PART ONE 1. THE INDO-EUROPEAN FAMILY OF LANGUAGES The languages brought into relationship by descent or progressive differentiation from a parent speech are called a family of languages. Various names have been used to designate this family. A century ago the term Aryan was commonly employed. It has been generally abandoned and today is used in a more restricted sense to designate the languages of the family located in India and the plateau of Iran. A more common term is Indo-European. When we speak of Common IE we refer not to an undifferentiated language, but to a combination of features which can be shown to have been common to the recorded members of such families. From the stage of differentiation recorded for about 2000 BC we place the end of this Common phase well back into the third millennium BC, and it is not known how further back it stretches (Strang 1970: 400). The distribution of Indo-European languages in present-day Europe and South-Western Asia (source: http://mathildasanthropologyblog.wordpress.com/2008/06/22/the-neolithic-turkish-origin-of-indo-european- languages/ )

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The languages brought into relationship by descent or progressive differentiation from a parent

speech are called a family of languages. Various names have been used to designate this family.

A century ago the term Aryan was commonly employed. It has been generally abandoned and

today is used in a more restricted sense to designate the languages of the family located in India

and the plateau of Iran. A more common term is Indo-European.

When we speak of Common IE we refer not to an undifferentiated language, but to a

combination of features which can be shown to have been common to the recorded members of

such families. From the stage of differentiation recorded for about 2000 BC we place the end of

this Common phase well back into the third millennium BC, and it is not known how further

back it stretches (Strang 1970: 400).

The distribution of Indo-European languages in present-day Europe and South-Western Asia (source:



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Traditionally, the IE languages have been classified into satem languages and centum

languages, satem and centum being respectively the Avestan (an ancient Iranian language) and

Latin words corresponding to hundred. This classification is based on the development of IE

palatal k (Pyles 1993: 66).

In IE, palatal k was a distinct phoneme from velar k. In the satem languages - which are Indo-

Iranian, Balto-Slavic, Armenian, and Albanian - the two k sounds remained separate phonemes,

and the palatal k became a sibilant - for example, Sanskrit (Indic) śatam, Lithuanian (Baltic)

šimtas, Old Church Slavic sŭto. However, in the other IE languages, which belong to centum

group (Hellenic, Italic, Germanic, and Celtic branches), the two sounds became a single

phoneme, either remaining a k or, in the Germanic group, shifting to h, as in Greek (Hellenic)

(he)katon, Welsh (Celtic) cant, and Old English (Germanic) hund (Pyles 1993: 66).

In general the centum languages tend to be spoken in the West and the satem languages in the

East. Today many of the languages that belong to these branches are classified as “dead” or

extinct because they have no more living speakers. However, some of these languages, like

Latin, have their modern descendants while others, like Hittite, have none.

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(source: http://www.linguatics.com/indoeuropean_languages.htm)


1. 2. 1. Indian

The Indian language is one of the oldest for which we have historical records. The Vedic hymns,

date from about 1000 BC, nearly 1500 BC (Pyles 1993: 71).

The language in which they are written is known as Sanskrit. This language is also found in

certain prose writings containing directions for the rituals, theological commentaries,

philosophical speculations, and rules concerning religious and private life (Baugh 1993: 21).

The spoken languages (or vernacular) of the Sanskrit are called Pakrits and Pali, which is the

religious language of Buddhism. From these various colloquial dialects the present languages of

India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have developed. The most important of these are Hindi, Urdu

(the official language of Pakistan), Bengali (the official language of Bangladesh), Punjabi,

Marathi and Romany, which represents the language of the Gypsies (Baugh 1993: 22).

1. 2. 2. Iranian

The earliest remains of the Iranian branch fall into two divisions, an Eastern and a Western,

represented respectively by Avestan and Old Persian. Avestan is the language of the Avesta, the

sacred book of the Zoroastrians (Zarathustra) (Baugh 1993: 22).

The other division of Iranian, Old Persian, is preserved only in certain cuneiform inscriptions

which record chiefly the conquests and achievements of Darius (522-486 BC) and Xerxes (486-

466 BC). A later form of this language, found in the early centuries of our era, is known as

Middle Iranian language, which is an ancestor of Modern Persian. Persian or Farsi contains a

large Arabic admixture so that today its vocabulary seems almost as much Arabic as Iranian. In

addition to Persian, several other languages differing more or less from it are today in use in the

eastern territories of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Kurdish in the west, in Kurdistan (Baugh

1993: 23).

1. 2. 3. Albanian

Northwest of Greece on the eastern coast of the Adriatic is the small branch named Albanian.

It was formerly classed with the Hellenic group, but since the beginning of the twentieth century

it has been recognized as an independent member of the family (Baugh 1993: 25).

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Albanian has a mixed vocabulary, with words from Italian, Slavic, Turkish, and Greek. It is

possibly related to the ancient language of Illyria, but there is too little knowledge of this early

tongue to be sure, and modern Albanian has been much influenced by neighbouring languages

(Pyles 1993: 70).

1. 2. 4. The Balto-Slavic Languages

The Balto-Slavic branch covers an area in the eastern part of Europe. It falls into two groups,

the Baltic and the Slavic.

There are three Baltic languages: Prussian which has been displaced by German since the

seventeenth century, Latvian, and Lithuanian, which is the chief Baltic language. Lithuanian is

important among the IE languages because of its conservatism; it preserved some very old

features that have disappeared from practically all the other languages of the family (Baugh

1993: 28).

Slavic falls into three main divisions:

a) East Slavic includes Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian/Byelorussian (White Russian);

together they constitute the largest group of Slavic languages.

Russian is found throughout the north, east, and central parts of Russia and it is the official and

literary language of the country. Belorussian is the language in Belarus and adjacent parts of

Poland. Ukrainian is spoken in Ukraine (Baugh 1993: 29).

b) West Slavic includes Polish, Czech, relatively similar Slovak, and Sorbian (or Wendish), a

language spoken by a small group of people in eastern Germany. These languages have lost

many of the early forms preserved in East Slavic (Pyles 1993: 71).

c) South Slavic includes Bulgarian, Serbian, Croatian, Slovene/Slovenian, and Macedonian.

Nowadays we also have to include Bosnian and Montenegrin. Modern Bulgarian has borrowed

extensively from Turkish for the language of everyday use, while the literary language is much

closer to the Russian. Serbian represents the language of Serbia. Croatian, spoken before World

War I by the Croats of Bosnia and Croatia, is the official and literary language of Croatia.

Slovene is spoken in Slovenia.

1. 2. 5. Tocharian

The Tocharian languages, of which there are two, called Tocharian A and Tocharian B, are

misnamed. When the languages were discovered at the end of the last century in some volumes

of Buddhist scriptures and monastic business accounts from central Asia, they were first thought

to be forms of Iranian and were named after an extinct Iranian people. Later it was discovered

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that Tocharian is linguistically quite different from Iranian. Nevertheless, the name has stuck; the

languages themselves have long been extinct (Pyles 1993: 70).


1. 3. 1. The Hellenic Dialects

In ancient times there were many Hellenic dialects, among them five principal dialectal groups:

The Ionic, of which Attic is sub-dialect; Aeolic; Arcadian-Cyprian; Doric; and Northwest Greek.

Of these, Attic, the dialect of Athens, is by far the most studied. It owes its supremacy to the

dominant political and commercial position attained by Athens in the fifth century. The Attic

dialect became the basis of a koiné or common Greek that from the fourth century superseded the

other dialects (Baugh 1993: 24-25).

At the present time two varieties of Greek are important in Greece; one, the popular or

demotic, is the natural language of the people; the other, the “pure”, represents an effort to

restore the vocabulary and some inflections of ancient Greek. Both are used in various schools

and universities, but the current official position favours the demotic (Baugh 1993: 25).

1. 3. 2. The Italic Languages

The Italic branch has its centre in Italy. The main IE language is Latin, the language of ancient

Rome. However, a number of varieties of the languages classified in this branch do not derive

from the classical written Latin but from Vulgar Latin, which was the spoken language of the

Roman Empire. As Rome came to dominate the Mediterranean world, its language became a

koiné as the dialect of Athens had done (Pyles 1993: 72).

The various languages that represent the survival of Latin in the different parts of the Roman

Empire are known as the Romance or Romanic languages (Baugh 1993: 27, 28). The most

extensive of the Romanic languages are French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian but this group

also includes Romanian and languages without national status like Gallician, Sardinian, Catalan,

Rhaeto-Romance and Provençal.

