Questions dealing with Old English, i.e. the language of the Anglo-Saxons up to about 1150.

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How did “but” mean “only”?

but (adv., prep.) : Old English butan, buton "unless, except; without, outside," [...] I don't know Old English. From the étymons overhead, how did but change semantically to mean but ...
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2answers
65 views

What is the grammatical designation of “that” in “…that she may have…”?

The following sentence is the Modern English translation of a line from the Old English poem Judith: He (God) advanced a gracious favour to her, that she may have a steadfast faith. My question ...
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5answers
33k views

Why are there two pronunciations for “either”?

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with an individual who told me that pronouncing the word "either" is wrong when pronounced like \ˈī-thər\ instead of \ˈē-thər\ , but I didn't argue the point ...
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1answer
59 views

Single word for “how many” [closed]

Is there a way to say "how many" in a single word? (even something in Old English should be good enough)
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1answer
56 views

How did 'against the outside' (without) evolve to mean 'outside'?

without (adv., prep.) [<--] Old English wiðutan "outside of, from outside," literally "against the outside" (opposite of within), see with + out (adv.). [...] I am guessing that here, ...
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1answer
96 views

Byname or patronymic names for daughters?

Bynames in various texts and genealogies include the suffix -ing to indicate the son of. Example would be Cynric son of Cerdic written as Cynric Cerdicing. Was there a similar practice for daughter's ...
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2answers
2k views

How was the letter -u- written in Old English?

I was reading the etymology for 'come (v.)' when I encountered: [...] The substitution of Middle English -o- for Old English -u- before -m-, -n-, or -r- was a scribal habit before minims to avoid ...
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2answers
2k views

Was the “Ye Olde Shoppe” ever used or is it just an ancient-looking construct of modern times?

Surely, if I were the owner of a shop selling archery goods and wanted to portray my shop as some kind of old-fashioned, high-quality traditional outlet, I might be tempted to call it “Ye Olde Archery ...
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4answers
3k views

Did the English call a fruit “openærs” for 700 years?

There is a small apple-tasting fruit called medlar in English. It looks like a cross between an apple and a rosehip. It has two main curious features: first the fruit must be bletted before it can ...
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1answer
88 views

Has the English language changed since 1854? [closed]

I've started reading a book named Walden, published in 1854. I am not a native English speaker, I am Persian, and I want to read this book for two reasons: to improve my English and because I think ...
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1answer
238 views

Is English considered easier to learn than most of the other languages in the world? [closed]

In comparison to the other languages, I think English is much more simpler. For example, compared to French, English nouns have no gender, adjectives have only one form and verbs have extremely simple ...
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2answers
112 views

Is this a 'justified' double negative? The answer may require some Old English knowledge.

The following is is my translation of a sentence from Bede's Account of the Conversion of King Edwin. Old English tolerated the double negative, and I am trying to translate the text in such a way ...
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1answer
95 views

Is It Correct to Say ‘I Care Not’?

I was watching the film ‘The Devil’s Violinist’ (which takes place a long time ago) when I noticed the following sentence in a dialogue: I need not and I care not. Here, need is used as a modal ...
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3answers
2k views

Old English instead of Latin in early Britain

For almost 400 years, Britain was a Roman province. During that period, naturally, Latin was an important language in the region. When the Germanic tribes invaded the British Isles (around the 5th ...
5
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1answer
80 views

Is the -old morpheme in 'threshold' an OE locative?

I remember in days of yore being told by a professor that threshold held the meaning of "stepping (or more literally, treading) through," implying a locative sense to the remaining -old morpheme. ...
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2answers
321 views

What happened to voiced velar fricative [ɣ] and velar approximant [ɰ] in English language?

The voiced velar fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in various spoken languages. Wikipedia says that it is not found in English today, but did exist in Old English.1 Why did this sound ...
27
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3answers
12k views

Ye olde english alphabet question: Any other letters lost besides thorn, edh, and yogh?

