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

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1answer
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What's the longest word that has survived from Old English?

I recently saw this question Did the "We shall fight on the beaches" speech mainly use words from Old English? If so, why? about Winston Churchill's famous "Fight them on the beaches" speech ...
20
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3answers
897 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- ...
3
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2answers
77 views

Origin of -(e)s in present indicative third singular

I'm aware that it comes from a Northern dialect of Middle English as in: He sing(e)s With the full Northern conjugation being: Ik sing(e) Þu/ou sing(e)s He sing(e)s We/ye/they sings But in Old English ...
6
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4answers
3k views

Did the “We shall fight on the beaches” speech mainly use words from Old English? If so, why?

I read today that Churchill's "We shall fight on the beaches" speech mainly used words from Old English. Wikipedia's article states that Melvyn Bragg claimed in "The Adventure of English" that only ...
1
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2answers
57 views

How did 'of' change semantically from 'away, away from, off'?

of (prep.) [⇐] Old English of, unstressed form of æf (prep., adv.) "away, away from," from Proto-Germanic *af, [...], from PIE *apo- "off, away" (see apo-). Primary sense in Old English still ...
3
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1answer
127 views

'lest': How did 'less that' evolve to mean 'for fear that'?

lest, conj. = [OED] Etymology: Old English phrase þý lǽs þe , lit. ‘whereby less’ = Latin quōminus (þý instrumental of the demonstrative and relative pronoun + lǽs less adj. + þe ...
24
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2answers
5k 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 ...
3
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0answers
74 views

Do Old English dialects correspond well with modern English ones?

I came across this article the other day. At the bottom there's a family tree of English dialects, both extant and extinct ones. It makes it out that southern English dialects came from Wessax ...
6
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3answers
142 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, ...
5
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1answer
118 views

Why did Old English use C while other Germanic languages used K?

During most the first millennium CE, North and West Germanic languages were written in runic alphabets. Gradually, each language shifted from the runic alphabet to the Latin alphabet. The people who ...
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2answers
113 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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240 views

Silent “e” at the end of words

Back in 2009, a job interviewer sent me a link to a web service that would help me make a free telephone call via the internet... Skype. As a native speaker, I knew "instinctively" to pronounce this ...
3
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0answers
25 views

When was the “do form” introduced in the English language? [duplicate]

The following might be standard textbook question, but not being a native speaker I am unaware of the origin. In ancient English, as well as in other Germanic languages, questions were posed ...
9
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1answer
189 views

Latin words borrowed from Roman occupation?

English has a lot of words borrowed from Latin. The great majority were borrowed in the 14- and 1500's from Church/Medieval Latin, a huge influx via educated neologism. I'd like to know if there are ...
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3answers
21k views

“Ph” for the /f/ sound; Is Old English responsible for this swap?

Is Old English responsible for creating the /f/ sound from ph, as in Philip, Pharoah, Physics, Sophia, etc? Many European countries keep the f for all of their /f/-sounding letters, as in Sofia and ...
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0answers
51 views

How are Old English participles declined to English participles? (both present and past)

I'm trying to learn about differences between English and Old English, and I found that there are some noticeable differences in the use of participle markings. I think that participles were declined ...
0
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2answers
136 views

When was “it” first used in weather sentences? [duplicate]

It is raining. It's a sunny day. I hate it when it rains. I'm prepared if it snows. It can be mighty cold at night! ... etc. My questions: When did English speakers start ...
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0answers
20 views

How are Old English participles declened to English participles? (both present and past) [duplicate]

I'm trying to learn about differences between English and Old English and I found that there are some noticeable differences in the use of participle markings. I think historically, there had been the ...
14
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2answers
3k views

What is the history of adding the a- prefix to form words?

I have always found the a- prefix to words (as in anew, ajar, aside, awake, afoot, a-hunting, etc.) fascinating. The NOAD says on this topic: a- 2. prefix •to; toward : aside | ashore. ...
26
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5answers
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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 ...
4
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2answers
221 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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4answers
807 views

Why are words like “Thou” and “Thee” no longer used in English?

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 ...
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1answer
44 views

What's a Winnie?

In the song The Virginia Company at the beggining of the film Pocahontas, in the last verse a Winnie is mentioned in the line: With a nugget for my winnie and another one for me. What is a Winnie?
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4answers
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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
63 views

The meaning of the MIDDLE ENGLISH “nother”

Very specific expertise is required here. The schoolmaster "shall not teche his scolers song nor other petite lernyng, as the crosse rewe, redyng of the mateyns or for the psalter or such ...
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4answers
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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 ...
3
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1answer
108 views

Conventions in Old English for use of thorn and eth

Somewhere I got the naive idea that, in Old English, thorn represented the unvoiced "th" sound and eth represented the voiced "th" sound. A little digging has suggested to me that each of the ...
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3answers
751 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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2answers
135 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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5answers
2k views

Which version of English influenced the other? British / American

I remember hearing that modern American English is more similar to Old English than modern British English, due to rural British influences. Is modern American English a more accurate representation ...
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3answers
703 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 ...
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0answers
40 views

For 'also', how is ' the demonstrative sense of “similarly” weakened to “in addition to” '?

also (adv.) Old English eallswa "just as, even as, as if, so as, likewise," compound of all + so. The demonstrative sense of "similarly" weakened to "in addition to" in 12c., replacing eke. ...
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2answers
71 views

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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1answer
95 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
74 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, ...
2
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1answer
149 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
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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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1answer
129 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
468 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
147 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
185 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 ...
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2answers
556 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 ...
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3answers
14k 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
323 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
1k 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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5answers
5k 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
7k 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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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 ...