Old English Discussion

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Re: Old English Discussion

Postby sa wulfs » 2008-11-26, 21:51

Etymonline says the /sk/ might be due to Norse influence.
Bruce Mitchell's A Guide to Old English says ascian was pronounced with [sk] even when it says other instances of <sc> were already [ʃ].
Peter Barker's Introduction to Old English, however, limits the [ʃ] pronunciation quite a bit:
But within a word, if sc occurs before a back vowel (a, o, u) or if it occurs after a back vowel at the end of a word, it is pronounced [sk]: ascian 'ask' (where sc was formerly followed by a back vowel), tusc 'tusk'. When sc was pronounced [sk] it sometimes underwent metathesis (the sounds got reversed to [ks]) and was written x: axian for ascian, tux for tusc. Sometimes sc is pronounced [ʃ] in one form of a word and [sk] or [ks] in another: fish 'fish', fiscas/fixas 'fishes'.

Now, that's what he says, I'm not sure I believe it.
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Re: Old English Discussion

Postby Kirk » 2008-11-27, 1:52

KingHarvest wrote:I understand what you mean without the table if that makes you feel any better. :wink:


Somehow, it does. I'm glad someone else understands my BBcode plight. :D

sa wulfs wrote:Etymonline says the /sk/ might be due to Norse influence.


That could be the case. After all, /sk/ was originally the Northern form before it crept down south and eventually supplanted Southern /ks/ and /ʃ/, at least as far as the standard language is concerned. Prior to this Southern dialects seemed to favor /ks/ (which, assuming a 100% thorough /sk/->/ʃ/ change, must've metathesized from /sk/ prior to this change, while /sk/ dialects arrived at expected /ʃ/) and /ʃ/ and only in relatively recent times (1600 onward) has "ask" been considered standard.

sa wulfs wrote:Bruce Mitchell's A Guide to Old English says ascian was pronounced with [sk] even when it says other instances of <sc> were already [ʃ].


Does Bruce explain why this might be the case?

sa wulfs wrote:Peter Barker's Introduction to Old English, however, limits the [ʃ] pronunciation quite a bit:
But within a word, if sc occurs before a back vowel (a, o, u) or if it occurs after a back vowel at the end of a word, it is pronounced [sk]: ascian 'ask' (where sc was formerly followed by a back vowel), tusc 'tusk'. When sc was pronounced [sk] it sometimes underwent metathesis (the sounds got reversed to [ks]) and was written x: axian for ascian, tux for tusc. Sometimes sc is pronounced [ʃ] in one form of a word and [sk] or [ks] in another: fish 'fish', fiscas/fixas 'fishes'.

Now, that's what he says, I'm not sure I believe it.


That's interesting, though I'm not sure I believe it, either.

Another question. Why didn't the "i" prompt i-mutation in OE "áscian?" (c.f. OE "styrian" from *sturjan). The dialectal form "esh" might suggest that some dialects did indeed do this, but maybe that vowel happened there for another reason.

Regardless, there seems to be a class of words in OE which resisted i-mutation ("lufian, macian, hopian") even while others (like aforementioned "styrian") experienced it. Why would this be the case? And also, why did some OE verbs keep PG *-jan while most others lost it (PG *domjan -> OE *deman, PG *saljanan -> OE "sellan," etc.)? These are burning questions that I've somehow not found the answers to in reading about Old English.
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Re: Old English Discussion

Postby sa wulfs » 2008-11-27, 9:52

Does Bruce explain why this might be the case?

Nope, he just says that's how it is, in a most unsatisfactory manner :P
He's not very keen on the phonetics.
Another question. Why didn't the "i" prompt i-mutation in OE "áscian?" (c.f. OE "styrian" from *sturjan). The dialectal form "esh" might suggest that some dialects did indeed do this, but maybe that vowel happened there for another reason.

Regardless, there seems to be a class of words in OE which resisted i-mutation ("lufian, macian, hopian") even while others (like aforementioned "styrian") experienced it. Why would this be the case? And also, why did some OE verbs keep PG *-jan while most others lost it (PG *domjan -> OE *deman, PG *saljanan -> OE "sellan," etc.)? These are burning questions that I've somehow not found the answers to in reading about Old English.