According to this link, we are missing (in Modern English) at least three letters that used to be in common use in English. These are thorn, edh, and yogh. Are there others that were clearly in the ...
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0answers
219 views

Creating Old English compound words for placenames, surnames and weapons

I'm interested in automatically generating (mostly) Old English compound words, for use within a medieval fantasy video game. I have three categories below: Place-names: (using this) Riven-dale ...
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3answers
928 views

Is the word “formulæ” valid English?

Is the word formulæ, written with an æ at the end, valid in English? I stumbled upon this apparently plural form of formula in the Wiktionary. I had no idea the letter æ could occur in English. Does ...
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0answers
63 views

What governed present subjunctive uses in archaic English?

Source, para 4 : p 2 of 2, 'Against YA', by Ruth Graham, slate.com Fellow grown-ups, at the risk of sounding snobbish and joyless and old, we are better than this. I know, I know: Live and let ...
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5answers
4k views

Why do we use the object instead of the subject pronoun in constructions like “stupid me”?

I'm trying to find out how come we say lucky me and stupid us rather than lucky I and stupid we. My understanding is that this is not a recent invention, but a relic from the distant past where it was ...
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2answers
6k views

When did Indo-European descendants stop speaking Old English? What were the influencing factors in the shift from Old English to Modern English? [closed]

There is Old English, and there is the English we speak now. When did exactly did the British (or Americans) change from speaking Old English to speaking the current form of English?
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2answers
167 views

Etymology of orchard

Etymology of orchard As a German I would assume that orchard is related to German Obstgarten (a garden with fruit trees), and as Obstgarten has a consonant group of four consonants bst+g the bst was ...
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1answer
225 views

Split infinitives—did Old English have them?

I've read a few articles as well as questions on this site about splitting infinitives. In the Wikipedia article, it claims: In Old English, infinitives were single words ending in -n or -an ...
98
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1answer
7k views

Did English ever have a word for 'yes' for negative questions?

The Germans have doch and the French have si as a word that means "yes" in response to a negative question, such as: Don't you want some ice-cream? Yes [I do]! In English, we only have yes (as ...
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1answer
315 views

Meaning of the phrase 'out upon it'

I came across this phrase twice while reading the play Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare in the following contexts: 1 - "Out upon it old carrion, Your flesh rebels at these years?". A ...
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1answer
284 views

Is “are” a borrowed word?

I read somewhere that English is the only language to have borrowed a form of its to be verb from another language. I want to say, if memory serves, that it was are that was borrowed from an early ...
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4answers
3k views

Why don’t we write poetry like Beowulf any longer?

Beowulf, the Old English epic poem, uses a characteristically Germanic style of poetry in which the number of strong beats per line is what counts. Instead of counting syllables, strong beats alone ...
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1answer
4k views

Why don't English nouns have grammatical gender?

English nouns — other than those with natural gender, e.g. people or animals — do not generally have grammatical gender, and so are referred to as 'it' rather than 'he' or 'she'. However, modern ...
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3answers
504 views

How did *Old* English transform into *Middle* English so quickly?

Anglo Saxon Old English was the most common language in England before the Norman invasion. To the modern eye, it is unintelligible without specialist learning: lange ...
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2answers
674 views

What did Old English use Ꝥ for?

Here are some examples of citations in the OED of Old English where they use a standalone crossed thorn, Ꝥ: Þu aclænsast Ꝥ weofod and ʒehalʒast. Þær after com swulke mon-qualm Ꝥ lute hær ...
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3answers
8k views

How did 7 come to be an abbreviation for 'and' in Old English?

According to A History of the English Language: Revised Edition by Elly van Gelderen, p.53, in Old English the numeral 7 was used as an abbreviation for the word and: Abbreviations are frequently ...
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1answer
882 views

Did the Tironian “et” (“⁊”) have any impact on the ampersand being shift + 7 on English keyboards? [closed]

How did 7 come to be an abbreviation for 'and' in Old English? is a beautiful question about the Tiroian "et", which is now the "⁊" character 1. My question is what impact did the association of this ...
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6answers
7k views

What we've gelost — why doesn't English use the prefix “ge-”?