French is primarily the language of northern France, although it is the literary and educational

language throughout the country. In the Middle Ages it was divided into a number of dialects,

especially Norman, Picard, Burgundian and that of the Ile-de-France or the dialect of Paris,

which gradually won recognition as the official and literary language and has become standard

French since the thirteenth century (Baugh 1993: 26).

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The speech of the old kingdom of Castile, the largest and the most important part of Spain,

became standard Spanish. Portuguese and Spanish, because of their proximity and the similar

conditions under which they have developed, have remained fairly close to each other. In spite of

certain differences of vocabulary and inflection and considerable differences in the sound of the

spoken language, a Spaniard can easily read Portuguese (Baugh 1993: 27; Pyles 1993: 73).

Italian has had the longest continuous history in its original location of any of the Romance

languages, because it is nothing more than the Latin language as this language has continued to

be spoken in the streets of Rome from the founding of the city. Also Dante, Petrarch and

Boccaccio wrote in this form of Italian (Baugh 1993: 27; Pyles 1993: 73).

1. 3. 3. The Celtic Languages

The Celtic languages formed at one time one of the most extensive groups in the IE family.

The Celts were spread over a huge territory in Europe long before emergence in history of the

Germanic peoples. Before the beginning of the Christian era, Celtic languages were spoken over

the greater part of Central and Western Europe. Today Celtic languages are found only in the far

corners of France and the British Isles (Baugh 1993: 32; Pyles 1993: 73).

The language of the Celts in Gaul who were conquered by Caesar is known as Gallic. Since it

was early replaced by Latin it is known next to nothing about it. A few inscriptions, some proper

names (cf. Orgetorix), one fragmentary text, and a small number of words preserved in modern

French are all that have survived. It is impossible to say how the Celts came to England. The

older view (which is now questioned) holds that the first to come were Gaelic Celts. Their

language is represented in modern times by Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx (Baugh 1993: 32).

The later Brythonic Celts, after occupying for some centuries what is now England, were in

turn driven westward by Germanic invaders (Angles, Saxons, and Jutes) in the fifth century. The

modern representatives of the Brythonic division are Welsh, Cornish, and Breton (Baugh 1993:

32; Pyles 1993: 74).

The remnants of this one-time extensive group of languages are everywhere losing ground at

the present day. Spoken by minorities in France and the British Isles, these languages are faced

with the competition at two languages of wider communication (French and English) and most

of the speakers are now bilingual. Cornish became extinct in the eighteen century, and Manx,

once spoken by all the native inhabitants of the Isle of Man, has died out since World War II. In

Scotland Gaelic is found only in the Highlands. Welsh and Irish are being slowly replaced by

English (Baugh 1993: 32).

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1. 3. 4. The Germanic Languages

The principal language of East Germanic is Gothic. The earliest records in any Germanic

language are found in this language. The knowledge of Gothic is almost wholly due to a

translation of the Gospels and other parts of the New Testament made by Wulfila, a missionary

who christianized Goths in the north (the tribes of Ostrogoths and Visigoths) in the fourth

century. Gothic as a spoken tongue disappeared in the sixteenth century without leaving a trace

(Baugh 1993: 30; Pyles 1993: 75-76).

North Germanic languages are Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and Faeroese, spoken

in the Faeroe Islands, located in the North Atlantic between Iceland and Great Britain (Pyles

1993: 75).

The Scandinavian languages fall into two groups:

an eastern group including Swedish and Danish

a western group including Norwegian and Icelandic.

West Germanic is divided into two branches, High (spoken in the highlands of Southern

Germany) and Low German (spoken in the lowlands of Northern Germany, the Low Countries -

-Belgium and the Netherlands- and England).

We distinguish as Low German tongues Old Saxon, Old Low Franconian, Old Frisian, and Old

English (the last two are closely related and constitute an Anglo-Frisian subgroup). Old Saxon

became the essential constituent of modern Low German or Plattdeutsch; Old Low Franconian,

with some mixture of Frisian and Saxon elements, is the basis of modern Dutch in the

Netherlands and Flemish in northern Belgium (Baugh 1993: 31).

High German has been popularized by Luther’s translation of the Bible and since the 16th

century has gradually established itself as the literary language of Germany.


It is obvious that, if the languages just described represent the progressive differentiation of an

original speech, this speech, which it may be called Indo-European language, must have been

spoken by a population somewhere at some time.

Certain points are obvious: these speakers did not come from Africa, Australia or America, but

from the European-Asiatic landmass. What can be traced of their common vocabulary suggests

that they came from neither a tropical nor an Arctic nor a mountainous region. They were

nomadic and pre-agricultural. Even more speculative are questions about who the early speakers

were; from the time of the earliest materials it is known that Indo-European languages are

spoken by many races, tribes, and nationalities, from Indian to Aegean (Strang 1970: 401).

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The Indo-European languages generally have a common word for winter and for snow. It is

likely that the original home of the family was in a climate that at certain seasons at least was

fairly cold. On the other hand it is not certain that there was a common word for the sea. Instead,

some branches of the family, when in the course of their wanderings they came into contact with

the sea, had to develop their own words for the new conception. The original community was

apparently an inland one, although not necessarily situated at a great distance from the coast.

Thus a term, some have reconstructed with the meaning “inland sea”, has been used as an

evidence for placing the Indo-Europeans around the Black Sea or the Baltic. If, however, the

term “pond”, as the others maintain, it proves nothing of the sort (Baugh 1993: 36; Robinson

1992: 14).

Harold H. Brener, whose Home of the Indo-Europeans is a considerable survey of the problem,

puts it,

“There are no anciently common Indo-European words for elephant, rhinoceros,

camel, lion, tiger, monkey, crocodile, parrot, rice, banyan, bamboo, palm, but there

are common words, more or less widely spread over Indo-European territory, for

snow and freezing cold, for oak, beech, pine, birch, willow, bear, wolf, otter, beaver,

polecat, marten, weasel, deer, rabbit, mouse, horse, ox, sheep, goat, pig, dog, eagle,

hawk, owl, jay, wild goose, wild duck, partridge or pheasant, snake, tortoise, crab,

ant, bee, etc.” (Baugh 1993: 36).

Two words in this list have been the object of special consideration, beech and bee. A word

corresponding to English beech is found in a number on Indo-European languages and was

undoubtedly part of the parent vocabulary. It is also another argument for the location of Indo-

European speakers and involves a supposed cognate, found in the five of the Indo-European sub-

families, which has been reconstructed as meaning “beech tree”. In prehistoric times the beech

was apparently not indigenous to any areas east of a line drawn from Poland and Ukraine and

north of the Black Sea (Baugh 1993:36; Robinson 1992: 15).

The familiarity of the Indo-European community with the bee is evident from a common word

for honey (Latin mel, Greek , English mildew etc.) and a common word for an intoxicating

drink made from honey, called mead in Old English. The honeybee is indigenous over almost all

Europe but is not found in those parts of Asia that have ever been considered as possible location

of the Indo-European community (Baugh 1993: 37). It would help a great deal to have

archaeological evidence that aided pinpointing the Indo-European community (Robertson 1992:


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(source: http://google.maps.com/ref_map.aspx?cid=694,722,733,1021&pid=11425)

1. 4. 1. The Indo-European Culture

On the basis of cognate words, it can be inferred a good deal about the state of culture attained

by the Indo-Europeans before the various migrations began that carried them from their original

homeland. Those migrations started at least by the third or fourth millennium BC and perhaps

earlier. The Indo-European culture was considerably more advanced than that of some groups of

people living today for they had a complex sense of family relationship and organization (Pyles

1993: 83).

They appear to have been organized into rather small groups or clans, for there is no

widespread cognate with the reconstructed meaning “king” (though a word for “clan chieftain”

is found). They were grouped in villages, which were the seat of a tribe, clan or family. The

villages occupied hilltops and were fortified or enclosed. A study of reconstructed relationship

terms seems to indicate also that women joined the families of the men, since, among other

things, there is a common term meaning “daughter-in-law” but none meaning “son-in-law”

(Robinson 1992: 14). This shows that IE society was patrilineal (with descent traced through the

male line) and patrilocal (since the husband leads home the wife in marriage and is referred to as


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Indo-Europeans were an agricultural society. They raised different types of grains (corn, rye,

wheat, barley). They cultivated crops, used animals for ploughing, sowed seed in furrows and

gathered or harvested crops using a sickle. They kept a large number of domesticated animals,

like cows, sheep, goats and pigs because wealth was measured in livestock.

