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1. Grimm’s Law.
2. Verner’s Law.
3. Common Germanic Vowel Shift, Common Germanic Fracture
4. Basic Grammatical Features of Germanic Languages
5. Periods in the History of English
6. Angles, Saxons and Jutes: their original home and migration to the British Isles. The Old
English Heptarchy.
7. The role of Wessex in unifying the country. Old English literary monuments.
8. Indo-European, Common Germanic and classical Old English phonemic systems
9. The Old English Vowel System. Phonological Processes in OE
10. Development of Consonants in OE
11. The declension of the Noun in OE. Types of stems
12. The Categories of the OE Adjective
13. The Pronoun in OE
14. Verbal Grammatical Categories in OE
15. Strong Verbs in OE
16. Weak Verbs in OE
17. Preterite-Present Verbs in OE
18. The Non-Finite forms of the Verb in OE
19. The Linguistic Consequences of the Scandinavian Invasion
20. OE Vocabulary

1. Grimm’s Law.
The first fundamental change in the consonant system of Germanic languages dates back to times far
removed from today. Jakob Ludwig Grimm (1785-1863), a German philologist and a folklorist (generally
known together with his brother Wilhelm for their Grimm's Fairy Tales (1812-22) studied and systematized
these correlations in his Deutsche Grammatik (1819-37). His
conclusions are formulated (called Grimm's law or the First Consonant shift).
The essence of Grimm’s law is that the quality of some sounds (namely plosives) changed in all Germanic
languages while the place of their formation remained unchanged. Thus, voiced aspirated plosives (stops)
lost their aspiration and changed into pure voiced plosives, voiced plosives became
voiceless plosives and voiceless plosives turned into voiceless fricatives.
bh dh gh —> b d g Sanskrit bhrata —> Goth brodar, Old English brodor (brother);
b d g -> p t k Lith. bala, Ukr. болото -> Old English pol;
Lat. granum —* Goth. kaurn. Old English corn;
There are some exceptions to Grimm's law: p t k did not change into f 0 h, if they were preceded by s (tres -
dreo, but sto - standan).
Another exception was formulated by a Danish linguist Karl Adolph Verner (1846— 96) in 1877: if an
Indo-European voiceless stop was preceded by an unstressed vowel, the voiceless fricative which developed
from it in accordance with Grimm's law became voiced, and later this voiced fricative became a voiced
plosive (stop). That is:
p t k —> b d g. Greek pater has a Germanic correspondence fadar; feder because the stress in the word was
on the second syllable, and so voiceless plosive was preceded by an unstressed vowel.
The phases are usually constructed as follows:
1. Proto-Indo-European voiceless stops change into voiceless fricatives.
2. Proto-Indo-European voiced stops become voiceless stops.
3. Proto-Indo-European voiced aspirated stops become voiced stops or fricatives (as allophones).
This chain shift (in the order 3,2,1) can be abstractly represented as:
* bʰ > b > p > ɸ
* dʰ > d > t > θ
* gʰ > g > k > x
* gʷʰ > gʷ > kʷ > xʷ
2. Verner’s Law.
Grimm couldn’t come up with a rule for the exceptions, but in 1875, Danish linguist Karl Verner found it.
Verner’s Law states that in Proto-Germanic, unvoiced fricatives and stops became voiced (reversing
Grimm’s Law in some cases) when they immediately followed an unstressed syllable in the same word.
Since the earlier (Proto-Indo-European) version of *ph₂tḗr ("father") had the stress on the second syllable,
and*bʰréh₂tēr ("brother") didn’t, this explained the t >d change.
Verner's law explains why some verbs in Old English changed their root consonant in the past tense and in
the Participle II - originally, these grammatical forms had the stress on the second syllable. Hence the basic
forms of such verbs as snidan (cut) and weordan (10 become) were sni dan — sndd - snidon - sniden;
weordan - weard - wurdon - worden.
Verner's Law operated, for example, on a regular basis in such grammatical forms as the preterite plural and
the part participle. Nowadays, there is only one English verb that has two separate forms for the past sg and
past pl was ~ were. Most examples of Verner's Law in English are fossilized forms.
The law adds the following note to Grimm’s law. If an IE voiceless plosive was preceded by an unstressed
vowel, the voiceless fricative which developed from it in accordance with Grimm’s law became voiced and
later this voiced fricative became a voiced plosive. Rhotacism is the change “z” to “r”. Due to “s” affected
by Verner’s law.
Besides under Verner’s Low – the rotacism. In West- and North-Germanic Languages /s/ → /z/ → /r/
Goth hausjan – OE hӯran – Germ hören
3.Common Germanic Vowel Shift, Common Germanic Fracture
The main characteristic feature in the Germanic langs is the treatment of the Indo-European short vowels o
and a and long ā and ō. IE s hort o and a appear as short a in Germanic langs. E. G.: Ночь – Nacht.
IE long ā and ō appear as long ō in Germanic. As result there was neither a short o nor a long ā in Germanic
The quality of stressed vowel is in some cases dependent on a following sound – fracture (also called
breaking). It’s about the pair e andi and the pair u ando.
Great Vowel Shift (15th and 16th centuries):
earlier nice, vine [aı] / flower, tower [aʊ]
later police, ravine [i:] / rouge, soup [u:]
4. Basic Grammatical Features of Germanic Languages
The Proto-Germanic and the old Germanic languages were synthetic languages (the relationships between
the parts of the sentence were shown by the forms of the words rather than position in the sentence or by
auxiliary words). One the main processes in the development of the Germanic morphological system was
the change in the word structure. The common I-E notional word consisted of 3 elements: root (expressing
the lexical meaning), inflexion (ending) (showing the grammatical form), stem-forming suffix. However in
Germanic languages the stem-forming suffix fuses with the ending and is often no longer visible.
The Germanic nouns had a well-developed case system with 4 cases: nominative, genitive, dative,
accusative. And two number forms: singular and plural. They also had the category of gender: feminine,
masculine, neuter.
These changes are important for us to know because they explain the difference between the words
in different modern languages which are connected with the changes in the sounds [o] and [a]. Many words
in Modern Germanic languages have [a], while in Modern Ukrainian or Russian there is [o], though these
languages go back to IE: e.g. German Zaltz – Rus. соль, Ukr. (дай) солі, etc.
Germanic adjectives had two types of declination: weak and strong. They also had degrees of comparison.
Germanic verbs are divided into 2 principal groups: strong and weak. Depending on the way they formed
their past tense forms. The past tense of strong verbs was formed with the help of ablaut(чередование
гласных). Weak verbs expressed past tense with the help of the dental suffix “d/t”. The Germanic verb had
a well-developed system of categories including the category of person 1st, 2nd, 3rd; category of number
singular/plural. Also Germanic verb had tense: past and present. They also had mood: indicative,
imperative, optative.
The grammatical forms of the word were built by means of suppletion (образование форм одного и того
же слова от разных корней) (the usage of two or more different roots as forms of one and the same word)
(I, my, mine, me) (ich, mich, mir).
Though in the Germanic languages inflections were simpler and shorter than in other in other I-E languages.
