Gretan, Suþlice ond Frieondlice
Ic cræft is farseer helpan, hwelcna cræft canst þu ?The sounds of old English letters :
The letters are much the same as today,but j,k,q,v,x and z never occur, or very rarely. The letters do all sound. The word "write" in old English has five clear sounds; There are no silent letters in old English.Consonants :
"c" beside "e",i or æ, usually like "ch": cild (child) otherwise "c" as in cat
"f" between vowels like moden "v" : lifer (liver) otherwise like "f" in feather
"g" beside e,i or æ, usually like modern "y" : geolo (yellow),dæg (day) otherwise like "g" in goat
"h" in the middle or end of a word, like Scots 'ch' in 'loch' : riht (right)
"sc" usually like modrn "sh" : scip (ship)
"Þ" and "þ" like modern "th" : þorn (thorn) - which is the name of the letter
also writtn "Ð" and "ð" it's name is 'eth'Vowels :
Æ,æ like "a" as in "ash" (æsc the name of the letter)
"a" like "a" in "can't" : nama (now pronounced 'name')
"y" like French "u" : cyning (now pronounced 'king')
"u" like "u" in "put" : lufu (now pronounced 'love').
there are also long and short versions of the vowels as well.The Language :
The language which King Alfred spoke, and called Englisc, has been much modified since.The biggest change came from the incorporation of French elements after the Norman conquest(who were Viking decendants who settled in what is now called Normandy).The changes have not destroyed the basic integrity of the old Englisc language.Before the Norman conquest most of the Germanic tribes
could communicate with each other as their languages were not much different from each other.
Just as when the Vikings(Danes & norse mostly) settled in Britain could talk to the English without much trouble.
Old Norse: Vilt þu selja mer þin klæði min goðr maðr?
Old English: Wilt þu sellan me þin clæð, godman min?
(The phrase means, "Will you sell me your cloak, my good man?") THE VERB :
Look at this Englisc sentence : "Æþelred cyning ferþ to Æscesdune."("Ethelred King fares(goes)to Ashdown.")
A verb can change it's ending for tense, number and person, while it's stem stays the same The verb ferþ is present tense ('goes' not 'went'),singular number (he goes, not they go), and third person (not I go,1st person; or
you go,2nd person anybody else is 3rd person). The present singular 3rd person ending is -þ.The stem is fer-.
Þær he hierþ his biscop (there he hears his bishop).
Æþelred cyning and Ælfred his broþor feraþ to Æscesdune.
Now the verb is present plural; the ending is -aþ.
Æþelred ferde fram Æscesdune.
The verb is singular but past tense (went); the ending is -de.
He and his broþor fliemdon Bagsecg cyning.
Now the verb is past plural; the ending is -don.
Simple tense :
present :I write =Ic write.
past :I wrote =Ic wrat.
future :I shall write =Ic sceal write.
future past :I should write =Ic sceolde write.
Continuous tense :
present :I am writing =Ic eom writen.
past :I was writing =Ic wæs writende.
future :I shall be writing =Ic sceal beo writ.
future past :I should be writing =Ic sceolde beo writende.
Perfect tense :
present :I have written =Ic hæbbe gewriten.
past :I had written =Ic hæfde gewriten.
future :I shall have written =Ic sceal hæbbe gewriten.
furute past :I should have written =Ic sceolde hæfde gewriten.
I smoke =Ic smeoce I smoked =Ic smeac.
you smoke =þu smiecst you smoked =þu smuce.
he smokes =he smiecsþ he smoked =he smeac.
we smoke =we smeocaþ we smoked =we smucan.NOUNS :
CASE 1 :
"Æþelredes broþor wæs Ælfred" (Ethelred's brother was Alfred).
In modern English we mark possession by the ending -'s, which is just a slightly simplified form of the -es of Englisc.
"Æþelredes cyninges broþor wæs Ælfred" (King Ethered's brother was Alfred).
"Se cyning wæs Æþelred" (The King was Ethelred).