They were also very skilful and the tools they used were quite advanced. They spun wool,

wove cloth and sewed clothing. They cooked and baked; used salt and honey to either season or

sweeten their food. Honey was also used to brew a beverage – mead. As for the tools, Indo-

Europeans used the bow and arrow, and the axe but had no knowledge of forging swords. It is

interesting to mention that the word “sword” comes from the Old English “sweord”, which in

turn comes from an IE root swer meaning “to wound, to cut”.

They could also count. They made use of gold and perhaps silver as well; copper and iron were

not to come until later. Words corresponding to wheel, axle, and yoke make it perfectly clear

that they used wheeled vehicles. They had religious feeling, with a conception of multiple gods

(Pyles 1993: 83). The chief god of the pantheon was a father figure; a patriarchal society like the

one on earth. Indo-Europeans had seers and priests, they recited prayers and incantations. They

were also engaged in rituals and made offerings to the gods.

Indo-Europeans measured the year in agricultural terms, according to the growing of seasons,

the life cycle of domestic animals and the weather. They also measured time according to the

lunar month and had names of the sun and other stars. Their orientation was based on natural

phenomena: east was associated with the dawn while west with the evening.

They had no term for commerce but they bought and sold other human beings as slaves or

redeemed them from imprisonment. Indo-Europeans had words for “stealing” and “thief” and

had a legal system based on mutual contractual obligations. It seems that their society was based

on a principle of reciprocity and great importance was placed on exchange, compensation,

hospitality, and gift-giving. Gift-giving was especially important since it extended from

rewarding retainers to paying tribute or making atonement for crimes.

When it comes to culture, Indo-Europeans practiced oral poetry (reconstructed expressions like

“rosy-fingered dawn” or “the wheel of the sun” were clearly a part of oral poetry) and being a

poet meant holding an important position within the society (a poet was referred to as the

“weaver” or “crafter” of words).

Just what exactly propelled the Indo-Europeans to leave their ancient homeland is not known,

but the horse and the wheel made it possible for this society to break up.


For further/additional information, visit the following web-links:

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1. Two web sites offering maps with the distribution of language families throughout the world

are: http://www.zompist.com/Langmaps.html


2. For a map of the Indo-European languages is Europe, see:


3. A recent article in The New York Times discusses superfamilies and the comparative method:




The splitting off of the Germanic dialect from the Indo-European unity may have taken as long

as 2000 years. There are some traditional explanations for this which include factors like

overpopulation, infertile land or pressure from other groups. So, one group went further north in

Scandinavia, while the other migrated to the east and south as far as the Black Sea – these two

groups eventually became known as the North and East branches of Germanic. Another group,

during early centuries of our era, migrated to the West and South spreading over areas that were

inhabited by Celtic speakers – this became known as the West branch of Germanic. West

Germanic, East Germanic, and North Germanic share the same parent language, generally

referred to as Common Germanic, Primitive Germanic or Proto-Germanic (in German:

Urgermanisch) (Drobnak 1993: 9). Proto-Germanic was spoken in the first millennium BC,

probably on the territory between Scandinavia, present-day Poland and the shores of the

Northern Sea. At the beginning of our era, Proto-Germanic must have been spoken in a number

of dialects, which eventually evolved into modern Germanic languages (Drobnak 1993: 9).

There are four changes from Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic that should be mentioned.

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(source: http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~cpercy/hell/families/germanic/)



The change that is considered most important in constituting Germanic as a separate dialect or

language of its own, however, is the fixing of stress on the first syllable of the word. In the IE

stress had been “free”, that is, in different words or even different forms of the same word it

could fall on different syllables.

None of the Germanic languages has anything comparable to the shifting accentuation of Latin

vírī “men”, virorum “of the men” or of hábeō “I have”, habēmus “we have” (Pyles 1993: 86).

Important change between IE and Germanic is the development of a system of fixed “stress

accent”, which depends on variations in loudness. In this system the accent always falls on the

first or root syllable of the word even when the accent was originally on another syllable in IE.

Let us look at the paradigms of the Greek and Old English developments of IE *pter “father”,

according to Pyles 1993: 86:

Table 1:


nominative patēr fæder

genitive patrós fæder(es)

dative patrí fæder

accusative patéra fæder

vocative páter fæder

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nominative patéres fæderas

genitive patérōn fædera

dative patrási fæderum

accusative patéras fæderas

In the Greek forms the accent may occur on the suffix, the ending, or the root, unlike the Old

English forms, which have their accent fixed on the first syllable of the root. Germanic accent is

also predominantly a matter of stress (loudness) rather then pitch (tone); IE seems to have had

both types of accent at different stages of its development (Pyles 1993: 86).

To give some examples from Modern English we have: love, lover, lovely, loveliness, loveless

all with the accent on the first syllable while the borrowed word from Latin has a shifting accent:

family, familiar, familiarity.

2. 2. THE CREATION OF THE WEAK PRETERITE (the use of dental suffix for the

past tense)

Germanic developed a preterit tense form with a dental suffix, that is, one containing d or t.

All Germanic languages thus have two types of verbs (Pyles 1993: 85).

Verbs that employ the dental suffix are called weak by Jacob Grimm. In these, the past tense is

formed by adding an inflection to the verb-stem, as in I walk, I walked or I love, I loved. The

origin of the weak conjugation of verbs is uncertain; one theory claims that the ending was

originally a part of the verb “to do”, rather as though “he walked” had developed out of “he walk

did”; but no single theory seems able to explain all the facts (Barber 1993: 91).

The other type of Germanic verbs is called strong verbs. In Proto-IE they showed change of

tense by changing the vowel of their stem, like Modern English I sing, I sang, or I write, I wrote

(Barber 1993: 91).

What is certain is that the weak verbs have become the dominant verb-forms in the Germanic

languages. In Old English, for instance, the weak verbs were already the majority. Since then,

many strong verbs have changed over to weak, like the verb “to help”, which formerly had the

past healp, but now has helped. And nearly all new verbs formed or borrowed by the language

are made weak: for instance, sixteenth-century loans such as imitate (from Latin) and invite

(from French) have past tenses like imitated, invited; and when, in the twentieth century, we

invent a new verb such as to garage (formed from the noun), it seems inevitable that the past

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tense shall be garaged. So that today the strong verbs, which were the original type, are a small

minority and weak verbs are the norm (Barber 1993: 92).


In Proto-IE, the adjectives inflections had been essentially the same as the noun inflections, but

in many of the daughter-languages they became distinguished from them in various ways. This

happened in Proto-Germanic, which developed two distinct sets of inflections for the adjectives,

called the strong and the weak declensions of the adjective. The distinction between the

strong and the weak forms of the adjective has not survived in Modern English, but it can still be

found in many of the other Germanic languages, however, it could be found in Old English; the

strong form of the adjective was used in gōd mann (“a good person”), and the weak form in sē

gōda mann (“the good person”) (Barber 1993: 90). Also, as modifiers other than adjectives,

demonstrative (this, that) or possessive adjective (my, your, his) would occur with a noun, for

example “these good boats” – þa godan batas.

3. THE GRIMM’S LAW or the First Consonant Shift

The first consonant or sound shift, popularly called Grimm’s Law (it was first formulated in

1822 by German philologist Jacob Grimm and Dane Rasmus Rask), is rightly regarded as one of

the most characteristic features of the Germanic languages (Baugh 1993: 19; Wright 1984: 111).

The Indo-European language had the following system of consonants:

a) The first sound shift denotes that IE bh, dh, gh became, respectively, b, d, g. Stated in

phonetic terms, aspirated voiced stops became unaspirated voiced stops (Pyles 1993: 88):



brāter brother

bhlē blow

breg- break


dhwer- door

dhē- do

dhaug(h)∂tēr daughter

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ghordho- OE geard “yard”

ghost- guest

ghed- get

b) The IE voiceless stops p, t, k, became, respectively, the voiceless fricatives ƒ, , x (later h in

initial position) (Pyles 1993: 89):


IE p Lat. or Gr. GERMANIC

ptēr pater father

pisk- piscis fish

ped- ped(em) foot

peku- pecu “cattle” fee


treyes trēs three

tū tū OE þu “thou”

ten- tenuis thin

tum- tumēre “to swell” thumb

IE k Lat. GERMANIC h x

krn- cornū horn

kerd- cord- heart

kmtom cen- hund(red)

leuk lūx OE lēoht “light”

c) The IE voiced stops b, d, g, became, respectively, the voiceless stops p, t, k.

