Old English Vocabulary

Old English Period
By Gulnara Kashaf
We are going to talk about:
1. Old English Phonetics.
2. Old English Dialects.
3. Old English Written Records.
4. Old English Grammar.
5. Old English Vocabulary.
Old English Phonetics
 In OE a syllable was made prominent by an
increase in the force of articulation.
 In disyllabic and polysyllabic words the accent
fell on the root-morpheme or on the first syllable.
 Word stress was fixed.
 Polysyllabic words, especially compounds, may
have had two stresses, chief and secondary,
e.g. norюryhte [‘norθ,ryx’te].
Old English Phonetics
Sound changes, particularly vowel
changes, took place in English at
every period of history. The
development of vowels in Early OE
consisted of the modification of
separate vowels, and also of the
modification of entire sets of vowels.
Old English Dialects
The Germanic tribes
who settled in Britain in the 5th and
6th c. spoke closely related tribal
dialects belonging to the West
Germanic subgroup.
A dialect spoken in the area known now as Kent and
Surrey and in the Isle of Wight. It had developed from
the tongue of the Jutes and Frisians.
West Saxon
The main dialect of the Saxon group, spoken in the rest
of England south of the Thames and the Bristol
Channel, except Wales and Cornwall, where Celtic
tongues were preserved. Other Saxon dialects in
England have not survived in written form and are not
known to modern scholars.
A dialect derived from the speech of southern Angles
and spoken chiefly in the kingdom of Mercia, that is, in
the central region, from the Thames to the Humber.
Northumbrian Anglian dialect, spoken from the Humber north to the
river Forth (hence the name – North-Humbrian).
Old English Written Records
Runic Inscriptions
 The earliest written records of English are
inscriptions on hard material made in a
special alphabet known as the runes.
 The two best known runic inscriptions in
England are the earliest extant OE written
records: "Franks Casket” and "Ruth-well
Old English Written Records
Old English Manuscripts
Our knowledge of the OE language comes
mainly from manuscripts written in Latin
 The greatest poem of the time was BEOWULF,
an epic of the 7th or 8th c.
 The earliest samples of continuous prose are
the first pages
Old English Grammar
OE was a synthetic, or inflected
type of language; it showed the
relations between words mainly
with the help of simple
(synthetic) grammatical forms.
Old English Grammar
Inflected parts of speech possessed
certain grammatical categories, which are
categories, found in nominal parts of
speech (the noun, the adjective, the
pronoun, the numeral) and verbal
categories found mainly in the finite verb.
Old English Grammar
There were 5 nominal
grammatical categories in OE:
number, case, gender, degrees
of comparison, and the category
of definiteness/indefiniteness.
Old English Grammar
Verbal grammatical categories
were not numerous: tense and mood
– verbal categories – and number
and person, showing agreement
between the verb-predicate and the
subject of the sentence.
Old English Vocabulary
The etymological survey of the OE
vocabulary shows that it 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.
Old English Vocabulary
Native OE words can be subdivided into a
number of etymological layers coming
from different historical periods.
The three main layers in the native OE words:
common IE words;
common Germanic words;
specifically OE words.
There were two sources
of borrowings in Old English:
• Celtic
• Latin
Old English Vocabulary
Borrowings from Celtic
 There are very few Celtic loan-words in the OE
vocabulary, since there must have been little
intermixture between the Germanic settlers and
the Celtic in Britain.
 Most borrowings from Celtic are to be found only
in proper names. Such names as Thames,
Avon, Dover, Kent, York and perhaps London
are of Celtic origin (Celtic dūn meant ‘hill’).
Old English Vocabulary
Latin Influence on the English Vocabulary
The role of the Latin language in Medieval
Britain was determined by such historical
events as:
• the Roman occupation of Britain;
• the influence of the Roman civilization;
• the introduction of Christianity.
Name the principal OE written records.
What are the best known runic inscriptions in Britain?
Give the examples of the OE poetry and prose.
What are the OE dialects?
Speak on the system of word accentuation in Old
What grammatical categories did the nominal and
verbal parts of speech possess?
What are the three main etymological layers in the
native OE words?
What sources do OE borrowings come from?
Основная учебная литература:
Расторгуева Т.А. История английского языка: Учебник для вузов
М.: Астрель, 2003 (чз-5, аб-15).
Иванова И., Чахоян Л., Беляева Т. История английского языка:
Учебник. Хрестоматия. Словарь/ И.Иванова, Л.Чахоян,Т.Беляева
СПб.: Лань, 2006 (чз-5, аб-17).
Дополнительная учебная литература:
Ярцева В.Н.
словарь / Под ред. В.Н.Ярцевой
энциклопедия, 2000 (чз-3).
«Сrosscultural Aspects of The English Language History (Historical,
social and cultural backgrounds of the English language history)»:
учебное пособие по курсу истории английского языка/ Сост.: Р.Ж.
Саурбаев, C.Г. Кулагина; Сургут. гос ун-т. – Сургут: Изд-во СурГУ,
2003 (медиатека ИнЕУ).