Sound interchange. The usage of interchange of vowels and consonants for the purpose of word and form
building. (tooth-teeth, build-built).
Ablaut or vowel gradation. An independent vowel interchange unconnected with any phonetic conditions
used to differentiate between grammatical forms of one and the same word. The Germanic ablaut was
consistently used in building the principal forms of strong verbs.
5. Periods in the History of English
Each of the periods may be characterized by specific features in different aspects of the language:
phonology, grammar and vocabulary. If we approach the analysis of the English language of the OE period,
we have to mention, first of all, the shift of stress which took place in PG. If in PIE there were two kinds
of stress - musical and dynamic, in Germanic languages only dynamic stress is preserved. In IE word stress
was free and movable, in PG (and OE) it became fixed on the first syllable.
The Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, Period, the period from the 5th century, when the main migration into
Britain was accomplished, to 1066, the year of the Battle of Hastings, when the Anglo-Saxon rulers of
England fell to Norman French invaders under William the Conqueror.
Main events: second period of Latinate borrowing which accompanied the conversion to Christianity in 597
AD , mixing of Anglo-Saxon with the language of the Viking invaders (Old Norse) causes significant losses
of grammatical endings, first known works of English literature appear (Beowulf).
I. Old English (500-1100 AD)
West Germanic invaders from Jutland and southern Denmark: the Angles (whose name is the source of the
words England and English), Saxons, and Jutes, began populating the British Isles in the fifth and sixth
centuries AD. They spoke a mutually intelligible language, similar to modern Frisian—the language of
northeastern region of the Netherlands – that is called Old English. Four major dialects of Old English
emerged, Northumbrian in the north of England, Mercian in the Midlands, West Saxon in the south and
west, and Kentish in the Southeast.
These invaders pushed the original, Celtic-speaking inhabitants out of what is now England into Scotland,
Wales, Cornwall, and Ireland, leaving behind a few Celtic words. Also influencing English at this time were
the Vikings. Norse invasions, beginning around 850, brought many North Germanic words into the
language, particularly in the north of England, and influenced grammar greatly.
Old English, whose best known surviving example is the poem Beowulf, lasted until about 1100. This last
date is rather arbitrary, but most scholars choose it because it is shortly after the most important event in the
development of the English language, the Norman Conquest.
6. Angles, Saxons and Jutes: their original home and migration to the British Isles. The Old English
VI century – The OE Heptarchy. There was a coexistence of seven separate kingdoms: Kent, Essex,
Wessex, Sussex, Mercia, East Anglia and Northumbria.
The Anglo-Saxons were a people who inhabited Great Britain from the 5th
century. They comprise people from Germanic tribes who migrated to the island from
continental Europe.
The Jutes are believed to have originated from the Jutland Peninsula and part of the
North Frisian coast.
The Jutes, along with some Angles, Saxons and Frisians, sailed across the North
Sea to raid and eventually invade Great Britain from the late 4th century onwards, either
displacing, absorbing, or destroying the native peoples there.
7. The role of Wessex in unifying the country. Old English literary monuments.
Four OE kingdoms: Kent, Northumbria, Mercia and, Wessex. Each of them gained
superiority, until the decisive victory of Wessex in 828.
The greatest and most important kingdoms were Northum-
bria, Mercia and Wessex. For a time Northumbria gained supre-
macy. Mercia was the next king-
dom to take the lead. The struggle for predominance continued and at last at the begin-
ning of the 9th century Wessex became the strongest state. In 829 Egbert, King of We
ssex, was acknowledged by Kent, A viking sword handle of the Mercia and Northumbria
. This was really the beginning of the united kingdom of England, for Wessex never ag
ain lost its supremacy and King Egbert became the first king of England. Under his rul
e all the small Anglo-Saxon king-
doms were united to form one kingdom which was called England from that time on.
Old English Alphabets. Old English scribes used two kinds of letters: the runes and
the letters of the Latin alphabet.
The Runic Alphabet. The earliest written records of English are inscriptions on
hard material made in a special alphabet known as the runic alphabet. The word ‘rune’
originally meant ‘secret’, ‘mystery’ and came to denote inscriptions believed to be magic. Each
runic symbol indicated a separate sound.
Futhark. The first Germanic runic alphabet originated in Europe and was called
‘futhark’ after the first six letters. Comprised 24 runic symbols.
The Anglo-Saxon Runic alphabet. There are approximately 40 runic inscriptionsin
Old English.
The oldest and greatest monument of the Old English period is the poem Beowulf,
an old Germanic legend, which belongs to the seventh century. It is a story of about 3000 lines
and it is the first English epic. It’s preserved in the well-known Cotton Manuscript. The name
of its author is unknown.
But besides Beowulf there are many other Old English poems, too. Among them are Genesis A and
Genesis B written by an unknown author. The second of these, which is short, is concerned with the
beginnings of the world and the fall of the angels. The poet has here thoroughly enjoyed describing God’s
punishment of Satan and the place of punishment for evil in Hell. On the contrary, most of the long Genesis
A is a little bit dull, it’s in fact the old history taken from the Bible and put into Old English verse.
Other poems taken straight form the Bible are The Exodus, which describes how the Israelites
left Egypt and Daniel. Another poem, Christ and Satan, deals with events in Christ’s life.
8. Indo-European, Common Germanic and classical Old English phonemic systems compared.
The phonetic system of Old English preserved in general the Common Germanic structure of sounds. Main
phonetic features of Germanic languages - Grimm's Law and Verner's Law - are clearly seen in Old English,
as well as many processes which took part among vowels and diphthongs. Old English is sometimes moving
further in developing the phonetics, and that is why some of its models are a bit hard to trace back to the
Common Germanic period. That is why we decided to follow the way suggested by many linguists in
description the Old English phonetics: to offer the explanations comparing to the Gothic language, the most
ancient of witnessed Germanic tongues and the most archaic of them.
Old English phonetics included the majority of sounds typical for all Germanic speech; and only some of its
phonemes are unique and require a special acquaintance.
First we will talk about the vowels, which could be either short or long in Old English, just like in Modern
English or German. The difference between them is also familiar to Modern English speakers: the
distinction between open and close syllables. This distinction is quite Germanic, and obviously did not
existed in Proto-Indo-European where vowels could be short and long in every position. In Germanic a long
sound in a closed syllable can be seldom met. The table below explains all Old English (OE) vocals
compared to those of Gothic and followed by examples (sounds for them will follow later):