(Pyles 1993: 89):



abel- / (Russ.) jabloko apple

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slab (Cr.) sleep (OE)

dubok (Cr.) deep

troba (Lith. house) thorp (OE)

IE d Lat. or Greek GERMANIC t

dwō duo two

dent- dentis tooth

drew- (Gr.) drūs ”oak” tree

dekm decem ten (Gothic taíhum)

IE g Lat. or Greek GERMANIC k

genu- genu knee

gwen- (Gr.) gune “woman” queen

grno- grānum corn

gnō- (g)nōscere know, can

First consonant shift in Germanic languages as shown in simplified table (according to Pyles

1993: 90).

IE bh, dh, gh (respectively) Gmc b, d, g

IE p, t, k (respectively) Gmc f, , x (h initially)

IE b, d, g (respectively) Gmc p, t, k

Although the scientists cannot be certain of the chronology of these consonant changes, it is

likely that they stretched over centuries. Each set of shifts was completed before the next began.

It is obvious, for instance, that the shift of IE b, d and g to Germanic p, t and k must have

occurred after IE p, t and k had become Germanic , and x; otherwise, the Germanic p, t and k

from IE b, d and g would have gone on to become , and x also; and English should have no

native words with p, t and k (Pyles 1993: 90; Strang 1970: 411).


For further/additional information, please visit the following recommended web-links:

1. You may wish to look at Edwin Duncan’s description of the seven distinctive features of



2. A large collection of scanned resources on the Germanic languages (many from the early part

of the twentieth century) may be found on Sean Crist’s website:

Page 17: Povijest engleskog jezika





The proper history of English begins in the 5th

century with the migration of the Germanic

tribes, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes from their homeland to the British Isles. There they found

the partly romanized Celts what is known from the material remains that have been uncovered by

archaeological research. On the basis of previously mentioned material, scholars divide the

history of English into three periods:

● The period of Old English (OE): from the settlement of Anglo-Saxons in England in the 5th

century (AD 450) to the Norman Conquest in AD 1066;

● The period of Middle English (ME): from the Norman Conquest to the Renaissance (c. 1100 –

c. 1500);

● The period of Modern (or New) English (NE): the period from c.1500 to c.1650 (the

Restoration) is called the period of Early Modern English. (Trobevšek, 1993: 11)

The traditional account of the Germanic invasions goes back to Bede and the Anglo-Saxon

Chronicle (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People), which was completed in 731, and

gives a year-by-year summary of events in the southern English kingdoms. This overshadows all

other sources for the seventh and early eight centuries, and although the invasion period was

remote from Bede’s own day he provides well-founded data. The only other narrative sources are

fragments of chronicles preserved in later compilations, a few poems and passing references by

continental writers.


The period from AD 450 to AD 1066 is known as Old English. It is sometimes described as the

period of full inflections, because during most of this period endings of the noun, the adjective,

and the verb are preserved more or less unimpaired. The oldest records of OE exhibit clearly

Page 18: Povijest engleskog jezika

defined dialectal peculiarities. OE is usually divided into four dialects which correspond with the

regions settled by respective Germanic tribes:

(a) Northumbrian, north of the river Humber,

(b) Mercian, between the Humber and the Thames,

(c) West Saxon, south of the Thames, except Kent and Surrey,

(d) and Kentish, embracing Kent and Surrey (Wright 1925: 4).

In general, the differences between Old and Modern English concern spelling and

pronunciation, the lexicon, and the grammar. The spelling differences are often apparent rather

than real, as they represent no difference in spoken language, and those of pronunciation obey

certain laws, which appear during the centuries. The vocabulary of Old English is purely

Germanic. A large part of this vocabulary, moreover, has disappeared from the language we

know today. OE is a synthetic language, a language that indicates the relation of words in a

sentence largely by means of inflections. In the case of the IE languages these most commonly

take the form of endings on the noun and pronoun, the adjective and the verb. (Baugh 1993: 50-


The history of any language is intimately associated with the social, economic and political and

cultural evolution of the people who speak it. A study of the development of OE in its growth,

maturation and decline is a study also in the cultural forces that helped to shape the language.

The history of Old English indicates four major periods of evolution:

First period – Teutonic invasion and settlement (449-597);

Second period – the Christianising of Britain (597-700);

Third period – the creation of national English culture (700-899);

Fourth period – Danish and English warfare, political adjustment and racial assimilation


There are two more periods of evolution, which already belong in the Middle English period:

a) First period – the decline and subjection as a result of the Norman Conquest (1042-1087)

b) Second period – the decline of the Normans and beginning of Plantagenet (1087-1154).


The Celts called their Germanic conquerors Saxons indiscriminately, probably because they had

their first contact with the Germanic people through the Saxons raids on the coast. Early Latin

writers, following Celtic usage, generally called the Germanic inhabitants of England Saxones

and the land Saxonia. But soon the terms Angli and Anglia occurred and referred not to the

Angles individually but to the West Germanic tribes generally.

Page 19: Povijest engleskog jezika

English as the name of a people and their tongue predates England as the name of their identity

by about four hundred years. In 601, for example, Pope Gregory called King Aethelbert of Kent

rex Anglorum, and a century later Bede called his history the Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis

Anglorum. In time Angli and Anglia became the usual terms in Latin texts. From the beginning

writers in the vernacular never referred to it as anything but Englisc. The word is derived from

the name of ten Angles (OE Engle) but is used without distinction for the language of all

individual tribes. The land and its people were early called Angelcynn (Angle-kin or race of the

Angles), and this is the common name until after the Danish period. When Alfred the Great

succeeded in becoming the king of all English-speaking tribes in 878, the dominance was Saxon,

not Anglian, and the country did not receive the name Englaland (England) until about 1000 AD.


(source: http://www.uni-due.de/SHE/HE_GermanicLanguages.htm)

Old English language is a member of the Teutonic branch of Indo-European. IE is the greatest

single family of languages on earth. To place Old English in the IE family, one may, as already

mentioned, analyse its various languages branches in two major groupings: satem and centum,

depending upon which word is used to designate hundred. OE belongs to the centum group and

the West section of the Teutonic (Germanic) branch.

Old English possesses certain basic characteristics:

1. Highly Germanic vocabulary, almost free of foreign terms,

2. The language went through the Great Consonant Shift, also known as the Grimm’s Law,

3. Has two types of verb conjugations: weak and strong,

4. A double system of adjectival declension,

5. A full inflectional system,

Page 20: Povijest engleskog jezika

6. The gender of nouns is grammatical instead of natural (for example, sunne (sun), niht (night)

and heorte (hart) are feminine, Mōna (moon) and daeg (day) are both masculine and hēafod

(head), Mǣden (maiden) and wīf (wife) are all neuter),

7. Flexible morphology with a wealth of affixes to create new or modify existing words (for

example, compounding: lamp “light-vessel” lēohtfæt, astronomy “star-law” tungol-ǣ or

medicine “leech-craft” lǣcecræft. OE verb settan (to set), as Baugh indicated, changes its

meaning with different prefixes, such as besettan (appoint), forsettan (obstruct), gesettan

(garrison), onsettan (oppress), wiþsettan (resist)) (Nist 1966: 88).

2. 2. 1. The dialects of Old English

The tribes all spoke a version of the same language – Old English, which was not entirely

uniform. Each version was a dialect variant, but the variation was small. We can, as already

stated, distinguish four dialects. They posses certain features in common and are sometimes

known collectively as Anglian: Northumbrian, spoken by the Angles living north of the Humber

River; Mercian, spoken by Angles living between the Humber River and the Thames; Kentish,

spoken by Jutes living in Kent and on the Isle of Wight; West Saxon, spoken by Saxons living

between Cornwall and Kent, below the Thames. This dialect attained something of the position

of literary standard, and nearly all of OE literature is preserved in manuscripts transcribed in this

region. For this reason it is made the basis of the study of Old English. These four dialects

sounded much alike, for example the West Saxon word for “cold” is ceald and exactly the same

term was used in Kentish while Northumbrian and Mercian had the term cald. This meant that

the speakers of all these dialects would have no trouble in understanding each other.

