OE alphabet used two
kinds of letters: the
runes and the
letters of the Latin alphabet. The bulk
of the OE material is written in the
Latin script. The most interesting
peculiarity of OE writing was the use of some runic
characters, in the first place, the
rune called "thorn" which was employed alongside the
crossed d, ∂ to indicate [th] and [∂]. In the manuscripts one
more rune was regularly used – "wynn" for the sound [w].
The Anglo-Saxons did
not use the letters v
(which were invented later), and q
were used only very occasionally. They used the letter æ,
which we do not use.
Old English writing
- phonetic principle:
every letter indicated a separate sound. But, some letters indicated
two or more sounds. см. рисунки.
Some OE letters
indicated two or more sounds, even distinct phonemes. The letters
could indicate short
sounds. The letters f,
stand for voiced fricatives
between vowels and also between a vowel and a voiced consonant;
otherwise they indicate corresponding voiceless
fricatives. The letter з
stands for [g] initially before back vowels, for [j] before and after
front vowels, for [γ] between back vowels and for [g'] mostly when
preceded by c: OE daз [j]
The letter h stands
for [x] between a back vowel and a consonant and also initially
before consonants and for [x’] next to front vowels: OE niht [x’]
The letter n stands
for [n] in all positions except when followed by [k] or [g]; in this
case it indicates [ŋ]: OE sinзan.
In OE a syllable was
made stressed by an increase in the
force of articulation; a force
stress was employed. In disyllabic and
polysyllabic words the accent fell
on the root-morpheme
or on the first syllable.
Word stress was fixed;
it remained on the same syllable in different grammatical forms of
the word and did not shift in word-building either.
The forms of the
Dat. case of the nouns hlaforde
['kyninge] used in the text and the Nom. case of the same nouns:
hlaford ['xla:vord], cyning ['kyning].
words, especially compounds, may
have had two stresses,
the chief stress being fixed on the
first root-morpheme; the grammatical
(Gen. pl) was unaccented.
In words with prefixes
the position of the stress varied:
verb prefixes were unaccented, while in nouns and adjectives the
stress was commonly thrown on to the prefix.
a'risan - arise v.,
'toweard - toward adj., 'misdad - misdeed
If the words were
derived from the same root,
word stress, together with other means, served to
distinguish the noun from the verb.
'and-swaru n — and-'swarian v (NE answer, to answer).
stressed vowels in Early Old English.
The development of
vowels in Early OE consisted of the modification of separate vowels,
and also of the modification of entire sets of vowels. The change
begins with growing variation in pronunciation, which manifests
itself in the appearance of numerous allophones:
after the stage of increased variation, some allophones prevail over
the others and a replacement takes place.
The PG short [a] and
the long [a:], which had arisen in West and North Germanic, underwent
similar alterations in Early OE: they were fronted, and in the
process of fronting, they split into several sounds. The principal
regular direction of the change – [a] > [æ] and [a:] > [æ:]
– is often referred to as the fronting or palatalization of [a,
a:]. The other directions can be interpreted as positional deviations
or restrictions to this trend: short [a] could change to [o] or [ā]
and long [a:] became [o:] before a nasal; the preservation of the
short [a] was caused by a back vowel in the next syllable.
The PG diphthongs –
[ei, ai, iu, eu, au] – underwent regular independent changes in
Early OE; they took place in all phonetic conditions irrespective of
environment. The diphthongs with the i-glide were monophthongised
into [i:] and [a:], respectively; the diphthongs in –u were
reflected as long diphthongs [io:], [eo:] and [ea:].
If the sounds in PG
were not diphthongs but sequences of two
separate phonemes, the changes should
be defined as phonologisation of vowel
sequences. This will mean that these
changes increased the number of vowel phonemes in the language.
Moreover, they introduced new distinctive features into the vowel
system by setting up vowels with diphthongal glides; henceforth,
monophthongs were opposed to diphthongs.
Mutation is the
change of one vowel to another through
the influence of a vowel in the
succeeding syllable. The most notable -
i-Umlaut or palatal mutation. Palatal mutation is the
fronting and raising of vowels through
the influence of [i] or [j] in the immediately following syllable.
Due to the reduction of final syllables the conditions which caused
palatal mutation had disappeared in most words by the age of writing;
these sounds were weakened to [e] or were altogether lost.
Formation of a short diphthong from a simple short vowel when it is
followed by a specific consonant cluster. a – ea.
(i-umlaut). Narrowing of the vowel in
the stressed position syllable under the influence of i or j of the
Back, or Velar
Mutation. Back vowels o/u
(sometimes a) influencing the preceding
syllable caused the formation of diphthongs. The process was not
universal (in west saxon literary language it occurred only before
the sounds r, I, p, b, f, m).
after Palatal Consonants. Diphthongs
resulted diphthongization after palatal consonants sk, k and j (in
spelling c, sc, 3).
fricatives. Hardening. Rhotacism.
Voicing and Devoicing.
After the changes
under Grimm’s Law and Verner’s Law had PG had the following two
sets of fricative consonants: voiceless
[f, Ө, x, s] and voiced
[v, ð, γ, z]. The PG voiced [ð] (due to Verner’s Law) was always
hardened to [d] in OE. The two other fricatives, [v] and [γ] were
hardened to [b] and [g].
PG [z] underwent a
phonetic modification through the stage of [з] into [r] and thus
became a sonorant, which ultimately merged with the older IE [r].
This process is termed rhotacism.
In all WG languages,
at an early stage of their independent history, most consonants were
lengthened after a short vowel before [l]. This
process is known as geminantion
or doubling of consonants, e.g. fuljan > fyllan (NE fill). The
change did not affect the sonorant [r], e.g OE werian (NE wear); nor
did it operate if the consonant was preceded by a long vowel, e.g. OE
dēman, mētan (NE deem, meet).
in Early Old English. Growth of New Phonemes.
The velar consonants [k,
g, x, γ] were palatalized before a front vowel, and sometimes also
after a front vowel, unless followed by a back vowel. Thus in OE cild
(NE child) the velar consonant [k] was softened to [k’] as it stood
before the front vowel [i] – [kild] > [k’ild]; similarly [k]
became [k’] in OE sprǽc (NE speech) after a front vowel but not in
OE sprecan (NE speak).
consonants in some positions.
Nasal sonorants were
regularly lost before fricative consonants; in the process the
preceding vowel was proably nasalized and lengthened, e.g. OHG fimf –
OE fīf (NE five). It should be also mentioned the loss of consonants
in unstressed final syllables. [j] was regularly dropped in suffixes
after producing various changes in the root.