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86

Such words existed in Early Modern English (roughly 1450–1650), and they were… yes and no. However, the answers to positive questions at the time were yea and nay. You could summarize their use as such: Will he not go? — Yes, he will. Will he not go? — No, he will not. Will he go? — Yea, he will. Will he go? — Nay, he will not. It is well ...


30

The printing press changed everything. Prior to Gutenberg, English was primarily a spoken language and stories were often passed on in the oral tradition. The introduction of printed works in the mid-15th century had two major effects: Standardization, as printed works were distributed beyond the reach of the local authors. This led to standardization ...


17

In general, never trust words in the English language to be phonetic! This is largely a consequence of English being such a fast-evolving language, and importantly, owing its vocabulary to many linguistic sources: Latin, Old French, Anglo-Saxon (a.k.a. Old English), Norse, and many others. In this case it seems we have French to thank. This etymology is ...


16

I am just adding some dates for those not familiar with English history. Old English (before 1066AD) is almost unreadable, with a different grammar and a few extra characters. It is closer to Danish or German. Fæder úre, ðú ðe eart on heofonum, Sí ðín nama gehálgod. Tó becume ðín rice. Gewurde ðín willa On eorþan swá swá on heofonum. Urne ...


15

"witness" is one. As you already mentioned "to wit" is from an old Saxon root. I can see some link with the German "wissen" (also to know), Dutch "weten" and (I'm told) Danish "Vide" . As in many languages "to see" and "to know" are interrelated concepts. So that "to wit" is not only about knowledge but witnessing. On the knowledge side, it is also easy ...


15

Phrases.org.uk concurs with the OP that tide referred to a period of time: The notion of 'tide' being beyond man's control brings up images of the King Canute story. He demonstrated to his courtiers the limits of a king's power by failing to make the sea obey his command. That literal interpretation of 'tide' in 'time and tide' is what is now usually ...


13

The absence of any immediate answer to this interesting question confirms my belief that it is not a subject which lends itself well to a Q&A site such as this. The history of English verb forms is a complex subject and each of the verbs you mention would merit a reply in itself. To give an idea of what might be involved, the OED records the past tense ...


11

First of all, those statistics from Wikipedia may be a bit misleading, depending on your point of view. What they seem to have done is count every word in a 80,000-word dictionary once, regardless of whether the word is very rare or very frequent. Consider the preceding sentences: -First -of -all, -those +statistics -from -Wikipedia -may -be -a -bit ...


9

On the blessings of ‘silent’ letters in English One important and often overlooked reason for having silent letters in the spelling of English words is because spelling in English is meant to do much more than tell you how to pronounce a word. For one thing, it can also tell you about the history of the word, its origins and its evolution. Not all languages ...


8

“runneth” is the Early Modern English third person singular of “run” (suffix -th, written -eth after consonants, and the consonant doubled). So, it would be “runs over” in Modern English, i.e. “overflows”. As noted in the link in your question, this quotation means “I have more than I need”.


8

Duplication of this kind is not exceptional. We speak of terms and conditions where only one of the two would suffice. In some cases, two apparently synonymous words occur because one had Germanic origins, the other Latin, and post-Norman lawyers didn’t want to be caught out by amateur linguists in any possible lawsuit. In time and tide, and in similar ...


8

There are considered to be three major eras of English: Old English, Middle English, and Modern English. Old English is a very different language, complete with a different alphabet. Middle English emerged after the Norman conquest of England with influence from French and other continental languages. Modern English emerged a few hundred years later with ...


8

Either you remember incorrectly what your professor told you, or he misinformed you. To take your second question first: ye was the nominative case of the second person plural pronoun (used as a subject, i.e., “ye are” = ‘you are’), while your is the possessive determiner corresponding to the same pronoun (“your house”). The oblique case form was you (“I ...


8

There was no single Anglo-Saxon Language before the Norman Invasion. Baugh & Cable, (A History of the English Language , 4th edn, 1993) tell us that there were four dialects. The two north of the Thames, Northumbrian and Mercian had enough similarities to be collectively referred to by some as Anglian. The two southern dialects were West Saxon and ...