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(source: http://www.familytreefind.co.uk/pink.htm)

3. THE FIRST PERIOD (449 – 597)

The Roman legions began to withdraw from Britain at the end of the fourth century. Those who

stayed behind were to become the Romanized Britons. They organized local defences against the

onslaught of the Saxon hordes. The period, from the time that the Romans had abandoned Britain

to the arrival of Augustine at Kent to convert the Saxons, is known as the Dark Ages. By 4l0,

Britain became self-governing in three regions, in the North (which already included people of

mixed British and Angle stock); in the West (including Britons, Irish, and Angles); and in the

South East (mainly Angles). The creation of England was a product of folk movement in the

north-west Europe. About the year 449 an event occurred that affected the course of history. In

that year began the invasion of Britain by certain Germanic tribes, the founders of the English

nation. For more than a hundred years bands of conquerors and settlers migrated from their

continental homes in the region of Denmark and the Low Countries. They established

themselves in the south and east of the island, gradually extending the area to the highlands in

the west and north. Here is a map of England around the early fourth century:

Page 22: Povijest engleskog jezika

A map of Britain in the 4th century. This was a time when the Romans still ruled over most of Britain, dividing it

into four provinces [Blue and Yellow]. They controlled a small area north of the eastern section of Hadrian's Wall,

but the rest of the north was the domain of numerous British & Pictish tribes [Purple & Indigo] (source:


The following map shows England around the period 450-475 AD

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A map of Britain as it may have appeared around AD 450. The House of Vortigern is in decline. They lose the area

around Cirencester, but maintain control of the dynasty's homeland [Pink]. Rheged and Ebrauc are divided amongst

heirs [Blue]. The Saxons take over Kent and large areas around the Fens, including Lindsey (possibly via a marriage

alliance) and Norfolk. Settlements which are to expand into Mercia & Deira are established in Lincolnshire &

Yorkshire respectively [Green]. Little is known of the Northern Pictish regions [Purple], but presumably the tribal

divisions of previous ages survived into the 5th century (source: www.earlybritishkingdoms.com).


Page 24: Povijest engleskog jezika

(source: http://www.uni-due.de/SHE/HE_GermanicInvasions.htm)

The tribes that conquered England were the Jutes, Saxons and Angles.

Britain has been exposed to attacks by the Saxons from as early as the fourth century, even

while the island was under Roman rule. The tribes that lived there at that time were Picts, Scots

and Celts. In 449 the Celtic leader Vortigern offered the Jutes of Northern Denmark the island of

Thanet in exchange for military assistance against the Picts and Scots. So, the Jutes came and

conquered not only the Picts and Scots but also the Celts. The Jutes settled in Kent and on the

Isle of Wight. In 477 the Saxons came to Sussex and by 495 Wessex was also under their rule.

The English invaders were primitive people who lived by hunting and farming. In the middle of

the next century the Angles occupied the east coast and in 547 established an Anglian kingdom

north of Humber. The displaced Celts, constantly driven westward, sought their final refuge in

Cornwall and Wales. The Britons fought the invaders courageously, but at the end they failed.

By the middle of the sixth century the Anglo-Saxons gained control of most of what is now

England. The island realm of the English looked something like the following map:

Page 25: Povijest engleskog jezika

A map of Britain as it may have appeared around AD 550. The Saxons settlements expand in East Anglia and the

proto-Mercian settlers extend into the Peak District leading to the fall of the British Kingdom there. The beginnings

of the Kingdom of Essex are to be seen, North of the Thames. Wessex joins with the Gewissae of the Upper Thames

Valley, descendants of Roman mercenaries of Germanic origin [Green]. This divides the Kingdom of the old

Atrebatic territory in two, and a new British dynasty probably establishes control of Caer-Baddan (Bath) [Tan].

Glywysing and Gwent are united under King Meurig [Light Red], whilst Rheged is divided amongst heirs [Mint

Green/Pale Blue]. A landless son of the British Pennine Dynasty establishes Calchfynedd over the Chiltern Hills

[Light Blue]. The Kings of Strathclyde overrun Galloway and force its monarchy to flee to Ynys Manaw (Isle of

Man) where they continue to rule a much reduced kingdom [Indigo]. In the confusion, a scion of the House of

Ebrauc manages to establish a lordship around Caer-Wenddoleu [Mauve]. Soon afterwards, Strathclyde is divided

amongst heirs, producing a kingdom in the old tribal region of the Selgovae and another, possibly in Galloway

[Indigo/Sea Green]. One landless heir invades Gododdin and establishes himself over Din Eityn (Edinburgh)

[Purple]. The Scots of Dalriada move up Glen Orchy & Glen Etive and across to Morvern & the Isle of Mull

[Orange] (source: www.earlybritishkingdoms.com).

Here is another map of England around 600 AD

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A map of Britain as it may have appeared around AD 600. Final fall of the old British Kingdoms of the South-East.

Sussex, Essex and East Anglia fill the gap. Deira takes over the British kingdom of Ebrauc when a power-vacuum is

created by the death of its last monarchs [Green]. With the collapse of the Northern British alliance, Bernicia

expands [Green] and Bryneich is reduced to a small area in the Cheviots [Blue]. Bernicia and Deira later nominally

united under King Aethelfirth. Wessex pulls back from its outer regions in the Northern Chilterns, but concentrates

on expansion westward with the defeat of the Kings of Caer-Gloiu (Gloucester), Caer-Ceri (Cirencester) and Caer-

Baddan (Bath) [Green]. The sub-Kingdom of Glastening is probably established at this time as a buffer zone

between Wessex and Dumnonia [Dark Yellow]. The Scots of Dalriada move north into Druim Fada [Orange]

(source: www.earlybritishkingdoms.com).


It is difficult to speak with certainty about the relations of the newcomers and the native

population. In some districts where the inhabitants were few, the Anglo-Saxons probably settled

down beside the Celts in more or less peaceful contact. In others, as in the West Saxon territory,

the invaders met with the stubborn resistance and succeeded in establishing themselves only after

much fighting. Many of the Celts sought refuge in Wales and Cornwall, and some travelled

across the Channel to Brittany. The Anglo-Saxons called them Wealas (Welsh) which meant

Page 27: Povijest engleskog jezika

“foreigner”, “stranger” or “slave”. In any case the civilisation as had been attained under Roman

influence was largely destroyed. The Roman houses, bathes, temples and whole towns were

burnt and abandoned. In time various tribes combined either for greater strength or, under the

influence of a powerful leader, to produce small kingdoms.

3. 2. 1. Early English life and customs

The Anglo-Saxon society was divided into several social classes. At the top was the king; a

war leader. It was very important for a king to have plenty of gold and pecious things but also it

was expected to provide land and slaves for his followers. He had to be able to give costly gifts

to his queen and followers, and clothe himself in fine robes and armour suitable for a ruler.

Whether they were God-fearing men or not, successful kings had to be brave and generous. A

king's power was not hereditary; it depended solely on his ability to win battles and so gain land,

treasure, and slaves to give to his supporters. He was obliged to fight and keep fighting. If not, he

was in danger of losing his position or his life, or both. Any relative of the old king who could

gain enough support was in position to make a bid for the throne. This is the reason why the

Anglo-Saxon kingdoms came and went so quickly. The power of any kingdom over its

neighbours was only as solid as the strength of its king in battle. Kings could not, except in

exceptional circumstances, make new laws. Instead, their role was to uphold and clarify previous

custom. Very often the first act of a conquering king was to assure his subjects that he would

uphold their ancient privileges, laws, and customs.

There were two levels of freemen below the king: the upper class thanes and the lower class

ceorls (churls). The difference between these two types of freemen was only in terms of the land

they happened to own. A man could only be a thane if he owned at least five hides of land (a

hide was defined as the amount of land necessary to provide a living for one family). Thanes

accompanied the king when he rode out hunting, fight wars and help keep law and order in the

kingdom. A king’s power depended on the loyalty, strength and courage of his thanes. In return

for their services, thanes expected to be given weapons, horses and other gifts; and also food and

drink – ‘the joys of hall’. The most valuable gift was land, the real basis of wealth and power.

Once he had an estate, a thane could marry and set up his own household. The richer lords lived

on estates, with a main rectangular hall surrounded by outlying buildings for various living,

working, and storage purposes. The inside of the hall was usually decorated with expensive wall

hangings or paintings which actually marked the lord’s prestige. The hall was the scene of feasts

for the lord's followers as was expected that a lord should be a lavish host.

Page 28: Povijest engleskog jezika

From time to time each king called together an assembly of thanes, to discuss new laws, gifts

of land and other such matters. This assembly was called a Witan.

Below the thanes and ceorls were the slaves – or thralls. Many thralls were descended from

the unfortunate Britons who lost their lands to the English invaders. In fact word ‘Briton’ was

often used to mean ‘a slave’. Slavery was very important during the during the Dark Ages

because many things in everyday life depended on slave labour

As for the administration, the land was divided into shires, mainly according to the territory of

the first tribes. The shire, within which were towns or burhs, was divided into hundreds, or in the

Danelaw, wapentakes. These were the basic units of administration and the court system. The

ealdormen and shire-reeves (sheriffs) looked after the king's interests; mainly in collecting the

taxes and administering justice.