OE Gothic Description; Position; Pronunciation Examples

Short back vowel; Mainly in open syllables, when the macian (to make),
a a
following one contains a back vowel; English cup habban (to have)
stán (a stone),
á ai Long back vowel; In any kind of syllables; English star
hátan (to call)
Short back vowel; Met mainly in closed syllables, or in
dæg (a day), wæter
æ a open ones, if the next syllable contains a front vowel;
English bad
Long back vowel; as Gothic é found only in some verbal
stæ'lon (stolen),
æ' é, á forms, as Gothic á is the result of the so-called i-
hæ'lan (to cure)
mutation; German za"hlen
Short front vowel; as Gothic i, ai noticed only in some
e i, ai, a infinitives, otherwise is result of the mutation of i; sengean (to sing)
English bed
Long front vowel; resulted from the i-mutation of ó;
é ó déman (to judge)
German Meer
Short front vowel; can be either stable or unstable, the
bindan (to bind),
i i, ie unstable sound can interchange with ie and y; English
niht - nyht (a night)
Long front vowel; also stable and unstable (mutating to wrítan (to write), hí
í ie
ý); English steal - hý (they)
o u, au Short back vowel; English cost coren (chosen)
ó o Long back vowel; English store scóc (divided)
Short back vowel; used only when the next syllable
u u, au curon (they chose)
contains another back vowel; English book
ú ú Long back vowel; English stool lúcan (to look)
y u Short front vowel; i-mutation of u; German fu"nf gylden (golden)
ý ú Long front vowel; i-mutation of ú, German glu"hen mýs (mice)
A special short sound met only before nasals in closed
a. o monn (a man)

Here they are. Some linguists doubt about the last vowel if it ever existed at all - Old English texts never
reflect it in writing. But there is a vowel interchange in some kind of words - in closed syllables before
nasals - where some texts have a (mann), but some prefer o (monn). Sometimes even the same document
shows the two variants. This makes us think there was a vocal sound in this position which was developed
already in the Old English time, and did not exist in Gothic or in Common Germanic.
The Gothic language used to have much more diphthongs than Old English. Usually this is the general trend
in Indo-European languages - diphthongs turn into simple vowels, and the more developed the language, the
less diphthongs it has. The Old English tongue had two original diphthongs, both of which were composed
of long vowel components:
éá - equal to Gothic au, found both in nominal and verbal parts of speech: béám, céás (he chose)
éó - equal to Gothic iu: céósan (to choose); in some dialects and varieties of the language it was written like
íó, but we are sure this was the same sound in fact.
One of the main phonological and morphological instruments in Common Germanic and practically in all
Germanic languages was the Ablaut, the vowel interchange in the root of nouns and verbs. This specific
feature, though known in all Indo-European groups as a phonetic means, was of great importance
particularly in Germanic, where it was sometimes used instead of verb endings and noun inflections.
Interesting, that the same way of "infixation" of different vowels into the root is known in Semitic and other
Afroasiatic languages: compare the Arabic language which has kataba (he wrote), kutiba (written), katib
(writing), kitab (a writing), 'aktaba (he made smb write) as different forms of the root k-t-b, and the English
language which uses sing, sang, sung, song as different forms of the root s-ng. This is the Germanic Ablaut.

The Ablaut in its classical Germanic forms is present in Gothic, Old High German and many other ancient
Germanic languages. But English, though keeping this interchange, slightly changed the rules of the Ablaut.
For instance, if the Germanic classical verb conjugation represent the Ablaut in i - a - zero forms, in Old
English it looks like rísan - rás - rison - risen (to rise) in the I class of Strong verbs, and like béodan - béad
- budon - boden in the II class. But still the Ablaut played an important role in the morphology of the verb
and noun (for nouns it could be also the means of word composition: faran (to go, to travel) produced the
noun fór (a trip)).
Speaking about vowel mutations which took place in Old English words through its period of existence, we
do not wish to describe thoroughly all of them, just to point the most important processes:
1. Breaking
æ > ea before combinations of "r+consonant", "l+cons.", "h+cons.", and also before h final:
ærm > earm, æld > eald, æhta > eahta, sæh > seah
e > eo before "r+cons.", "lc, lh, h +cons.", and before h final:
herte > heorte, melcan > meolcan, selh > seolh, feh > feoh
2. Palatalization
This is the process which went under the influence of g, c, sc before vowels in the beginning of the word:
e > ie (gefan > giefan)
æ > ea (cæster > ceaster)
æ' > éa (gæ'fon > géafon)
a > ea (scacan > sceacan)
o > eo (scort > sceort)
Interesting to know that this palatalization (or softening) is thought by some linguists to influence not
vowels but consonants themselves. This means that in some particular position sounds g, c, sc became
respectively [g'], [k'], [sk'], and this was marked by a soft vowel after them. So opinions vary on this
3. i-mutation
This interesting feature changed many of Old English words on a very early stage of the language's history.
It is caused by i (ot j) in the next syllable, it affects all vowels, except i and e. Vowels move from their back
position to the new front one:
a > e (framian > fremman)
æ > e (tælian > tellan)
á > æ' (lárian>læ'ran)
o > e (ofstian > efstan)
ó > é (dómian > déman)
u > y (fullian > fyllan)
ú > ý (cúþian > cýþan)
ea > ie (earmiþu > iermþu)
éa > íe (geléafian > gelíefan)
eo > ie (afeorrian > afierran, afyrran)
éo > íe (getréowi > getríewe, getríve)
4. Back Mutation
Appears before liquids and labial consonants (i.e. r, l; p, b, f, m):
i > io (hira > heora)
e > eo (herot > heorot)
a > ea (saru > searu)
5. Contraction of vowels due to a dropped h
After the consonant had dropped, two vowels met, and they collided into one long vowel:
ah + vowel > eah + vowel > éa, (slahan > sleahan > sléan)
eh,ih + vowel > éo (sehan > seohan > séon)
oh + vowel > ó - (fóhan > fón, hóhan > hón)

The consonants in the Old English language are simple to learn for a nowadays English-speaker - and we are
all, aren't we? They look the following way:

Labials p, b, f, v
Dentals d, t, s, þ (English thin), ð (English this)
Velars c [k], g, h
Liquids r, l
Nasals n, m