Apparently, the /i/ in class 2 of weak verbs is relatively recent, cf. OE macian, OHG mahhôn < *makôjanan, 'make'. Peter Baker again has something interesting to say about this:
Class 2 lacks i-mutation. Wherever you find gemination in class 1 verbs with short root syllables, you will find an element spelled -i- or -ig- after the root syllable of the class 2 verbs [footnote: This element did not cause i-mutation because it did not begin with i at the time the i-mutation took place. Rather, it was a long syllable [oːj], which later became the syllable spelled -i-]. This -i- is a syllable all by itself - weighty enough, in fact, to be capable of bearing metrical stress, as we see in this line:

Code: Select all

x   x   /   /  x       x  /   / \ x
Him þa secg hraðe      gewat siðian
[The man then quickly departed journeying]

where stress falls on both the first and second syllables of siðian.
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Re: Old English Discussion

Postby Kirk » 2008-11-28, 9:13

Excellent! I was hoping you might be able to answer my question, and you did. Thanks. :)
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maɪ nemz kʰɜ˞kʰ n̩ aɪ laɪk̚ fɨˈnɛ̞ɾɪ̞ks

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Re: Old English Discussion

Postby sa wulfs » 2008-12-17, 11:01

So the other day I was reading Wulf and Eadwacer in the metro. For those of you who don't know, it's one of the most intriguing and inherently ambiguous Old English poems, and scholars can't agree on how to interpret it. I'm going to quote it here without punctuation or capital letters, because you can't apply those modern conventions to this text without picking one interpretation over the others:
Leodum is minum swylce him mon lac gife
willað hy hine aþecgan gif he on þreat cymeð
ungelic is us
wulf is on iege ic on oþerre
fæst is þæt eglond fenne biworpen
sindon wælreowe weras þær on ige
willað hy hine aþecgan gif he on þreat cymeð
ungelice is us
wulfes ic mines widlastum wenum hogode
þonne hit wæs renig weder ond ic reotugu sæt
þonne mec se beaducafa bogum bilegde
wæs me wyn to þon, wæs me hwæþre eac lað
wulf min wulf wena me þine
seoce gedydon þine seldcymas
murnende mod nales meteliste
gehyrest þu eadwacer uncerne earne hwelp
bireð wulf to wuda
þæt mon eaþe tosliteð þætte næfre gesomnad wæs
uncer giedd geador

(I emended the otherwise unattested verb dogode in l. 9 to hogode, following Peter Baker, and earne in l. 16 to earmne)

The reason why I post this is because all of a sudden, in a moment of lucidity, I decided which interpretation I believe. First off, the poem shouldn't be called "Wulf and Eadwacer"; they're the same person. I'm not sure Eadwacer is attested as a proper name in England (although it was a famous and ancient name. Odoacer, anyone?), but at any rate I think here it's just an epithet, "wealth-protector", ie. the head of the household.

Here's my line by line interpretation. I use Wolf for the guy's name to retain the ambiguity of the original:
Leodum is minum swylce him mon lac gife

For my people it is as if they were offered a sacrifice
"My people" must refer to the folks who are keeping her in the island (see below).
willað hy hine aþecgan gif he on þreat cymeð

They will take care of him if he comes to the company
Aþecgan is said to mean "to receive, to feed" literally, and "to kill" figuratively, and I suppose "to take care of" retains the ambiguity. On þreat is sometimes rendered as "violently" or "with a troop", but I don't imagine the guy would be welcome if only he asked nicely for an invitation.
ungelic is us

It is different for us
Now, who does this us refer to? Since the poem later uses dual forms (uncer), we might think this plural form doesn't mean "the speaker and her man", but something else. The reference might include their hwelp, "cub" (ie. their child), or it might just be a case of the plural being used instead of the dual.
wulf is on iege ic on oþerre

Wolf is on an island, I on another
Self-explanatory. Wolf is the name of her man. Presumably her husband.
fæst is þæt eglond fenne biworpen

That island is closely surrounded by a fen
Her island.
sindon wælreowe weras þær on ige

On that island there are bloodthirsty men
Those men are part of "her people". These are the guys who will take care of Wolf if he goes there.
willað hy hine aþecgan gif he on þreat cymeð
ungelice is us

They will take care of him if he comes to the company
It is different for us

Oh right, "company" in the sense of "troop".
wulfes ic mines widlastum wenum hogode
þonne hit wæs renig weder ond ic reotugu sæt
þonne mec se beaducafa bogum bilegde
wæs me wyn to þon, wæs me hwæþre eac lað

I thought of the great wanderings of my Wolf with hope
when it was rainy and I sat with teary eyes.
When the one brave in battle embraced me,
that was pleasant to me, but it was also hateful