When they came to England, the Anglo-Saxons were pagans. They worshipped gods of nature

but religion was not a source of spiritual revelation, it was a means of ensuring success in

material things. For example, you might pray to a particular goddess for a successful harvest, or

for victory in battle. A few of the main Anglo-Saxon gods were Tiw, Wodin (Odin), Thor, and

Friya, from whose names we today derive names for days of the week Tuesday, Wednesday,

Thursday, and Friday. They would perform invocations and charms to ensure the gods' help in

securing a desired outcome in the material world, while the presence of grave goods indicates a

belief in an afterlife.

The ordinary people in the English kingdoms farmed the land or worked in village traders. The

most frequently grown crops were wheat, oats, rye, barley (both as a cereal and as the base for

beer) and beans. Honey was the only sweetener in use but it was also used to produce mead – an

alcoholic beverage. As far as the animals are concerned, major source of meat were pigs but also

goats and sheep while oxen and horses were used for ploughing the land and transportation.

The business of the community was transacted in local assemblies. The kinship ties were very

important and this meant that the relatives of a murdered person were obliged to exact vengeance

for his or her death but this only lead to bloody feuds. A new system was introduced in order to

find a different way out of this cruel custom. Justice was administrated through a serious of fines

- the wergild (the sum of money or the number of oxen that had to be paid to his relatives by

anyone who killed him) - which varied according to the nature of the crime and the rank of the

injured party. Relatives would avenge one’s death because to neglect such vengeance meant

everlasting shame. Guilt was generally determined by ordeal or by compurgation. “Ordeal was a

trial or judgment of the truth of some claim or accusation by various means (fire, water and

cross) based on the belief that the outcome will reflect the judgment of supernatural powers and

that these powers will ensure the triumph of right. Compurgation, also called wager of law, is a

Page 29: Povijest engleskog jezika

defence used primarily in medieval law. A defendant could establish his innocence by taking an

oath and by getting a required number of persons, typically twelve to swear they believed his

oath” (Encyclopaedia Britannica). The word of a thane counted for that of six ceorls. It was

assumed that a person of a good character would be able to find enough people that would swear

on his innocence and in doing so his case would prosper. If not, the penalty was death, usually by


3. 2. 2. Women in Anglo-Saxon England

The society was predominately patriarchal but women in Anglo-Saxon England, much more

than in any other era before the modern time, were considered near equals to men, their husbands

and brothers. This only lasted until the Norman Conquest in 1066. At that point, the rules and

customs of the new military society significantly diminished the importance and status of


Women’s occupations depended on their social class, usually those tasks required little

physical work. Female slaves worked as corn-grinders, serving maids, wet-nurses, weavers and

tailors while common free women were also found weaving and spinning. Everyday life of

women at that time was far from simple and easy since their mortality rate was quite high. The

reason for was the dangers of pregnancies, miscarriages and childbirth.

In Anglo-Saxon England, women and men were free to choose their future spouses. Marriage

agreements were made between the two families but the girl did have a say in who she married.

A prospective husband had to pay a sum of money or land for a woman's hand in marriage. This

transaction had to be paid directly to the future bride while she had the right to do with the

money or the land whatever she wished. However, these and other gifts were sometimes seen as

the sale of a bride, when in reality it was to safeguard her interests and her security. A married

woman was considered the object of her husband's protection and his property. Nevertheless, she

continued to remain the owner of her property.

Women had property rights that enabled them to become landowners. Another important

aspect was that women could also leave their land as inheritance by means of a will. Many

recorded wills also suggest that women owned estates by virtue of a grant, given in will or left as

inheritance. It seems that there was no preference to daughters or sons as heirs. Brothers and

sisters could inherit from each other, and brothers took care of their unmarried or widowed

sisters after the father's death which emphasizes the importance of family ties.

It appears that women of this period played an important role in Anglo-Saxon society, as they

were considered more or less equal to men. It is stated that for many women, Anglo-Saxon

Page 30: Povijest engleskog jezika

England was a golden age of power and wealth, culture and education. Unfortunately, the

Norman Conquest caused women to lose their status in reality.

For additional information, please visit the following web-links:

1. To see the territory of the Germanic tribes in 400 and 500, you may look at the following

internet maps:



2. The Applied History Research Group at the University of Calgary provides a history of the

Germanic invasions of Western Europe with some excellent illustrations:


3. For a translation of Bede’s account of the arrival of the Germanic tribes in England go to the

following site:

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/bede-book1.html (see chapters 15 and 16)

4. For a map of the Danelaw, see:


5. A general history of Britain during this period can be found on the Britannia web site:


6. An excellent web-site by David Nash Ford on Britain’s early history, with chronologies,

variety of maps, legends concerning King Arthur:


7. A glossary of computer terms but in Old English:


8. A daily reading of the entire Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records, which includes all poems written in

Old English:


9. You will find here readings of parts of texts in Old English, help with grammar, and many

other useful pages:


10. The following web-site offers a very interesting view of the Anglo-Saxon society, including

the popular crafts, religious life, kinship and lordship relations and much more:


11. Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook:


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4. 1. THE SECOND PERIOD (597 - 700)

4. 1. 1. The Christianizing of Britain

The whole period was in the mark of Christianity, which first came to Britain when the country

was part of the Roman Empire, although the religion was far from new on the island, because

Irish monks had been preaching the gospel. But English invaders were heathens who

worshipped nature gods so Christian worshippers died out wherever they settled. The English

wore charms to keep away evil spirits, and believed in giants, dragons and other monsters that

lived in the lonely moors, woods and swamps.

According to the story reported by the Venerable Bede, it was Gregory the Great who wished

for the conversion of Britain. He was struck by the sight of some fair-haired, light-skinned pagan

boys being sold as slaves in a Roman market place and was told that the boys were Angels who

came from the island of Britain. The fact that such fine men were ignorant of Christianity

shocked him and, when he became Pope, Gregory the Great commissioned St. Augustine to lead

a missionary band of forty monks in a peaceful invasion of Britain with the purpose of turning

the warlike Teutons away from pagan customs and towards Christianity. Fortunately, upon their

arrival to the kingdom of Kent, the missionaries found an ally in Queen Bertha of Kent, the

Frankish wife of King Æthelberht. Within three months after his arrival in Kent in 597, St.

Augustine had baptized King Æthelberht and this example was followed by numbers of his

subjects. By the time St. Augustine died in 604, the entire kingdom of Kent had become


The conversion of the rest of England was a gradual process. Celtic Christianity and the Welsh

clergy rejected St. Augustine's claims for the supremacy of Canterbury and therefore of Roman

authority. London continued in its pagan ways until 627, when Paulinus baptized the powerful

King Edwin of Northumbria. But, after the defeat of King Edwin by the Welsh and the Mercians

in 632, Northumbria reverted to paganism. It was only some twenty years later that the Scottish

monk Aidan succeeded in making all Northumbria Christian. By 700 Britain had been

permanently Christianized under the spiritual leadership of the Papacy.

4. 1. 2. The Effects of Christianity on English Civilization

The adoption of Christianity produced several important cultural forces which had great

linguistic effects. The strongest cultural force was the fostering of learning: church schools were

established throughout England, as well as scholarly monasteries at Canterbury, York,

Malmesbury, Wearmouth and Jarrow. The beginning of this movement was in 669, when a

Greek bishop Theodore of Tarsus was made archbishop of Canterbury. Teachers like Hadrian,

Page 32: Povijest engleskog jezika

the Venerable Bede and Theodore of Tarsus himself, made England the intellectual leader of

Europe. Young people were trained in Greek and Latin, sacred and profane literature, explication

of Holy Writ, poetry, grammar, prosody, science, arts, agriculture and domestic economy.

Venerable Bede, a monk at Jarrow, was an intellectual leader of Europe and assimilated all the

learning of this time. He wrote on grammar and prosody, science and chronology and composed

numerous commentaries on the books of the Old and New Testament. His most famous work, as

already mentioned, is the Ecclesiastical History of the English People (731), from which we

derive a large part of our knowledge of the early history of England. Classical learning had a

large impact upon the Old English vernacular and the monastic introduction of the means to

record oral-tradition literature in manuscript form began the history of the written English word

(about the year 700). As a result of the Christianizing of Britain some 450 Latin words appeared

in English writings before the close of the Old English period. This number does not include

derivatives or proper names, which in the case of biblical names are very numerous. These words

were mostly church-related (abbot, alms, altar, angel, deacon, hymn, manna, minister, pope,

priest, psalm, shrine), domestic (balsam, cap, cook, oyster, pine, place, plant, silk, sponge) and

learned (calend, circle, consul, giant, grammatic, master, meter, phoenix, school, verse).