7

One possibility could be "wodan dreame". Before getting to this point I'd like to add that whereas the spelling "nightmare" is indeed recent (see the corresponding Google ngram), more archaic spellings are reported in the OED; viz "niȝt-mare" (1290), "nytmare" (1340) and "Nyghte Mare" (1440). Leaving aside older spelling of "nightmare", I also came across ...


6

There really isn't any "language" called Archaic English. Do you mean Old English? If so, there are textbooks for studying that. Look for books on Anglo-Saxon or Old English. If you mean Middle English (spoken at the time of Chaucer), you can find texts on that as well. Shakespeare's writing sounds archaic to our ear, but is actually an example of what is ...


6

Yes, there is a connection between losing one phonemic property and gaining another. Most approaches to phonology conceptualize words as having double lives: on the one hand, they are made of a particular sound sequence which you have to pronounce correctly; on the other hand, the sounds in sequences are only recognized as discrete parts because they ...


6

You’re right. In that sentence the plain form of the verb, tear, performs a subjunctive role to express a hypothetical meaning.


6

Rhymes are one way of knowing how things were pronounced. For example, if ‘care’ and ‘there’ suddenly start to rhyme, when they didn’t previously, we know that the well-known and well-documented effects of /r/ on the previous vowel must now have begun to take place, and that the vowels have around that time merged. A second very common source is loan words ...


6

REVISED A lesson in the dangers of relying too heavily on Google Ngram (aka mea culpa) Previously, I posted an Ngram chart illustrating my surprise that waffle used in its verb form seemed to not exist before the late 1950s. When using Ngrams I started with a much wider timescale: 1800 to 2008, I hadn't noticed the tiny bump that appeared sometime in the ...


5

As another contender for what nightmares were called before it got its current meaning I proffer: Ephialtes Etymonline's entry for ephialtes says: "nightmare or demon that causes nightmares, c.1600, from Gk. Ephialtes, name of a demon supposed to cause nightmares; the ancient explanation is that it was from ephallesthai "to leap upon," but OED finds ...


5

The -ien ending was an Old English infinitive ending for a small subset of weak verbs. OE Swerien belongs to a specific class of Old English weak verbs called Class II weak verbs. The ones you are probably more familiar with are the predominant Class I verbs which follow an i-mutation pattern in which the -i- mutates (moves forward on the palate) and the ...


5

Drink = experience, endure, pay the penalty. (OED drink, verb, #16). I took this proverb to mean that a furious master will beat the pupil's hindquarters with a switch (or a cane) in any case, whether he catches the fly or not, and no matter what kind of (fancy) reply the student might give when questioned. The student has not been paying attention to the ...


4

Shakespeare used both "blent" and "blended" as the past tense of "blend". For example, from Twelfth Night, Where every something, being blent together, Turns to a wild of nothing, save of joy, Express'd and not express'd. and from Troilus and Cressida, This blended knight, half Trojan and half Greek. From Barrie England's citation of the OED, ...


4

The etymologies for talon and mushroom are not completely settled, but in both cases it seems clear that the Middle English word (talon or mussheron) was imported (from Old French) in its full form: the Old French talon comes from Latin talonem, from talus (my French Littré qualifies talonem of “fictious form of talus”, etymonline calls it “Middle Latin”). ...


4

OED doesn't mention skewen or skewn, which means that the use is extremely local. Every dictionary has a lower limit below which they don't list a word; OED's is very low indeed. However, the entry dates from 1911 and an update is awaited. Their earliest citation for skew in the sense "crooked, oblique" is 2.a. To take an oblique course or direction; to ...


4

Old English and Anglo-Saxon are the same thing ("Traditional histories of the English Language have divided their account into three major periods: Old English (sometimes refered to as Anglo-Saxon), Middle English, and Modern English" ~ A History of the English Language N.F. Blake p5) and arguments that it didn't exist are not linguistic, nor are they (as ...


3

It's not entirely clear what you mean by Archaic English. Obscure words still in common use? Middle English? Old English? If you mean Old English, then Beowulf is the oldest written work in English. Don't expect it to be easy or light reading though.


3

Witless http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/witless


3

In American English, Noel is defined as Christmas. [This word is used in Christmas songs and on cards] In ordinary speech, it can be used as a synonym for Christmas, but would be considered a bit poetic. It is not very commonly used outside of the context of carols, cards and decorative uses (signs, headlines, ornaments). Note that, while the ...



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