athelings won!
Oft Scyld the Scefing from squadroned foes,
from many a tribe, the mead-bench tore,
awing the earls. Since erst he lay
friendless, a foundling, fate repaid him:
for he waxed under welkin, in wealth he throve,
till before him the folk, both far and near,
who house by the whale-path, heard his mandate,
gave him gifts:

Most of the information on this page was provided by Niall Killoran

Sample text in Old English (Article 1 of the UDHR)

Eal fīras eart boren frēo ac geefenlician inn ār ac riht. Hīe eart gifeðe gerād ac ingehygd ac magon dōn ongēan anelra be feorh of brōþorcynn.

Hear another recording of this text by Matthew Leigh Embleton

Translation by Matthew Leigh Embleton

Modern English version

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Information about Old English | Old English phrases | Tower of Babel in Old English | Old English-related books and learning materials

Links

Information about Old English
http://www.wmich.edu/medieval/resources/IOE/

Old English lessons
http://www.jebbo.co.uk/learn-oe/contents.htm
http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9664A1E483AFCD12

Old English phrases
http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Old_English/Phrases
http://speaksaxon.blogspot.co.uk
http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:Old_English_phrasebook#Old English
http://www.empowerlinguatranslation.com/useful-phrases-in-old-english/

Old English dictionaries
http://home.comcast.net/~modean52/oeme_dictionaries.htm
http://lexicon.ff.cuni.cz/app/
http://oldenglishthesaurus.arts.gla.ac.uk/aboutoeonline.html

Old English - Modern English translator
http://www.oldenglishtranslator.co.uk

Ða Engliscan Gesiðas - the society for people interested in all aspects of Anglo-Saxon language and culture: http://tha-engliscan-gesithas.org.uk/

Beowulf in Hypertext
http://www.humanities.mcmaster.ca/~beowulf/

ALPHABETUM - a Unicode font specifically designed for ancient scripts, including classical & medieval Latin, ancient Greek, Etruscan, Oscan, Umbrian, Faliscan, Messapic, Picene, Iberian, Celtiberian, Gothic, Runic, Old & Middle English, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Old Nordic, Ogham, Kharosthi, Glagolitic, Old Cyrillic, Phoenician, Avestan, Ugaritic, Linear B, Anatolian scripts, Coptic, Cypriot, Brahmi, Old Persian cuneiform: http://guindo.pntic.mec.es/~jmag0042/alphabet.html

Germanic languages

Afrikaans, Alsatian, Bavarian, Cimbrian, Danish, Dutch, Elfdalian, English, Faroese, Flemish, German, Gothic, Icelandic, Low German / Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, Norn, North Frisian, Norwegian, Old English, Old Norse, Pennsylvania German, Saterland Frisian, Scots, Shetland(ic), Swedish, Swiss German, West Frisian, Yiddish

Other versions of the Latin alphabet

Ancient Latin, Irish Uncial, Old English

Languages written with the Latin alphabet


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