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Old English Seminar 3

Old English Orthography, Spelling, Pronunciation and Stress

1. Orthography.

The most common method of writing during the OE period was on parchment and using a form of the Roman alphabet. The Runic alphabet (which the AngloSaxons had brought with them across the North-Sea) was used for inscriptions and dedicatory formulae rather than for purposes of communication. Present-day conventions of word-division, paragraphs, etc. were unknown to the Anglo-Saxons; their own conventions also differed from scribe to scribe. No manuscripts survive before the coming of Augustine in 597, but there is evidence that the usage of the Roman Alphabet in Anglo-Saxon England owed its origins to Christianity; further evidence: manuscripts were first written in a version of the half-uncial script brought to England by Irish missionaries. The minuscule script with clear, simple, rounded letter shapes, can be seen at its best in the Latin text of the Lindisfarne Gospels of the early 8th century. The script was to be developed into what is known as the insular script, a pointed and cursive version of the half-uncial, and this was to remain the predominant style of handwriting until the 11th century when letter forms from the continental caroline minuscule began to appear; the insular form disappeared by the end of the 12th century. It is not so surprising that the letters of the alphabet and the style should be so dependent upon the arrival and spread of Christianity; throughout the Anglo-Saxon period, the teaching, and to a considerable extent, the practice of writing was predominantly a property of the church. From the time of Alfred onwards, the scribes in the kings secretariat were clerics, not laymen. The alphabet used by the Anglo-Saxons was much the same as that used today; some letter shapes were rather different than those of later scripts. For instance, s most usually appeared in long form rather like . (yogh)was used in insular script instead of g (of caroline origin); in later periods these two were often distinguished so that they represented different sounds. There are differences: j, v were not used were not used, the phoneme /j/ usually being represented by g, and v normally being spelled with f (e.g. hlafas); w was not used, instead the Anglo-Saxon borrowed the runic letter (wynn); three other letters were rarely used in OE manuscripts although they had their normal usage in Anglo-Saxon Latin manuscripts: q, x, z: s between vowels and voiced sounds was voiced pronounced, /z/ - (e.g. risan), in all other positions it was voiceless pronounced /s/. The pairs f and v, s and z, were merely variants (allophones) in OE and not sounds of different significance (phonemes). Anglo-Saxon had, as well as runic wynn, three further letters of their own: (ash), (thorn), (eth). Ash was an Anglo-Saxon adaptation for Latin ae, whereas thorn, like wynn, is borrowed from the runic alphabet; the origin of eth is not certain.

The histories of and are more complex; they were in principle interchangeable with one another, whatever the generality of their usage or the habits of individual scribes; nevertheless, up to the time of Alfred was the most frequent choice; thenceforth was more and more used, but it was mainly restricted to initial position. Orthographic usage was reasonably stable during the OE period. After about 800, the OE alphabet settled down into a pattern which remained unchanged until the time of the Conquest, when the Norman French influence and the conventions of the caroline script, of which the Anglo-Saxons were aware from their Latin manuscripts, started to make their appearance felt. Yet, even if the alphabet was fixed, spellings varied to a much greater extent than they do today, albeit to a lesser extent than in Middle English; standardization of the spelling simply did not exist for much of the time. Remember that the concept of correct spelling is a modern one; for the Anglo-Saxon scribe it would not necessarily have been incorrect to spell a word one way in one line and another way in the next. thelwold, Dunstan, Oswald (Benedictine revival) set upon a vigorous programme of teaching and instruction and a regularization of the language; for the first time in England, a standard written language (e.g. lfric has a highly regular spelling system and orthography). The standard spelling they established was founded upon the speech of Winchester and the surrounding areas. 2. Spelling and pronunciation. The English spelling was based on an alphabetic and phonemic writing system first represented by the runes (run-stfas), a script developed by ancient Germanic peoples from both Latin and Greek alphabets, originally containing 24 letters. It was read from right to left. The Latin alphabet was introduced by Christian missionaries from Ireland (boc-stfas). The Roman alphabet in its Italic form had to render certain sounds that did not exist in Latin: w : (wynn / wen), : (thorn), ae: (ash). k, q, z, v were rarely used. z and v (the fricatives in general: labial, dental, alveolar) were not distinguished at the phonemic level by the characteristic of voicing (z and s, v and f, etc. were in complementary distribution). The fricative sound was always voiceless at the beginning and at the end of the word and always voiced in word-middle position, especially intervocally. One and the same letter could be used to render a variety of pronunciation which represented certain positional variants. c: [k] in coc [o] = back vowel velar c [k, ] in cild [i] = front vowel : [] in os ; aan [o, a] = back vowels laringo-velar fricative [] in iefan; d [i, ] = front vowels palatalized glide [g] in sinan after a nasal [g] in senan palatalized affricate and were used in free variation to render [] or [] Actually, there is a great deal of fluctuation in spelling, especially between dialects and at different periods of time and mainly as regards vowels. This is obvious in the evolution of OE and in the ME dialects: North a: hame ([heim] today) Non-North o: home The consonants also varied. In southern dialects, initial f was voiced to v: 2

