Old English- fourth lecture

Old English (500-1100 AD(
The history of the English language really started with the arrival of three
Germanic tribes who invaded Britain during the 5th century AD. These tribes, the
Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, crossed the North Sea from what today is Denmark
and northern Germany. At that time the inhabitants of Britain spoke a Celtic language.
But most of the Celtic speakers were pushed west and north by the invaders - mainly
into what is now Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The Angles came from Englaland and
their language was called Englisc - from which the words England and English are
Also influencing English at this time were the Vikings. Norse invasions,
beginning around 850, brought many North Germanic words into the language,
particularly in the north of England .
The majority of words in modern English come from foreign, not Old English
roots. In fact, only about one sixth of the known Old English words have descendants
surviving today. About half of the most commonly used words in modern English
have Old English roots. Words like be, water, and strong, for example, derive from
Old English roots .
Old English, whose best known surviving example is the poem Beowulf,
lasted until about 1100 .
The German tribes who ultimately give rise to English language interacted
with Roman Empire as a result they borrowed some words from the Latin also so
sometimes English language is termed as "Borrowed language."
There are 3 classifications of English:
Old English - Native language for England. Derived from Anglo-Saxon.
Middle English - Came into existence around 1066 A.D. Derived from
Modern English - Language came into prominence since 15th Century.
Blend of Greek & Latin words.
A Few Primary Characteristics of Old English
Spelling and Pronunciation:
1. the long vowels have undergone extensive change due to the Great Vowel
2. different letters.
3. there were no unstressed syllables; primary stress usually occurred on the first
Word stock
Nearly 85% of Old English words are no longer in use. Those that remain are basic
elements of our vocabulary. Also absent are many borrowings from Latin and French .
Old English was primarily a synthetic language whereas Modern English is
primarily analytic. As a result, Old English is a highly inflected language.
Like other Germanic languages of the period, Old English was fully inflected
with five grammatical cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, and
instrumental, though the instrumental was very rare), which had dual plural forms for
referring to groups of two objects (but only in the personal pronouns) in addition to
the usual singular and plural forms. It also assigned gender to all nouns, including
those that describe inanimate objects: for example, sēo sunne (the Sun) was feminine,
while se mōna (the Moon) was masculine.
Foreign Influences on Old English: Celtic, Latin & Scandinavian.
I. Celtic
Traditionally, many maintain that the influence of Celtic on English has been small,
citing the small number of Celtic loanwords taken into the language. The number of
Celtic loanwords is of a lower order than either Latin or Scandinavian .
II. Latin Influence
Borrowing reflect early contact between Germanic tribes and Roman Empire. One of
the ways the influence of Latin can be seen is that many Latin words for activities
came to also be used to refer to the people engaged in those activities .
III. Scandinavian Influence
The second major source of loanwords to Old English was the Scandinavian words
introduced during the Viking invasions of the 9th and 10th centuries. In addition to a
great many place names, these consist mainly of items of basic vocabulary, and words
concerned with particular administrative aspects.
Unlike modern English, Old English is a language rich with morphological diversity
and is spelled essentially as it is pronounced. It maintains several distinct cases: the
nominative, accusative, genitive, dative and (vestigially) instrumental, remnants of
which survive only in a few pronouns in modern English.
Word order
The word order of Old English is widely believed to be subject-verb-object (SVO) as
in modern English and most Germanic languages. The word order of Old English,
however, was not overly important because of the aforementioned morphology of the
language. As long as declension was correct, it did not matter whether you said, "My
name is..." as "Mīn nama is..." or "Nama mīn is...