Of them the special attention is always attracted to the letter g. In fact though it was written the same way in
every position, it was pronounced in three different ways:
1. as English [g] in gift while standing before any consonant or a, o, u (all back vowels). The example is gód
(a god).
2. as Greek [g] or Irish gh while standing after back vowels (these very a, o, u or after r, l. For example
dagas, folgian.
3. as English [j] in yellow while preceding or following any front vowel (e, i, y). In this case it is no longer
velar, but palatal: giefan (to give), dæg (a day). As we see, this g in dæg later turned into the Modern
English y.
Consonants could also be subject to several kinds of mutations which we place here:
1. Voicing of fricative sounds (h, f, s, þ) appears, if a fricative is surrounded by vowels:
wíf (a wife; unvoiced) - wífes (voiced); wearþ (a becoming; unvoiced) - weorðan (to become; voiced).
2. Palatalization appears only in Late Old English, but significantly changes the pronunciation making it
closer to today's English:
cild [kild] > [child]; scip [skip] > [ship]; everywhere [g], [cg] sounds turn into [dj]: bricg [bricg] >
3. Other changes
any velar cons.+ t > -ht-: sócte > sóhte
any labial cons.+ t > -ft-: sceapt > sceaft
any dental cons.+ t > -ss-: witte > wisse
n was lost before h, f, s, p: bronhte > bróhte, sonfte > sófte
Certainly there were other changes as well, but they are not so important to be placed in our short grammar.

In general, Old English phonetics suffered great changes during the whole period from the 5th to the 11th
century. Anglo-Saxons did not live in isolation from the world - they contacted with Germanic tribes in
France, with Vikings from Scandinavia, with Celtic tribes in Britain, and all these contacts could not but
influence the language's pronunciation somehow. Besides, the internal development of the English language
after languages of Angles, Saxons and Jutes were unified, was rather fast, and sometimes it took only half a
century to change some form of the language or replace it with another one. That is why we cannot regard
the Old English language as the state: it was the constant movement.

9. The Old English Vowel System. Phonological Processes in OE.

Comparing OE system of vowels with IE and Protogermanic we can arrive at a conclusion that the system
of vowels in OE changed: in IE there were 10 monophthongs, in PG – 8, in OE – 15. If we compare PG
diphthongs with OE, it could possible to say that in OE all the diphthongs are new. At least so the 8
diphtongs look at first sight. New phonemes appeared due to different phonetic processes. Some of them
were reflected in PG: the Common Germanic Fracture and The Common Germanic Vowel Shift. Other
processes: i-Umlaut, splitting, breaking, palatal mutation before x’, diphthongization due to initial palatal
consonant, back mutation, contraction.
• Breaking (the process of formation of a short diphthong from a simple short vowel when it is followed by
a specific consonant cluster: hard>heard, arm>earm, half>healf, erl>eorl)
• Palatal mutation (i-umlaut – back sound o or a changes its quality if there is a front sound in the next
syllable: sandian>sendan; ofstian>efstan)
• Back mutation (the syllable that influenced the preceding vowel contained a back vowel o or u: hira>hiora,
herot>heorot) = velar mutation
Diphthongization due to initial palatal consonant (in OE after palatal consonants sk’, k’, j: skal>sceal
The phonetics of the OE period was characterized by a system of dynamic stress. The fixed stress fell on the
1st root syllable.
The vowels had the following characteristic features:
i) the quantity and the quality of the vowel depended upon its position in the word. Under stress any vowel
could be found, but in unstressed position there were no diphthongs or long monophthongs, but only short
vowels a, e, I, o, u.
j) the length of the stressed vowels was phonemic, which means that there could be two words differing only
in the length of the vowel .
k) there was an exact parallelism of long and short vowels.
There were the following vowel phonemes in Old English:
Monophthongs: i, i:, y, y:, u, u:, e, e:, o, o:, ae, ae:, a, a:
Diphthongs: eo, eo:, ea, ea:
All the diphthongs were falling diphthongs with the first element stronger than the second, the second
element being more open that the first.
OE vowel system classified according to the following principles:

1. According to the place of articulation or to the position of the bulk of the tongue: front, central,
2. According to the tongue-high: high, mid, low
3. According to the length: long and short. For every short vowel there was a long vowel.

OE diphthongs are a result of some further development of Common Germanic diphthongs, though in the
course of history the quality of the diphthong may have undergone a change
OE ceas
ceosan From Common Germanic
kiusan kaus

OE short diphthongs originated from monopgthongs

From Common Germanic
10. Development of Consonants in OE.
Processes: Palatalization, Assibilation, Metathesis, Change of consonant groups, Shortening of
long consonants in the final position. The essense of Palatalization – is the change of velar
consonants (k,g, ʒ) into palatal (k’,g’, ʒ’) before or after front vowels. Assibilation is the change
of palatal consonants into affricates and sibilants: g’, k’, sk’ change correspondingly into dʒ, tʃ, ʃ.
Metathesis presupposes the change of the sequence: 2 sounds exchange their places. Change of
consonant groups /xs/ changes into /ks/. Process of Shortening – when long consonants in the final
position become short.
The OE consonant system consisted of some 14 consonant phonemes. The consonant system in
OE manifested the following peculiarities.

1. The relatively small number of consonant phonemes.

2. The absence of affricated and fricative consonants which we now find in the
language such as [t ], [d ], [ p ], [ b ].
3. Dependence of the quality of the phoneme upon its environment in the word