OE ft cask, barrel > SME vat The present indicative plural form of verbs varied regionally: OE -a > ME South: -eth North replaced by es EMidl: - en After the Norman Conquest, the literary activity in England was restricted to copying the already existing manuscripts. The new scribes gradually introduced the spelling conventions familiar to them from rendering French sounds to render the sounds of the English language. Between 1100 and 1300 no dialect achieved a high enough prestige and there were no general spelling conventions. Early ME texts do differ a lot. In the beginning, the French loan words were written using the French spelling conventions, while the native words retained their original Anglo-Saxon spelling norm. In time, the new spelling was transferred to English words containing similar sounds. The French influence was earliest in the South, from where it spread to practically the whole English speaking area. By the end of the 2nd half of the 14th century, all present conventions already existed. This is why Chaucer can be read relatively easily. The Irish handwriting, characterized by the rounded shape of the letters, was replaced by the angular Carolingian style, which started to cause confusion when too many letters consisting of several minims were used: u, n, m, i, w without any dots. Some letters were eliminated: (wynn) [w] u, uu (double u), w. Because the (ash) sound disappeared (> a; > e > ea) by a process of retraction, the letter was no longer in use. e.g. t> techen > teach > [i] h...> helen > heal > [i] (Eth) was abandoned. (thorn) survived in ME as long as a manuscript tradition existed, together with the diagraph th (t=dental; h=fricative a dental fricative) There occurred few changes in pronunciation, but the spelling changed a lot. 1) OE [u:] ME ou, ow OE hus > ME hous(e)/hows(e) 2) OE [u] u ME o in an environment of m, n, v, i, w for purely graphical reasons OE cuman > ME comen 3) OE [i], [i:] ME i, y (y was considered more beautiful) OE ridan > ME ridden/ryden In the course of time y was restricted to final position: 4) OE [] sc ME sch, ssh, ssi, sh Apparently Norman French did not have a [] sound in its spelling inventory OE scip > ME sship, schip, ssip, ship 5) OE [t] c (only in the environment of front vowels) ME ch OE cild > ME child 6) OE h ME gh. French did not have a [x, ] sound. (g = velar; h= fricative velar fricative) OE riht, ohte > ME right, thoughte

While the OE length of vowels was not rendered in spelling, in ME the scribes were very careful to specify it. This is how we came to be aware of the changes that took place in the length of vowels. PRACTICE 1. Read out loud the following sentences and translate them into Present Day English (PDE): (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) Is his egn her giet? His linen socc feoll ofer bord in t wter and scranc. Hwr is his cy and cynn? His hring is gold his disc gls and his belt leer. Se fisc swam under t scip and over one sciellfisc. His cicen ran from his horswege ofer his p and in his geard. Se horn sang hulde. Hlysten we! Se cniht is on re brycge. Seo cwen went fram re cirice. He siteon re bence. God is god. is treow is sc. Hwt is t treow? He wolde don wiccecrft and he began swa to donne. Fuhton ge manlice?

