Characteristics of Old English

Characteristics of Old
Periods of English
• Old English 449—1066
• Middle English 1100—1500
• Modern English 1500 forward
Influences on OE
• Celtic
Meager influence. Celtic preserved primarily
in place names. Two main groups of words:
• 1. Popular words Anglo-Saxons learned
through everyday contact with Celtic natives,
2. Words introduced through Irish
missionaries in the North.
Influences on OE
• Latin—3 periods
 First Period--occurred on continent
before Germanic tribes penetrated
reached England. reflected early
contact between Germanic tribes and
Roman Empire
 Second Period--acquired from Celts
after invading England
Influences on OE
• Third Period--Roman missionaries introduced
EARLY: 597, St. Augustine sent to
Christianize Anglo-Saxons;
conversion gradual; many churches
& monasteries built
LATE: Benedictine Reform caused by
Danish invasions at end of 8th
Influences on OE
• Scandinavian Influence
• Three main attack periods:
1. Period of early raids: recorded in AngloSaxon Chronicle in 787 and intermittently
until 850
Influences on OE
Large armies; widespread plundering. In
850--Danish fleet arrives, captures Canterbury
London, & countryside.
West Saxon army defeats them, but attacks
resume. Shortly after Alfred's accession, Wessex
attacked; Alfred hides in marshes, regathers
troops, attacks and defeats Guthrum and Danish
Danes then sign Treaty of Wedmore (878),
defining line; foreigners to remain east of line;
east land known as Danelaw.
Influences on OE
• 878-1042--period of political adjustment &
assimilation; Guthrum frequently broke
treaty, but situations improved under Alfred's
son, Edgar (900-25) & grandson Athelstan
Influences on OE
• More invasions
• Vikings
–Battle of Maldon
–Olaf, King of Norway
–Aethelred the Unready
–Cnut--OE period ends
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