The picture of St. Augustine:

(source: http://www.uni-due.de/SHE/HE_GermanicInvasions.htm)

Page 33: Povijest engleskog jezika



The Scandinavians had remained quietly in their northern home for some centuries. But

in the eight century a change, possibly economic and political, occurred in this area and

provoked among them a spirit of unrest and adventurous enterprise. These people were known as

the Vikings, a term deriving either from Frisian wic ‘settlement’, or Old Norse vik ‘bay’. It is

interesting to note that they were originally also neighbors of the Anglo-Saxon, and therefore

spoke a closely related language (Old Norse). We can call Old Norse and Old English cognate or

related languages. They attacked, plundered and conquered the peoples living along the North

Sea and the Baltic. There were three main Viking races: the Swedes established the kingdom in

Russia; Norwegians colonized parts of the British Isles, the Faroes, Iceland, Labrador and

Greenland; the Danes founded the dukedom of Normandy and finally conquered England.

Picture of the Scandinavian invasions:

(source: http://courses.nus.edu.sg/course/elltankw/history/OE.htm)

As Anglo-Saxon Chronicle indicates, the Danish invasion of England that began in 787

and ended in 878 with the Treaty of Wedmore, can be divided into two stages. The first is the

period of ‘early raids’, beginning in 787 and continuing with some intermission until about 850.

This period consisted of marauding and plundering of places of wealth and was carried out

mainly by Norwegians, but they always returned back to home base. The second stage, which

extended from 850 to 878, was a time of ‘army warfare’. The large armies plundered and settled

in all parts of the country with the lasting consequences for the peoples of British Isles. This

began with the arrival of a Danish fleet of 350 ships off the Isle of Thanet in 850. Their pirate

crews wintered there and the following spring captured Canterbury and London and ravaged the

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surrounding country. By 866 a big Danish army had overrun the East Anglia and the following

year it captured York. By 870 most of eastern England was under Scandinavian control.

The assault upon Wessex began shortly before the accession of King Alfred (871-899),

a man of military genius. King Ethelred and his brother Alfred led the men of Wessex straight

into the attack. They were not successful and after Ethelred’s death, Alfred was the only hope for

Wessex. Although he was a tough and experienced soldier, he threatened to prove insufficient to

withstand the repeated attacks of the Northmen. After seven years of resistance he was forced to

take refuge, but his courage and persistence triumphed. With a fresh levy of men from Somerset,

Wiltshire and Hampshire, he suddenly attacked the Danish army under Guthrum at Ethandun

(now Edington). The result was an overwhelming victory for the English and a capitulation of

the Danes. Alfred and Guthrum signed the Treaty of Wedmore in 878, and the Scandinavians

agreed to settle on the east of the line, running roughly from Chester to London. This region

would be subject to Danish law, and is known as the Danelaw. The Danes also agreed to become

Christians and this began the process of the fusion of the two peoples and the two languages. For

example, the personal pronouns they, them and their come from ON. So does the 3rd person

inflexion for verbs –s. Words that are borrowed from ON include anger, cake, egg, loan, root,

skirt, steak, take and window.

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(source: http://www.uni-due.de/SHE/HE_ScandinavianInvasions.htm)

5. THE FOURTH PERIOD (899 –1042)


Toward the end of the tenth century, when England seemed at last on the point of solving its

Danish problem, a new and formidable series of Scandinavian invasions began. In 991 a

substantial Viking fleet, under the command of Olaf Tryggvason attacked and pillaged various

towns along the south-east coast of England.

For the next twenty years, the English bought one temporary truce after another by paying each

time a higher price for peace. Enjoying the fruits of bribery, the Danes continued to break every

pledge and to march, murder and rob. In 1014 Swein decided to make himself King of England.

Supported by his son Cnut, he crowned a series of victories in different parts of England by

driving Aethelred the Unready (979-1016), the English king, into exile. After seizing the

English throne, Swein died suddenly that same year and was succeeded by his son Cnut (1016-

35). For three years Cnut fought to consolidate his claims to the throne and finally tired of the

struggle, the English accepted him as their king. To give himself a link with the English royal

family, he married Emma, Ethelred’s widow.

For most of his 19-year reign Cnut was a king of England as well as Denmark. At least the

English were safe from Viking attacks while he reigned. When he died , he left two sons –

Harold (1035-40) and Hardecnut (1040-42). It seemed his family was well established on the

English throne. Yet only seven years later both sons died and Cnut’s great North Sea empire had

broken up.


The fusion of the two peoples was greatly facilitated by the close kinship that existed between

them. The policy of English kings in the period when they were re-establishing their control over

the Danelaw was to accept as an established fact the mixed population of the district. In this

effort they were aided by the natural adaptability of the Scandinavian. Generations of contact

with foreign communities, into which their many enterprises had brought them, had made the

Scandinavians a cosmopolitan people. In spite of certain native customs that the Danes continued

to observe, they assimilated the most ways of English life. Many of them early accepted

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Christianity which is proved by a large number of Scandinavian names found among monks,

abbots, priests and bishops. The relationship between Anglo-Saxons and Danes, especially in the

tenth century, was not uniformly hostile.




Old English is the usual name for the English language spoken in England from the landing of

Germanic tribes to the Norman Conquest in AD 1066. This period is also known as Anglo -

Saxon period, while Henry Sweet, a famous linguist of the 19th

century calls it ˝the period of full

endings˝. Old English period is sometimes described as the period of full inflections, because

during most of this period the endings of the noun, the adjective and the verb are preserved more

or less unimpaired. The English, like all the Germanic tribes of Germany and Scandinavia, used

at a very early period certain angular letters, which they graved upon horn, stone, wood or metal.

These letters, known as Runes, were chiefly used in charms, and inscriptions commemorating

the dead or the illustrious upon monuments from at least the 3rd

century AD. A form of this runic

alphabet used by the English is today known as the “futhorc”. Very few examples of Runic

writing on manuscripts have survived.

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Old English alphabet

Special characters in Old English writing:

thorn: þ (th), derived from the runic alphabet, example: þæt ("that")

eth: ð (voiced th), example: ðeoden ("prince")

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ash: æ (a+e, pronounced like the "a" in "mat"), the name "ash" is derived from the name

of a letter in the runic alphabet but the runic character is different; example: ælf ("elf")

wen/wynn: (w), example; æpen ("weapon")

was the Old English graphic sign for "g

After embracing Christianity the English acquired a form of the Latin alphabet, which had

come through an Irish source. Old English is therefore written in the British modified form of the

Latin alphabet with the addition of þ and I (= w) from the runic alphabet.

In modern editions of Old English texts; it is customary to give the Latin letters their modern

form, and to use special symbols only for some of the letters that represent a departure from the

Latin alphabet. It is also common in modern editions to mark long vowels by putting a macron

(short horizontal line) over them, while leaving the short vowels unmarked; the original Old

English manuscripts do not mark vowel - length. One must have in mind that it is impossible to

ascertain with perfect certainty the exact pronunciation of Old English or any other language in

its oldest period. Therefore the account of the pronunciation of consonants and vowels given

below is only approximately accurate.

2. Old English consonants

Old English consonants were represented by the following set of characters:

<p> For the voiceless (possibly aspirated) bilabial stop [p(h)


<b> For the voiced bilabial stop [ b]

<m> For the bilabial nasal [m]

<f> For the voiceless and for the voiced labio - dental fricatives [f] and


<t> For the voiceless (possibly aspirated) dental stop [t(h)


<d> For the voiced dental stop [d]

<þ> For the voiceless and voiced dental fricatives [q] and [ð]

<ð> For the voiceless and voiced dental fricatives [q] and [ð]

<n> For the dental and velar nasals [n] and [h]

<c> For the voiceless palatal and velar stops [c(h)

] and [k(h)


<g> For the voiced palatal and and velar fricatives[j] and [g], and for the

palatal and voiced velar stops [ ] and [g]

<h> For the voiceless palatal and and velar fricatives [ç] and [x], and for

the glottal fricative [h]

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<s> For the voiceless and voiced sibilants [s] and [z]

<r> For the liquid [r]

<l> For the liquid [l]

<w> For the labial semi – vowel [w]

<x> For [ks]

Some consonants require special attention and explanation:


- initially, medially and finally before voiceless consonants, also when doubled, f

was a voiceless fricative like the f in New English: fæder – father, fōt – foot,

hrōf – roof, geaf - gave.