Okay, so I interpreted the first þonne to be subordinated to the line above, and the second one to be subordinated to the line below. Another perfectly good possibility would be to take them as correlative "whenever it was rainy and I sat with teary eyes, the one brave in battle embraced me". Anyway, most editors seem to have taken se beaducafa to refer to the man who's keeping the speaker against her will (Eadwacer, according to them). That's mostly my interpretation too, except that in my view eadwacer is not a proper name and it refers to Wolf, not to se beaducafa. We may be tempted to think se beaducafa refers to Wolf, because, well, the speaker admits she finds it pleasant when she's in his arms; it'd also be hateful because Wolf is not a good husband or something. But how the hell would Wolf get there, in the island surrounded by fens and guarded by bloodthirsty men, for a rendezvous? The poem later speaks of Wolf's seldcymas, literally "rare comings", but I think that's an example of the typical Anglo-Saxon understatement (she complains his rare visits instead of saying he's never there). So, she's sad because she's being kept separated from Wolf, and apparently she's been forcibly taken by se beaducafa as his wife. This beaducafa is... some dude. Not Eadwacer.
wulf min wulf wena me þine
seoce gedydon þine seldcymas
murnende mod nales meteliste

Wolf! My Wolf! My longing for you,
your rare visits and my mourning heart
made me sick, not the lack of food.

The only difficulties here are grammatical, so yeah.
gehyrest þu eadwacer uncerne earmne hwelp
bireð wulf to wuda

Do you hear, wealth-protector, our helpless cub?
The wolf carries it to the woods

Ever since I learned about what apo koinou means, I couldn't interpret these lines any other way. Apo koinou means an element belongs to two different clauses. For me, uncerne earmne hwelp, "our poor cub", is both the object of gehyrest, "do you hear" and of bireð, "(the wolf) carries", because it's cooler that way. Also, as I explained, I don't think eadwacer is a proper name, and it does not refer to the man who's taken the speaker as his wife, but rather to Wolf. Why? Because otherwise I'd have to assume Wolf went to that island to take his child, but according to (my interpretation of) the poem that's simply impossible. Furthermore, if Eadwacer was a dude, the use of the dual possessive pronoun uncer would imply the child is Eadwacer's, which doesn't make much sense (besides, "cub" is a good way to refer to the child of a man called Wolf, not so much for that of a man called Wealth-protector). From all this it follows that wulf in l. 17 does not refer to Wolf but rather to a very real wolf who's preyed on Wolf's child, who was abandoned by the beaducafa for being, well, Wolf's (ie. an outlaw's) child. This is a pretty bleak image for a pun, but it works. Also, the use of wulf to refer to the animal would explain why the poet decided not to use Wolf's proper name in the line above, to avoid repetition and to not make things too obvious.
þæt mon eaþe tosliteð þætte næfre gesomnad wæs
uncer giedd geador

It is easy to torn apart that which was never joined together:
The riddle of us two

Why were these two never joined together? I assume he's not an outlaw by chance, but he was simply not the ideal husband all along. Some kind of gangsta, maybe, and that's why he ended up doing something that got him outlawed.

To summarize: Wolf married this woman from a different clan and they had a child, but he got into trouble and became an outlaw. There's some sort of feud the woman's kinsmen won't forget, and they're eager to kill Wolf the moment they see him, so the guy's out of the picture. Meanwhile, Wolf's wife is forced to marry some other dude who remains unnamed, but she misses Wolf so much she's clynically depressed. Wolf's child has been abandoned for the war beasts to prey on (aww), or just neglected so much that an accident happens. The end.

What do you think?
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Re: Old English Discussion

Postby sa wulfs » 2009-01-08, 0:14

By the way, Kirk, in case you're interested, Campbell's Old English Grammar agrees with Peter Barker about the distribution of [sc] > [ʃ] and [sk] in words like fisc (eventually [fiʃ]) and fiscas/fixas ([ˈfiskɑs]/['fiksɑs]). The reason I didn't quite believe this theory is that I had never seen any instance of fixas... until a few days ago. Of course, the existence of fixas alongside fiscas doesn't mean the latter couldn't have become [ˈfiʃɑs], if the methatesis is old enough. But I don't know. It somehow makes more sense to me if fiscas was still [ˈfiskɑs] in the 9th and 10th centuries.

I could look for the relevant quotes in Campbell's book, but they're all over the place, not in any neat and convenient pronunciation section.
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Re: Old English Discussion

Postby ThomasUK » 2009-01-26, 23:23

I have always expressed interest with Old English and lately I have started taking notes on it. Notebooks usually help me with learning a language. This is one of the first sites I have found where you can learn Old English as I have searched through some older topics containing courses.

Since I started taking notes on Englisc, I have noticed that it is very easy and similar to the language we speak today, obviously being Old English or Anglo-Saxon it would be but I wasn't expecting it to be that easy.

The only thing I have problems with is the declension of the nouns, this is the first language I have tried to study with a declension but it could help me if I try and learn other languages with declensions.