If the first two require no particular explanation, the last point calls for a special comment.
Among the 14 consonant phonemes that exited in OE there were at least 5 that gave us positional
variants which stand rather wide apart.
1. The phonemes denoted by the letters f, p , or s are voiced or voiceless depending upon their
phonetic position. They are generally voiced in the so-called “intervocal position” that is between
vowels and voiceless otherwise.
2. The phoneme denoted by the letter c also gave at least two variant – palatal [k] and velar [k]. In
the majority of cases it was a velar consonant and palatal generally before the vowel i.
3. Similar remarks can be made about the phoneme denoted by the letter : we have the voiced
velar plosive variant [g] of it at the beginning of the word before back vowels or consonants or in
the middle of the word after n. The voiced velar fricative variant [ ] in the middle of the word
between back vowels. The voice palatal fricative variant [j] before and after front vowels.
The system of consonant phonemes that we observe in OE involves certain peculiarities that are
typical of the majority of Germanic dialects, which set them apart from the majority of the Indo-
European languages.
11. The declension of the Noun in OE. Types of stems
The OE noun paradigm was composed by the following grammatical categories: gender, number,
The category of gender was formed by the opposition of 3 gender-forms: masculine, feminine,
neuter. All nouns no matter whether they denoted living beings, inanimate things or abstract
notions belonged to one of the 3 genders.
Some nouns denoting animals were also treated as neuter, such as cicen (chicken), hors (horse)
The grammatical gender did not always coincide with the natural gender of the person and
sometimes even contradicted it (for instance, the noun wifman was declined as masculine).
The grammatical category of number was formed by the opposition of two category forms:
singular and plural.
In the course of the development the original paradigm had undergone great changes due to the
fusion of the origin suffix and the origin gram ending into the element which from the point of
view of OE is to e regarded as a gram ending. As a result of that fusion nouns that are known to
have had different stem-suffixes originally in OE acquired materially different endings in the
same case. The original stem suffixes were formed both by vowel and consonants. Thus there
were two respective principal groups of declensions in OE: the vowels declension (strong –
comprises four principal paradigms: a-stem, o-stem, u-stem i-stem ) and the consonant declension
(weak – it comprises nouns with the stem originally ending in –n, -r, -s and some other
consonants). In rare cases the new forms is constructed by adding the ending directly to the root –
so-called root-stem declension.
Vowel-stems. Declension of a-stem nouns.
This type of declension consists of masculine and neuter genders of OE nouns. As a rule those are
common everyday words that formed the very core of the word-stock: half, hwaerte, hors, fisc,
scip etc.
The paradigm of the a-stem nouns is characterized by the homonymity of the Nominative and
Accusative case-form. The rest of the forms retain their endings. The difference between the
genders of the nouns is clearly seen from the different endings in the Nominative and the
Accusative plural (-as for the masculine and –u for the neuter).
Consonant stems. Declension of n-stem nouns.
The consonant declension consisted of nouns with the stem originally ending in –n, -r, -r and other
consonants. The n-stem class was formed by nouns of all the 3 genders.
The n-stem was the most important among all the consonant stem declension. This class of nouns
was composed of common words. The group was very extensive in OE and like the a-stem
declension it exhibited a tendency to spread its forms over other declensions. The original stem
suffix –n may be observed in the majority of case forms, but very often the grammatical ending
had been dropped in the pre-written period.
Gender oppositions in this declension are not distinct, the masculine nouns being different from
the feminine only in the Nominative Singular and from the neuter – in the Nominative and the
Accusative Singular.
Declension of root-stem nouns. Root- stem require special consideration. This class was not
extensive and stood apart among other OE nouns due to peculiarities of form-building which was
partly retained in Modern English. Unlike other classes the root-stem nouns such as man, mus
originally had no stem-suffix and the grammatical ending was added directly to the root. As a
result of that in the dative Singular and the Nominative and the Accusative Plural the root-vowel
had undergone palatal mutation due to the I-sound in the grammatical ending of these forms. Later
the ending was dropped and vowel interchange remained the only means of differentiating the
given forms in the paradigm. The endings of the rest of the forms are built up on analogy with
those of the a-stem, hence the difference between genders can be observed only in the Genitive
Sigular –es for the masculine, -e for the femininw
12. The Categories of the OE Adjective
The paradigm of the adjective is similar to that of the noun and the pronoun. The grammatical
category of case was built up by 5 forms: the Nominative, the Accusative, the Dative, the Genitive
and the Instrumental.
There were 2 was of declining Adjectives – the Definite and the Indefinite declension. The
adjective followed the Definite declension mainly if the noun if modified had another attribute – a
demonstrative pronoun, and they were declined as Indefinite otherwise. The gram suffixed –
forms of cases mainly coincided with those of nouns with the stem originally ending in a vowel or
–n, yet in some cases we find pronominal suffixes.
Degrees of comparison
The Adjective in OE changed its forms not only to show the relation of the given adjective to
other words in the sentence which was expressed by the gender; number and case of the adjective,
but also to show the degree of the quality denoted by the adjective. The degrees of comparison
were expressed, the same as all gram notions:
- by means of suffixation
- by mean of vowel gradation +suffixation
- by means of suppletive forms.
Both suffixation and the use of suppletive forms in the formation of the degrees of comparison are
origin means that can be traced back to Common Germanic. But the used of vowel interchanged is
a feature which is typical of the English language only and was acquired by the language in the
prehistoric period of its development.
Only two grammatical phenomena that were reflected in the adjectival paradigm in OE and
preserved in Middle English: declension and the category of number. The difference between the
Indefinite and Definite declension is shown by the zero ending for the former and the ending –e
for the latter, but only in the Singular. The forms of the Definite and the Indefinite declension in
the Plural have similar endings.
The difference between number forms is manifest only in the Indefinite declension, where there is
no ending in the Singular but the ending –e in the Plural.
All grammatical categories and declensions in Middle and New English disappeared. Contrary to
that degrees of comparison of the adjective were not only preserved but also developed in Middle
and New Engl. It should be note that out of the three principal means of forming degrees of
comparison that existed in OE: suffixation, vowel interchange, and supplative forms, there
remained as a productive means only one: suffixation, the rest of the means seen only in isolated
forms. At the same time there was formed and developed a new means – analytical.
The adjective has lost its case-system altogether. There remain only a few traces of the number
distinction and the distinction between the strong and weak declension. The comparative and the
superlative degrees are formed with the suffixes –er, -est respectively. The mutated forms still
occur, but the vowel may already be leveled on the pattern of the positive form. The suppletive
forms of comparison remain the same, with corresponding phonetic changes.