"Þæs cyninges nama wæs Æþelred" (The King's name was.....).
CASE 2 :
Englisc showes by another case-change a relationship that we usually show only by word order in Modern English.
We hierdon Dunstan biscop (We heard bishop Dunstan).
Dunstan biscop hierde us (bishop Dunstan heard us).
here we too change from we (doing the hearing, subject of the sentence) to us (being heard, object of the sentence).
If the subject and object are nouns Modern English makes no difference, but Englisc can. If there's a definite article,it changes.
Se cyning fliemde Bagsecg (The King put Bagseg to flight) [Bagseg was a viking invader].
"Se cyning" is the subject of the sentence.
Bagsecg fliemde þone cyning (Bagseg put the King to flight).
"þone cyning" is the object of the sentence.
"Æþelred and Ælfred metaþ þone biscop (.....meet the bishop).
"þone biscop" is the object of the sentence. Grammarians call the case marking the subject (se cyning) nominative case; the case marking the object (þone cyning) is the accusative.
Englisc can say :
Se cyning Ælfred fliemde þone eorl. (King Alfred put the earl to flight)
Þone eorl fliemde se cyning Ælfred. (means the same thing,"se cyning Ælfred" is still the nomative).
CASE 3 :
When the object is an indirect one (as in our "give it to me"),Englisc uses yet another case, the dative case.
"Æþelred and Ælfred befæstaþ þone tun þæm biscope." (....entrust the town to the
bishop).The same case is used after the preposition "to".
"Æþelred and Ælfred sendaþ þone biscop Dunstan to þæm tune."
(......send bishop Dunstan to the town)
and after other prepositions :
Se eorl Sidroc wæs þær on þæm tune. (The earl Sidroc was there in the town).NUMBER :
Biscopas and abbodas and preostas ferdon mid þæm cyninge Ælfrede.
(Bishops and abbots and priests.....).
Þa cyningas Ælfred and Æþelred hieraþ þa biscopas
(King Alfred and King Ethelred hear the bishops).
Þara cyninga þeowas hieraþ þone biscop.(The King's servants.....).
He lædde þara preosta þeow to þæm abbode. (He took the priests' servant to....)
Dunstan biscop ferde to þæm beorgum (....to the mountains).
He ferde mid his preostum. (....with his priests).
Þa cyningas befæstaþ þa tunas þæm abbodum. (...entrusts the town to the abbots).PRONOUNS :
He fliemde hine to þæm more. (He drove him out to the moorland ).
He fliemde hine to him mid his þegnum. (He drove him out to it with his retainers).
Hie fliemdon hie to þæm more. (They drove them out.....).ADJECTIVES :
Ælfred wæs wis. (Alfred was wise ).
Ælfred wæs wis cyning. (Alfred was (a) wise King).
Any change in case or number affects nouns and adjectives :
wises cyninges broþor. ([a] wise king's brother).
Æþelred and Ælfred wæron wise cyningas. (....were wise kings).
Se abbod self ferde to Æscesdune. (The abbot himself went.....)
Þa mette he ealdes cyninges bearn. (Then he met an old king's child.)
He mette ælc þara bearna. (...each of the children).
On þæm dæge þa bearn wæron geong. (on that day[at that time]....were young.)GENDER :
Look at the last sentence, did you notice something odd about it? Notice that "bearn" didn't add the ending -as to mark plural,geong didn't add -e either.
Compare this one : "On þæm dæge þa cyningas wæron geonge." Modern English has nouns that leave the plural unmarked like :sheep,deer,fish etc.Englisc had a whole class of them.
On þæm dæge þæt bearn wæs geong. (....the child was....) [neuter].
On þæm dæge se cyning wæs geong. (....the king was ....) [masculine].
bearn takes a different form of the definite article.So to feminine nouns.
Seo cwen wæs geong. (The queen was young) [feminine].
Þa cwena wæron geonga. (the queens were young).
Seo stow is eald. (the place...)[feminine].
wesað eow hæl!