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Re: Old English Discussion

Postby KingHarvest » 2009-01-27, 1:03

Latin, Ancient Greek, and Sanskrit are probably dead languages par excellence with declensions.
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Re: Old English Discussion

Postby Nukalurk » 2009-01-27, 7:45

In this case I think Modern German might be more useful because there you'll also encounter more Germanic words than you do in Modern English.

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Re: Old English Discussion

Postby Boes » 2009-01-27, 10:02

Amikeco wrote:In this case I think Modern German might be more useful because there you'll also encounter more Germanic words than you do in Modern English.

Then again, German being a language which experienced the Second Germanic consonant shift ... it will be of lesser help with vocabulary than say Dutch or Frisian.

Then again; they do not have much of an extensive case system anymore. I suppose for declensions sake looking into Latin or Greek wouldn't hurt; as the German ones are quite different too from Old English ones.

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Re: Old English Discussion

Postby sa wulfs » 2009-01-27, 10:49

Old English declensions are relatively simple, it only has three major declension types (weak, strong masculine/neuter, strong feminine) plus a bunch of minor variations and oddballs (umlauted nouns of the type mann/menn and boc/bec, plus nouns for family relations, mostly). Nominative and accusative are usually the same (always in neuters, and in strong masculines). So the hardest part will be getting used to the whole idea of cases, and for that, German will do.

Also:
Ic lufiġe hit.

While that construction is possible, it's more idiomatic to put object pronouns between the subject and the verb: Ic hit lufi(g)e.
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Re: Old English Discussion

Postby Karavinka » 2009-02-14, 17:22

High German Consonant Shift or any other phonetic changes doesn't really deter you from finding connections.

A German would be able to spot out many Anglo-Saxon words: fremde, gesund, riht (Recht), magan, lar (Lehre), dael (Teil), wiþ (Wider), dihtan (dichten), just to name a few that comes to my mind... and probably tons more. But I would still say that the correspondence with Middle English is better than with Modern German, for rather obvious reasons. The correspondence may not be that visible with Chaucer's gallicised English, but it clearly shows with other less normanised poems.

As for the problematic c, g and thorn/eth... I personally do it randomly. I read "gif" as "yif" because of Middle English "yif", and "gaf" and "yaf" because of ME "yaf," and I generally use the same principle with other ambiguous words as well. While "ascian" in ME has "ask-" forms but never "ash-", and I think it's quite reasonable enough to use ME as a reference point. But this isn't always straightforward either, "miccle" would become "muchel" in Southern ME, but "mikle" in the areas previously under Danelaw due to the Norse influence.

Alliteration might be a help but I'm not terribly sure about it. g in "gear" is a weak g as in "year", so the word "gar" should be like "yar" because they alliterate in the first line of Beowulf. But I have seen a few cases where the alliteration doesn't make sense to me as they seem to have diverged later, and I'm genuinely clueless how I should read it...
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Re: Old English Discussion

Postby Tenebrarum » 2009-02-14, 18:01

Boes wrote:
Amikeco wrote:In this case I think Modern German might be more useful because there you'll also encounter more Germanic words than you do in Modern English.

Then again, German being a language which experienced the Second Germanic consonant shift ... it will be of lesser help with vocabulary than say Dutch or Frisian.

I think Dutch and Frisian are actually of lesser help than German. Firstly because their scripts look very messy to an English speaker, and secondly because High German has somehow managed to be more resistant to semantic shifts.
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Re: Old English Discussion

Postby ILuvEire » 2009-02-16, 18:59

I'm not sure if this is really OE discussion, but, what the hell. :)

Why does English have words like "dog" "black" or "bird"? German uses Hund, Schwarz and Vogel (sp?) and Italian uses cane, nero and uccello (which I assume are similar to Latin, in any case they are nothing like English's words). Even Welsh uses ci, du and aderyn.

So where did they come from?
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Re: Old English Discussion

Postby KingHarvest » 2009-02-16, 20:12

ILuvEire wrote:I'm not sure if this is really OE discussion, but, what the hell. :)

Why does English have words like "dog" "black" or "bird"? German uses Hund, Schwarz and Vogel (sp?) and Italian uses cane, nero and uccello (which I assume are similar to Latin, in any case they are nothing like English's words). Even Welsh uses ci, du and aderyn.

So where did they come from?