13. The Pronoun in OE

Pronouns in OE were subdivided into following categories: personal (now I, you), demonstr (this,
that), interrogative (who, which), possesive (my, his), indefinite (one, some), negative (no+body).
And relative particle which are used for connection of subordinate clauses, and reflexive pron.
(mine). As for the other groups – relative, possessive and reflexive – they were as yet not fully
developed and were not always distinctly separated from the four main classes.
In OE, while nouns consistently distinguished between four cases, personal pronouns began to
lose some of their case distinctions: the forms of the Dat. case of the pronouns of the 1st and 2nd
p. were frequently used instead of the Acc. It is important to note that the Gen. case of personal
pronouns had two main applications: like other oblique cases of noun-pronouns it could be an
object, but far more frequently it was used as an attribute or a noun determiner, like a possessive
pronoun, e.g. sunu mīn.
They have categories of 3 persons, 3 numbers (у 3лица - 2), 4 cases, in 3 person, в 3 лице ед.ч - 3
рода. 1,2 Person have dual number, the 3P - gender. 1,2 – it is ancient paradigm, they are
suppletive, 3 – is late, non suppletive. Suppletivity – the expression of grammatical categories of
different roots by means of root vowel be, es, ves.
Demonstrative pronouns There were two demonstrative pronouns in OE: the prototype of NE
that, which distinguished three genders in the sg. And had one form for all the genders in the pl.
and the prototype of this. They were declined like adjectives according to a five-case system:
Nom., Gen., Dat., Acc., and Instr. Demonstrative pronouns were frequently used as noun
determiners and through agreement with the noun indicated its number, gender and case
2 types: the 1st with the demonstrative meaning considerably weakened. And have 5-th case –
Instrumental (творительный). 2nd – with a clear demonstr.meaning..
Possesive pron. In the basic form coincided with G.Case.Personal pron. but they were perceived
as Nom case.. 1-2 person declined by strong declinations (ср.рус "my", "your"), and it is no 3
Interogative pron – hwā, Masc. and Fem., and hwæt, Neut., - had a four-case paradigm (NE who,
what). The Instr. case of hwæt was used as a separate interrogative word hwў (NE why). Some
interrogative pronouns were used as adjective pronouns, e.g. hwelc
Indefinite pron – were a numerous class embracing several simple pronouns and a large number
of compounds: ān and its derivative ǽniз (NE one, any); nān, made up of ān and the negative
particle ne (NE none); nānþinз, made up of the preceding and the noun þinз (NE nothing).
Negative pron - другое слово+отр.частица ne дали no+thing=nothing. 1,2 – склоняются как
“никакой”. 3 – как сущ либо ж.р., либо ср.р – «ничто».
14. Verbal Grammatical Categories in OE
Grammatical categories - The verb-predicate agreed with the subject of the sentence in two
grammatical categories: number and person. Its specifically verbal categories were mood and
tense. Finite forms regularly distinguished between two numbers: sg and pl. The category of
Person was made up of three forms: th 1st, the 2nd and the 3rd. The category of Mood was
constituted by the Indicative, Imperative and Subjunctive. The category of Tense in OE consisted
of two categorical forms, Present and Past. The use of Subj. forms conveyed a very general
meaning of unreality or supposition. In addition to its use in conditional sentences and other
volitional, conjectural and hypothetical contexts Subj. was common in other types of construction:
in clauses of time, clauses of result and in clauses presenting reported speech. The meanings of the
tense forms were also very general, as compared with later ages and with present-day English.
The forms of the Present tense were used to indicate present and future actions. The Past tense
was used in a most general sense to indicate various events in the past. In addition to Mood and
Tense we must mention Aspect and Voice. In OE the category of aspect was expressed by the
regular contrast of verbs with and without the prefix зe-; verbs with the prefix had a perfective
meaning while the same verbs without the prefix indicated a non-completed action, e.g. feohtan –
зefeohtan ‘fight’ – ‘gain by fighting’. it has been shown that the prefix зe- in OE can hardly be
regarded as a marker of aspect, it could change the aspective meaning of the verb by making it
perfective, but it could also change its lexical meaning, e.g. beran – зeberan ‘carry’ – ‘bear a
child’. It follows that the prefix зe- should rather be regarded as an element of word-building, a
derivational prefix of vague general meaning, though its ties with certain shades of aspective
meaning are obvious. It is important to note that in OE texts there were also other means of
expressing aspective meanings: the Past or Present Participle. The phrases with Participle I were
used to describe a prolonged state or action, the phrases with Participle II indicated a state
resulting from a previous, completed action. The category of voice in OE is another debatable
issue. The passive meaning was frequently indicated with the help of Participle II of transitive
verbs used as predicatives with the verbs beōn ‘be’ and weorðan ‘become’.
Grammatical categories of the Verbals
In OE there were two non-finite forms of the verb: the Infinitive and the Participle. The Infinitive
had no verbal grammatical categories. Being a verbal noun by origin, it had a sort of reduced case-
system: two forms which roughly corresponded to the Nom. and the Dat. cases of nouns – beran –
uninflected Infinitive (“Nom.” case) tō berenne or tō beranne – inflected Infinitive (“Dat.” case)
Like the Dat. case of nouns the inflected Infinitive with the preposition tō could be used to
indicate the direction or purpose of an action. The uninflected Infinitive was used in verb phrases
with modal verbs or other verbs of incomplete predication.
The Participle was a kind of verbal adjective which was characterized not only by nominal but
also by certain verbal features. Participle I (Present Participle) was opposed to Participle II (Past
Participle) through voice and tense distinctions: it was active and expressed present or
simultaneous processes and qualities, while Participle II expressed states and qualities resulting
from past action and was contrasted to Participle I as passive to active, if the verb was transitive.
Participle II of intransitive verbs had an active meaning; it indicated a past action and was
opposed to Participle I only through tense. Participles were employed predicatively and
attributively like adjectives and shared their grammatical categories: they were declined as weak
and strong and agreed with nouns in number, gender and case.
15. Strong Verbs in OE
The majority of OE verbs fell into two great divisions: the strong verbs and the weak verbs.
Besides these two main groups there were a few verbs which could be put together as “minor”
groups. The main difference between the strong and weak verbs lay in the means of forming the
principal parts, or “stems” of the verb. The strong verbs formed their stems by means of ablaut
and by adding certain suffixes; in some verbs ablaut was accompanied by consonant interchanges.
The strong verbs had four stems, as they distinguished two stems in the Past Tense – one for the
1st and 3rd p. sg Ind. Mood, the other – for the other Past tense forms, Ind. and Subj. the weak
verbs derived their Past tense stem and the stem of Participle II from the Present tense stem with
the help of the dental suffix -d- or -t-; normally they did not interchange their root vowel, but in
some verbs suffixation was accompanied by a vowel interchange. Minor groups of verbs differed
from the weak and strong verbs. Some of them combined certain features of the strong and weak
verbs in a peculiar way (“preterite-present” verbs); others were suppletive or altogether
Strong Verbs The strong verbs in OE are usually divided into seven classes. Classes from 1 to 6
use vowel gradation which goes back to the IE ablaut-series modified in different phonetic
conditions in accordance with PG and Early OE sound changes. Class 7 includes reduplicating
verbs, which originally built their past forms by means of repeating the root-morpheme; this
doubled root gave rise to a specific kind of root-vowel interchange. The principal forms of all the
strong verbs have the same endings irrespective of class: -an for the Infinitive, no ending in the
Past sg stem, -on in the form of Past pl, -en for Participle II.
Strong vrb indicate tense by a change in the quality of a vowel. They are original(germ. Europ).
Restrictive group of verb. Oe – over 300Sv. 1 class –i class, a. 2 class-u-classu+root=diphthong,.
Root consonant changed(rotasism). 3,4 class- the gradation was caused by consonant.(breaking),
6- qualitative-quantities ablaut 7 class –reduplication of the root-morpheme. They use form of
conjugation known as ablaut. And this form of conjugation the stem of the word change to
indicate the tense.
16. Weak Verbs in OE
W.v. form their Preterit and Participle2 by addition of a dental suffix (d/t) –love, loved. Weak
verbs form the majority of Old English verbs. There are three major classes of weak verbs in Old
English. The first class displays i-mutation in the root. The verbs of Class I usually were i-stems,
originally contained the element [-i/-j] between the root and the endings. The verbs of Class II
were built with the help of the stem-suffix -ō, or -ōj and are known as ō-stems. Class III was made
up of a few survivals of the PG third and fourth classes of weak verbs, mostly -ǽj-stems.
Each Wv. is characterized by 3 basic forms: infinitive, Preterit and a participle 2.
1st class regular verbs are formed either from noun, or from other verbs. In regular verbs the
root vowel in all forms subjected to mutation under the influence -i in suffix. 1. The verbs with
long root vowels -i disappears irrespective of which consonant stood before it. dēman-dēmde-
The 1st class formally with ja in the present and i in the past. Its root vowel is mutated
(anomalous). 3 forms, because Pl&sg distinguished only the inflection. There are 11 irregular
verbs in 1 class. Their irregularity consist that they have suffix only in 1 form - the infinitive and
present tense, and it means, that umlaut was only in 1-st form, that is the 1st form distinguished
from the second and the third by quality of the root vowel. (sellan, sealed, seald-to give). Irreg
verbs which have a mutated vowel in the Present tense and no mutation in the Preterit and P2
2rd class –o-class. This o –is preserved by preterit and Participle2. 2nd class has - oja -in the
infinitive and –o- in preterit. The vowel is not mutated.
3rd class contained few verbs: habban-hæfde-hæfd (have), Libban-lifde-lifd (live), Secзan-
sæзde/sæde-sæзd/ (say). The dental suffix is joined immediate to the root. In the present there was
–j-, but the 2nd and 3rd pers.Sg show no trace of –j-.