2. Write each of the Old English words from the list below in an appropriate blank to show whether the italicized fricative is voiced or voiceless. Bear in mind two points: (1) the voiced fricatives [v, , z] occur between voiced sounds, and the voiceless fricatives [f, , s] occur elsewhere; (2) voiced sounds include all liquids and nasals as well as all vowels and voiced stops and fricatives. OLD ENGLISH SPELLING SOUND f 2 [f] [v] 2 [] [] s 2 [s] [z]

________ _______ ________ ________ _______ _______ ________ _______ ________ ________ _______ _______ ________ _______ ________ ________ _______ _______ ________ _______ ________ ________ _______ _______ s sea bror brother wf woman hrfn raven missenlc various flota ship easter city leo song weore worthy ofer over rsan to rise ele noble lyft air yrho slackness offrian to offer bsm bosom oe or ws was en thane efne even nosu nose ble joyous heofon heaven hslen of hazel

3. Part of the initial strangeness of a page of Old English is due simply to the differences in conventions of spelling between the older period and the present one. We can see that the pronunciation of a large number of Old English words is close to that of their Modern English descendants and sometimes exactly the same. In the following list of words the phonetic symbols of the Old English vowels are provided. Supply the phonetic symbols for the consonants, say the words aloud, and deduce the Modern English forms. OE Spelling b fter scip ecg drifen biter we sten ofer bliss feer fisc blc scield sel fst wi bc hwer hefti nor led arebiscop goldfin sc-gr OE Pronunciation [ _ _ ] [ _ _ ] [__] [ _ ] [___] [___] [__] [__] [__] [__] [___] [__] [ _ _ ] [ _ _ ] [__] [ _ _ ] [__] [ _ _ ] [ _ _ _ ] [___] [__] [__] [____] [_ _ _ ] [ _ : _ ] Modern Spelling _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________

The stress pattern of Old English is easy to learn because it follows the Germanic pattern of primary stress on the first syllable of the word. Secondary, tertiary, and

weak stresses almost take care of themselves when one understands that the prevailing stress contour of Old English is a descending contour. (This contrasts with the prevailing pattern of alternating stress in Modern English, a result of the high proportion of Romance vocabulary.) For word stress, two rules are useful: Rule 1. The heaviest stress of a word occurs on the first syllable, except for verbal prefixes (e-, be-, -, on-, wi-, for-, under-, ofer-, ymb-, etc.). / x / x x / x Examples: dohtor daughter, hlude loudly, be-settan surround Rule 2. Secondary stress occurs on the second element of compounds. / \ /x \ / \ x Examples: eor-we earthly way, ren-heard iron-hard, fea-lufu love of money In phrases and sentences, nouns and adjectives are more heavily stressed than verbs and adverbs, which in turn are more heavily stressed than pronouns, articles, prepositions, and conjunctions. The stress on verbs and adverbs varies in strength, depending on their position in the sentence. 4. Mark the pattern of stress in the following words, using / for main stress, \ for secondary stress, and x for weak stress. Prefixes and elements of compound words are set apart by hyphens. Remember that prefixes of verbs are weakly stressed; nouns and adjectives with prefixes are stressed like compounds, with full stress on the prefix and secondary stress on the second element. The first word has been marked as an example. / x \ wundor-dea wondrous death land land healdan to hold wter water brer brother be-cuman to come wi-standan to withstand -hebban to lift up e-drincan to drink up s-strand sea shore hring-net coat of mail hord-burh treasure-city wd-c widely known on-findan to discover on-weald dominion for-grindan to grind to pieces for-heard very hard urh-cropan to creep through urh-hefi very heavy ymb-gn to go round ymb-hwyrft rotation lf-dagas life-days swan-rd swan-road, sea lod-sceaa peoples enemy g-weri weary with fighting leorning-cniht disciple