Dog, black, and bird are all of unknown origin. Dog (remember we have the word "hound" which is cognate with Latin canis, Greek kuon, Old Irish cu, and Sanskrit shwan-) was originally applied only to a particular breed of dogs but then replaced "hound" as the generic term. Black may be a participle of a verb that meant "to burn," but this is disputable. Bird (originally "brid") was a dialectal term of unknown origin that meant "young bird" and was then expanded to mean bird in general.
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Re: Old English Discussion

Postby Karavinka » 2009-02-17, 0:26

KingHarvest wrote:
ILuvEire wrote:I'm not sure if this is really OE discussion, but, what the hell. :)

Why does English have words like "dog" "black" or "bird"? German uses Hund, Schwarz and Vogel (sp?) and Italian uses cane, nero and uccello (which I assume are similar to Latin, in any case they are nothing like English's words). Even Welsh uses ci, du and aderyn.

So where did they come from?


Dog, black, and bird are all of unknown origin. Dog (remember we have the word "hound" which is cognate with Latin canis, Greek kuon, Old Irish cu, and Sanskrit shwan-) was originally applied only to a particular breed of dogs but then replaced "hound" as the generic term. Black may be a participle of a verb that meant "to burn," but this is disputable. Bird (originally "brid") was a dialectal term of unknown origin that meant "young bird" and was then expanded to mean bird in general.


What you wrote about "black" makes some sense. Old English had sweart (as in Modern "swarthy") cognating with de. Schwarz and nl. zwart. (sp?) I can't remember which one was it, but I've seen "blak" glossed as "ink" in a Middle English text. Well, considering how ink is obtained, it makes sense.

For English etymology, I recommend this site: http://www.etymonline.com/
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Re:

Postby Karavinka » 2009-02-17, 0:41

Ulven wrote:Sooo, we're here at the Icelandic thread, it seems! :D Talar þú ensku? Anyone? :P

But seriously...

Does anyone know if there's a website where we can just copy and paste a little sample timeline of some basic English phrases that best display the development of the language?

eg.
300 AD- "..." (phrase) looked like this
1000 AD - "..." looked like this
1450 AD (Shakespearean times?) "..." looked like
2006 ad "..."


A small collection of excerpts from From Old English to Standard English. Unfortunately, there's no 300 AD because English language didn't exist back then - it's even before Saxon invasion!

Petrus soðlice sæt ute on þam cafertune. þa com to hym an þeowen and cwæð: "And þu wære myd þam galileiscan hælende." (Truly, Peter sat outside of the courtyard. Then came to him a servant and said: "And thou wast with the Galilean Saviour.") (Late West Saxon, c. 1050)

And petir sat with outen in the halle, and a damysel cam to hym, and seide, "Thou were with Jhesu of Galilee." (Wycliff Bible, South Midlands, 14C)

Ande Petir sat without in the hall: and a damycele com to him, and said, "Thou was with Jesu of Galilee." (16C Scots)

But Peter ſate vvithout in the court: and there came to him one vvenche, ſaying: Thou alſo vvaſt vvith IESVS the Galilean. (Rheims Bible, 1582)

Now Peter ſate without in the palace: and a damoſell came unto him, ſaying, Thou alſo waſt with Jeſus of Galilee. (KJV, 1611)

Meantime, Peter wis sittin furth in the close, whan a servanqueyn cam up an said til him, "Ye war wi the man frae Galilee, Jesus, tae, I'm thinkin." (20C Scots)

Meanwhile Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard when a serving-maid accosted him and said, 'You were there too with Jesus the Galilean.' (NEB, 1961)

Pita i stap sidaon aofsaid long yad bilong haos ia. Nao wan haosgel i kam long em, i talem long em, i se 'Yu tu, yu stap wetem man Galili ia, Jisas.' (Gut Nyus Bilong Jisas Krais, Bislama, 1971.)
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Spoiler Alert: Turkish | -30 Thai | Sink or Zapotec

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sa wulfs
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Re: Old English Discussion

Postby sa wulfs » 2009-02-17, 9:10

noir wrote:What you wrote about "black" makes some sense. Old English had sweart (as in Modern "swarthy") cognating with de. Schwarz and nl. zwart. (sp?) I can't remember which one was it, but I've seen "blak" glossed as "ink" in a Middle English text. Well, considering how ink is obtained, it makes sense.

Blæc already meant "black" in Old English, and the sense of "ink" is an extension of it.
Actually, all these three words existed already in Old English (blæc, brid, docga), but their etymology is unknown.
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Nukalurk
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Re: Old English Discussion

Postby Nukalurk » 2009-02-17, 10:08

In German there is the word "Dogge" for a special breed of dogs.

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sa wulfs
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Re: Old English Discussion

Postby sa wulfs » 2009-02-17, 10:30

It's a loanword, since it doesn't display the second sound-shift. It's been borrowed by the Romance languages too (Spanish dogo).
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