17. Preterite-Present Verbs in OE

The most important group of these verbs were the so‐called ‘preterite‐ presents’ or ‘past‐present’
verbs. Originally the Present tense forms of these verbs were Past tense forms. Later these forms
acquired a present meaning but preserved many formal features of the Past tense. Most of these
verbs had new Past Tense forms built with the help of the dental suffix. Some of them also
acquired the forms of the verbals: Participles and Infinitives; most verbs did not have a full
paradigm and were in this sense ‘defective’. The conjugation of OE preterite‐presents is shown in
the Table below. The verbs were inflected in the Present like the Past tense of strong verbs: the
forms of the 1st and 3rd p. sg were identical and had no ending – yet, unlike strong verbs, they
had the same root‐vowel in all the persons; the pl had a different grade of ablaut similarly with
strong verbs (which had two distinct stems for the Past: sg and pl). In the Past the preterite‐
presents were inflected like weak verbs. The new Infinitives sculan, cunnan were derived from the
pl form. The interchanges of root‐ vowels in the sg and pl of the Present tense of preterite‐present
verbs can be traced to the same gradation series as were used in the strong verbs. Before the shift
of meaning and time‐reference the would‐be preterite‐presents were strong verbs. The prototype
of can may be referred to Class 3; the prototype of sculan – to Class 4, etc. In OE there were
twelve preterite‐present verbs. Six of them have survived in Mod E: owe, ought, can, dare, shall,
may, must. Most of the preterite‐presents did not indicate actions, but expressed a kind of attitude
to an action denoted by another verb, an Infinitive which followed the preterite‐present. In other
words, they were used like modal verbs, and eventually developed into modern modal verbs. In
OE some of them could also be used as notional verbs.
18. The Non-Finite forms of the Verb in OE

The verb system in OE was represented by two sets of forms: the finitive of the verb and the
non-finitive forms of the verb.Those two types of forms differed more than they do today from
the point of view of their respective grammatical categories, as the verbals at that historical period
were not conjugated like the verb proper, but were declined like nouns or adjectives. Thus the
infinitive could have two case-forms, which may conventionally be called the “Common” case
and the “Dative” case.
The Non-finite forms are: the Infinitive and the two Participles.
1. The Infinitive. There are two infinitive forms: one of them is called the dative Infinitive(the
Indo-European infinitive had been a declinable noun). This infinitive is preceded by toand has the
ending –anne; it is used in independent syntactic positions, mainly as adverbial modifier of
purpose, but also as subject and predicative. The infinitive with the ending –an functions, as a
rule, in combination with preterite-present verbs and in other verbal collocations.
2. Participle I. Has the ending –ende and is declined as a weak adjective. It is used attributively
(in pre- and post-position) and predicative.
3. Participle II. Has the ending –n or –ed, -od, according to the type of verb (strong or weak). It
is declined as adjective (according both to the strong and the weak pattern) and is used mainly as
attribute and predicative.
A comparison of the verbals in OE and in Middle and New English shows that the number of
verbals in OE was less than that in Middle English and New. At the end of the ME period a new
verbal developed – the GERUND. In addition to the Infinitive and the Participle. The Gerund
appeared as a result of a blend between the OE Present Participle ending in “-ende” and the OE
Verbal noun ending in “-ing”. From the Verbal noun the Gerund acquired the form, but under the
influence of the Participle it became more “verbal” in meaning. In the course of history the
Infinitive (already at the end of the OE period) and the Participle (in Middle English) lost
their declension. And at the end of the ME and in New English they acquired elements of
conjugation – the grammatical categories of order and voice. The OE preposition topreceding the
dative case of the infinitive loses its independent meaning and functions simply as a grammatical
particle showing that the Verbal is an Infinitive.