The Germanic languages that I'm familiar with all use a prefix similar to ge- on past participles: German: Ich habe mir den Fuß gebrochen. Dutch: Ik heb mijn voet gebroken. But English ...
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2answers
1k views

Etymology of certain words ending in “-en”

Tchrist's comment here on my answer to an etymology question brought the following to mind: Ox (from Old English oxa) maintains the same vowel in the plural oxen that it has in the singular. But ...
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4answers
612 views

What's the reason, words like “Thou” and “Thee” are no longer used in English language

When going through old English literature, especially stories and poems, we can see they have been full of words like "thou" and "thee" etc. Some of my English teachers told me that they were used ...
2
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1answer
173 views

Do the words with non-palatalized pronunciation of g/c (“get”, “give”) always have a Germanic origin?

In English, ge/gi is sometimes pronounced as [ge]/[gi], but mostly as [dʒe]/[dʒi]. The second form is explained as palatalization in the topic What is the origin of the different pronunciations of C ...
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3answers
5k views

What were nightmares called before “nightmare” was used in that sense?

Apparently the word "nightmare" has only been used in the sense of "bad dream" since c. 1829. Before then the term referred to the agent causing the dreams—a mare < mera, mære 'goblin, ...
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2answers
106 views

'Parasitic' Phonemes

In searching for the reason for the message -> messenger shift, I came across the theory of the 'parasitic n.' Essentially, the idea is that during the post-Norman Conquests period in England, ...
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2answers
2k views

What's the meaning of “Ye Olde Timers got Ye Olde Tired of this.”?

In a blog article posted by Joel Spolsky, there is a sentence saying "Ye Olde Timers got Ye Olde Tired of this." I don't know what the meaning is. I've checked the definition of "Ye olde" in wiki, but ...
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7answers
5k views

Was “book” to “beek” as “foot” is to “feet”?

"Foot" is a curious word in English because it is pluralized in an unusual way; the "oo" in the word is changed to "ee". Did this once use to be a standard way of pluralizing things in English (or a ...
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4answers
989 views

Why “English” but not “Anglish”?

Etymology of English from Etymonline: Old English Englisc (contrasted to Denisc, Frencisce, etc.), from Engle (plural) "the Angles," the name of one of the Germanic groups that overran the island ...
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1answer
104 views

How to pronounce “gemænscipe”?

I'm not sure if Old English counts here, but I can't find the answer to this anywhere. How would one pronounce gemænscipe? I believe it's Old English for "community".
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4answers
3k views

What did Old English writing (letters and formatting) typically look like?

I am wondering if there is a specific kind of writing that people would typically associate with Old English language. Are there well-known manuscripts that typically represent the kind of writing ...
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2answers
512 views

Answering a negative question with one word

There has been talk of how to answer a negative question without ambiguity, most often with a qualifying phrase needed for clarification. (For example, "yes, I do"/"no, I don't.) I've noticed that ...
16
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2answers
724 views

/ð/ → /d/ shift in English

As a result of a /d/ → /ð/ shift, fæder became father, hider became hither and togædere became together, giving us our modern English forms. However, I know that murder and burden have archaic forms- ...
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1answer
983 views

English words of Latin origin: Did they replace existing words?

According to Wikipedia, the Latin influence on English builds more than half of its vocabulary. The same source furnishes a percentage of 26% for words of Germanic origin. Although I can easily ...
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1answer
64 views

Where can I find information about the history of the study of Old English?

I'm curious about when the English, in early modern period, first found out about texts such as Beowulf and Anglo-Saxon chronicles and realised it was an old version of English? Or did they always ...
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5answers
8k views

Etymology of “Easter”

I’ve heard claims that the word Easter has the same Bronze Age root as east, Ishtar, Astarte, and ultimately star. Is this the correct etymology of the word Easter?
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4answers
2k views

Are Anglo-Saxon words better at expressing emotion? [closed]

Twice recently I've seen someone on this site state that Anglo-Saxon words, or words of Germanic origin, are better for expressing emotion than words derived from Latin. Does anyone have any ...