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Old English (500 1100 Ad) Essay

1142 words - 5 pages

West Germanic invaders from Jutland and southern Denmark: the Angles¨ç, Saxons, and Jutes, began populating the British Isles in the fifth and sixth centuries AD. They spoke a mutually intelligible language, similar to modern Frisian--the language of northeastern region of the Netherlands--that is called Old English. Four major dialects of Old English emerged, Northumbrian in the north of England, Mercian in the Midlands, West Saxon in the south and west, and Kentish in the Southeast.These invaders pushed the original, Celtic-speaking inhabitants out of what is now England into Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and Ireland, leaving behind a few Celtic words. These Celtic languages survive today in Gaelic languages of Scotland and Ireland and in Welsh. Cornish, unfortunately, is now a dead language.¨è 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. Some examples are dream, which had meant 'joy' until the Vikings imparted its current meaning on it from the Scandinavian cognate draumr, and skirt, which continues to live alongside its native English cognate shirt.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. But this is deceptive; Old English is much more important than these statistics would indicate. 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. This last date is rather arbitrary, but most scholars choose it because it is shortly after the most important event in the development of the English language, the Norman Conquest.Below is a brief study of Old English:SpellingThere was no official English spelling standard until the 18th century. Samuel Johnson's dictionary is one of the first major efforts toward that end. Before that time, it was common to see words spelled any number of ways. (Of course, you still see spelling differences; for example, the British and the Americans do not spell all things the same way.)To someone teach English, the spelling of words such as light or through may (reasonably) make little sense, as many letters are not pronounced. This is because the pronunciation changed, but the spelling did not. In Old English, liht (light) was pronounced [lee:xt], with the h sounding like the ch in Bach. In Middle English, the pronunciation didn't change a whole lot, although the spelling was somewhat altered. The gh in light used to denote the same ch sound as it did in Old English. There are lots of examples of this, as you can imagine.PronunciationObviously, we don't know exactly what Old English sounded like. There are no Anglo-Saxons around to...

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