19. The Linguistic Consequences of the Scandinavian Invasion

In the 8th century, people in present-day Sweden, Norway, and Denmark began to leave their
homes and settle in other parts of Europe. Swedes spread eastward towards Russia, Norwegians
went to Iceland and the western parts of the British Isles, and Danes went to France (Normandy)
and Eastern England. The Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Icelandic languages of that period
are referred to here as Scandinavian or Old Norse (ON). These languages were closely related but
there were some differences; their speakers also settled in different parts of the British Isles thus
influencing different dialects of English. It is important to note that Old English and the
Scandinavian languages have many (very basic) words in common: man, wife, folk, winter, and
summer. This might have made communication between the two groups easy. When examining
the influence of the invasions and settlements by the Scandinavians, we notice that both the
vocabulary and the grammar of Old English are affected. Old English and Scandinavian are
similar but a number of changes that had taken place in Old English had not happened in Old
Norse and vice versa. This makes it possible for Old English to borrow the same words twice in a
different form. One change that sets Old English apart from Old Norse is palatalization.
Scandinavian words did not undergo palatalization, which made it possible to ‘recycle’ them, i.e.
have the palatalized Old English word and then borrow the non-palatalized one. As a result,
Modern English has both shirt and skirt; ship and skipper; and shatter and scatter. We can now
return to the question posed in Chapter 4 as to why non-palatalized skirt and egg are still around
in Modern English. In most cases, one word ‘wins’: in the case of egg, sky, skin, and skill, the
Scandinavian form ends up being used, and in the case of shall and fish, the Old English one. In
the case of shirt/skirt, however, both forms are used, but with more specialized, narrower
meanings. There are Scandinavian loans that cause a meaning shift in the origina. For instance,
gift originally meant ‘payment for a wife’ but the Old Norse had shifted (even though gifta sig in
Swedish still means ‘to marry’) and caused the change in the modern meaning; dream means
‘joy’ in Old English, but becomes ‘vision in sleep’ in Middle English; plow means ‘measure of land’
in Old English but becomes plow in Modern English. Other shifts in meaning due to new
Scandinavian words can be seen in the following pairs which originally had similar meanings (the
English word is the second one in the pair): die and starve; skill and craft; skin and hide; and ill
and sick. In Modern English, some of these have a narrower meaning. Words are also lost: Old
English weorpan, irre, and niman are lost and replaced by Scandinavian cast, anger, and take,
respectively. The influence of Scandinavian on the vocabulary of English is substantial. Some
loans from Scandinavian anger, bait, brink, call, carp, clamber, egg, get, give, guess, ill, kilt,
meek, mistake, nag, odd, ransack, rift, rot, ripple, rugged, scold (via skald ‘poet’), scrape, seem,
scrub, sister, skill, sky, snub, take, till, want, wand, weak, window, wrong. Note that a number
of them are verbs and adjectives, unlike the typical Celtic loan. Some estimate the number of
Scandinavian loans to be 1,000. It is possible to see the Scandinavian influence by looking at a
map and counting Scandinavian place names. Some estimate the number of loans to be higher
than 1,400. As mentioned above, the northwest is mainly influenced by Norwegians and the
northeast by Danes. During the time of King Alfred, the Danes wanted to spread to the South as
well, which led to clashes and the division of England into a ‘Danelaw’ (in 878 after the Battle of
Ethandun) and an Anglo-Saxon part. Place names ending in -by ‘abode, village’, such as Rugby,
Derby and Whitby, are common for Scandinavian settlements; -toft ‘homestead’ and -thorpe
‘village’ are Danish; -thwaite ‘field’ is Norwegian. Place names are also sometimes
Scandinavianized: the palatalized Ashford becomes Askeford with a non-palatalized [k] (see
Townend 2002). In contrast, common Old English place names end in -borough ‘fortified place’
and -ham, -ing, -stow, -sted, -(h)all, wic, and -ton, all meaning ‘place’ or ‘village’.
Unlike Celtic and Latin, Scandinavian affected Old English grammar, not just its vocabulary. For
instance, the appearance of the third person plural they, them, and their is due to Scandinavian
contact. In Old English, the third person pronouns are hi, hie, hiera, hem, etc. This shift starts in
the north and slowly spreads to the south. Grammatical words such as pronouns and
prepositions are typically very stable in language history and this development is therefore
unexpected. It shows that the influence of Scandinavian was quite strong. Endings on verbs,
nouns, and adjectives also start to simplify in the north. This is most likely due to contact with
20. OE Vocabulary
The OE vocabulary was almost purely Germanic; except for a small number of borrowings, it
consisted of native words inherited from PG or formed from native roots and affixes.
Native words.
Native OE words can be subdivided into a number of etymological layers from different historical
periods. The three main layers in the native OE words are:
- common IE words;
- common Germanic words;
- specifically OE words.
Words belonging to the common IE layer constitute the oldest part of the OE vocabulary.
Among these words we find names of some natural phenomena, plants and animals, agricultural
terms, names of parts of the human body, terms of kinship, etc.; this layer includes personal and
demonstrative pronouns and most numerals. Verbs belonging to this layer denote the basic
activities of man; adjectives indicate the most essential qualities.
foeder – Vater; bropor – Bruder; modor – Mutter; dohtor – Tochter; sunu – Sohn;
mona – Mond; niht – Nacht; woeter – Wasser; fyr – Feuer;
The common Germanic layer includes words which are shared by most Germanic languages.
This layer is certainly smaller than the layer of common IE words. Semantically these words are
connected with nature, with the sea and everyday life.
screap – sheep; macian – make; hus – house; drincan – drink; land – land; safe – sea; wisdom –
Specifically OE, that is words which do not occur in other Germanic or non-Germanic languages.
These words are few: OE clipian - call, OE brid – bird, wifman – woman and several others.
Foreign elements in the OE vocabulary.
OE borrowings come from two sources: Celtic and Latin.
Borrowings from Celtic.
There are very few Celtic loan-words in the OE vocabulary, for there must have been little
intermixture between the Germanic settlers and the Celtic in Britain. Borrowing from Celtic is to
be found only in place-names. The OE kingdoms Kent, Deira and Bernicia derive their names
from the names of Celtic tribes. The name of York, the Downs and perhaps London have been
traced to Celtic sources. Various Celtic designations of river and water were understood by the
Germanic invaders as proper names: Ouse, Esk, Exe, Avon; Thames, Stour, Dover also come
from Celtic. Many place-names with Celtic elements are hybrids; the Celtic component,
combined with a Latin or a Germanic component, makes a compound place-name, e.g.: Celtic
plus Latin: Man-chester, Win-chester, Lan-caster; Celtic plus Germanic: York-shire, Corn-wall,
Devon-shire, Canter-bury.
Latin influence on the OE vocabulary.
Early OE borrowings from Latin belong to war, trade, agriculture, building and home life.
Among the Latin loan-words adopted in Britain were some place-names made of Latin and
Germanic components, e.g. Portsmouth, Greenport, Greenwich.
belt - belt; butere - butter; camp - field, battle; candel - candle; catt - cat; ceaster - city; cetel -
kettle; cupp - cup; cycene - kitchen; cyse - cheese;
The introduction of Christianity in the late 6th c. Numerous Latin words which found their way
into the English language during these five hundred years clearly fall into two main groups: words
pertaining to religion; words connected with learning.
orgel – organ; papa – pope; regol – religious rule;
Translation-loans. The Latin impact on the OE vocabulary was not restricted to borrowing of
words. There were also other aspects of influence. The most important of them is the appearance
of the so-called translation-loans – words and phrases created on the pattern of Latin words as
their literal translations. The earliest instances of translation-loans are names of the days of the
week found not only in OE but also in other Old Germanic languages. OE Mōnan-dæз (Monday)
day of the moon, Lunae dies.
Word-building means in Old English.
Word Structure. According to their morphological structure OE words fell into three main types:
- simple words (root-words) containing a root-morpheme and no derivational affixes, e.g. land,
- derived words consisting of one root-morpheme and one or more affixes, e.g. be-зinnan.
- compound words, whose stems were made up of more than one root-morpheme, e.g. mann-cynn.