- medially between voiced sounds it vas a voiced fricative nearly like the v in

New English (- vine, five): giefan – give, hafaþ - (he) has, seofon – seven,

wulfas – wolves, lifde - lived.

Old English had no symbol v: the symbol f was used to represent both f and v. The reason is that,

in Old English, f and v were members of the same phoneme. When this phoneme occurred

within a word (that is, not initially or finally) before a voiced sound, and was not doubled, it was

pronounced like v: in all other positions it was pronounced f. So f was used in fæder - father, fif

- five, hæft - handle and pyffan - to puff, while v was used in giefan - to give, seofon - seven,

hræfn - raven and lifde- (he) lived (Barber 1993: 109).


- initially, mediallly when doubled and finally þ was a voiceless dental fricative

like the th in New English (- thin): þencan - to think, þeof – thief,

moþþe – moth, mūþ – mouth, bæþ- bath.

- medially between voiced sound, it was a voiced dental fricative like th in New

English (then): baþian - to bathe, broþōr – brother, eorþe - earth.

Initial þ was written th until about 900, later by P borrowed from the runic alphabet. Afterwards

it was written ð, and þ (borrowed from the runic alphabet). The voiced fricative was often

written d in imitation of the contemporary Latin pronunciation. (Wright 1925: 12)


- velar c, sometimes written k in the oldest records, was pronounced nearly like

the c in New English (- could): bucca - he-goat, bōc – book, cēlan - to cool,

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weorc – work, cneō – knee, drincan - to drink, sprecan - to speak,

þancian - to thank, cyssan - to kiss.

- palatal c and sc were pronounced like the ch and sh in Modern English (- church):

cēosan - to choose, cinn – chin, ciese – cheese, þence(a)n - to think, bēc – books.

of sc: sceal – shall, scēap – sheep, scōh – shoe, wascan - to wash, fisc – fish.


g was used to represent different palatal and velar sounds.

- before velar vowels initial g was a velar explosive and was pronounced like g in

New English (- good), but in the oldest Old English it was a velar fricative – the

g often heard in New High German (- sagen): gāst – spirit, god – God, gold –


- before palatal vowels initial g was a palatal fricative nearly like the j in New

High German (- jahr) and the y in New English (- you): geaf – gave,

giefan - to give, giest – yeast, geoc – yoke.

- medial gg was always a velar explosive like the g in New English (- good). When

the g was doubled it was usually spelt gg: dogga – dog, frogga – frog,

stagga – stag, but sometimes the spelling cg was used instead and we can find

docga, frocga.


Old English had no symbol z; the symbol was used to represent both s and z. The reason

is that, in Old English, s and z were members of the same phoneme, and the rules for their

distribution were exactly the same as for f and v:

- initially, finally and medially before voiceless consonants, and when doubled, s

was a voiceless fricative like the s in New English (- sit): sealt – salt, is – ice,

sunu – sun, cyssan - to kiss, standan - to stand, sweostor – sister, hūs – house.

- medially between voiced sounds, it was a voiced fricative like the z in New

English (-rise): bōsm – bosom, ōsle – ousel, cēosan - to choose, nosu - nose

2. 1. The use of double consonants

The use of double consonants was different that the one in Modern English. In Modern English

there are used double - consonant symbols in two sylable words to show that the preceding

vowel is short and a single consonant - symbol is used if the preceding vowel is long or is a

diphthong. But in Old English it was not so: the fact that a single consonant - symbol is used tells

us nothing about the length of the preceding vowel. However, we do find Old English spellings

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with doubled consonants, like assa - ass, bucca - he- goat and cuppe - cup. In such words double

- consonant symbol indicates that the consonant was in fact produced double or long, rather as in

Modern Italian. The kind of pronunciation to aim at is heard in Modern English words like mis-

spell, book-case and lamp-post (as contrasted with dispel, bookish and lampoon, which have

single consonants).

3. Old English vowels

The symbols used for rendering Old English vowels were the basic Latin ones:

Short vowels a æ e i o u y

Long vowels ā æ ē ī ō ū y

Short diphthongs ea eo ie io

Long diphthongs ēa ēo īe īo

Phonetic symbols showing the articulation of Old English vowels:

Short vowels

High-Front: /i/ blid (lid)

High-Front Rounded /y/ cynn (kin)

High-Central /ɨ/ liornian (to learn)

High-Back /u/ lust (desire, appetite)

Mid-Front /e/ bedd (bed)

Mid-Front Rounded /ő/ oexen (oxen)an (to seethe)

Mid-Central /ə/ meolcan (to milk)

Mid-Back /o/ crop (crop)

Low-Front /æ/ bæc (back)

Low-Central /a/ healt (halt)

Low-Back /ɔ/ crabba (crab)

Long vowels

High-Front /i:/ hīd (a “hide of land)

High-Front Rounded /y:/ dryge (dry)

High-Central /ɨ:/ lioht (light)

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High-Back /u:/ hūs (house)

Mid-Front /e:/ spēd (luck, success)

Mid-Central /ə:/ sēoð (to seethe)

Mid-Back /o:/ rōd (tood, cross)

Low-Front /æ:/ hǽlan (to heal, to cure)

Low-Central /a:/ dēaf (deaf)

Low-Back /ɔ:/ bān (bone)

3.1 A scheme of Old English short and long vowels:


i u

e o

æ a

3.2. Table of OE short and long vowels with examples:

vowel short long

a man hām (home)

æ glæd dæd (deed)

e well fēt (feet)

i sittan wīf (wife)

o God gōd (good)

u ful hūs (house)

y synn mys (mice)

3. 3. Old English short and long diphthongs

It is difficult to determine what was the precise pronunciation of the a, e and o in the second

element of diphthongs. In these combinations they had the function of consonants and may be

Page 43: Povijest engleskog jezika

pronounced as very short unstressed ă, ě and o. In long diphthongs each of the elements was

longer than in the short diphthongs. (Wright 7)

ea: eall – all, healdan - to hold gate, earm – arm, heard – hard.

ea: hēafod – head, slēan – to slay, gēar – year, scēap – sheep.

eo: meolcan - to milk, heorte – heart, steorra – star, sweostor – sister.

ēo: cēosan - to choose, dēop – deep, þēof – thief, sēon - to see.

ie: giest – guest, ieldra – older, ierfe – inheritance, hliehhan - to laugh.

īe: hīeran - to hear, glīefan - to believe, hīehra – higher, cīesþ - (he) chooses

io: liornian - to learn; mioluc, miolc – milk; miox – mamure

īo: līode – people, þīostre – dark, sīon - to strain, þīon - to thrive.

The Old English diphthongs did not survive until today. Probably in the last century of the Old

English period they were monophthonized, although they continued to be differentiated, at least

in the standard pronunciation, until well into the Modern English period.

3. 4. Phonological processes

In prehistoric Old English a number of combinative sound- changes took place such as palatal

or I-mutation, A-restoration, Breaking and H-loss, all of which made considerable changes in

the pronunciation of English.

3. 4. 1. Palatal or I-mutation (Umlaut)

One with far - reaching effects was palatal or I-mutation.

There are two kinds of mutation in Old English: one, which affects back vowels, is caused by a

following -i or -j and results in fronting of a vowel. The process is known as i or j mutation. I-

mutation explains the so called mutation plurals in Modern English: mice from mouse, lice

from louse, feet from foot, etc.

I-mutation (umlaut), known also as palatal mutation, is the modification (palatalization or

fronting) of an accented vowel through the influence of an -i or -j which originally occurred in

the following syllable. This process took place in prehistoric Old English - probably in the 6th

century - and was fully completed before the period of the earliest Old English documents, that

is, before the end of the 7th


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I-mutation in four grammatical categories:

1. Plural of nouns gos + /iz/ ges

fot + /iz/ fet

boc + /iz/ bec

2. Abstract nouns lang + /iðu/ length

strang + /iðu/ strength

full + /iðu/ fylth (foul - filth)

3. Verbs from nouns fod + /jan/ fedan ( feed)

blod + /jan/ bedan (bleed)

from adjectives full + /jan/ fyllan ( fill)

4. Comparatives and

superlatives old + /ira/ eldra

old + /ista/ eldsta

In more details and more examples:

a(o) > e

- primitive Old English a becomes e:

sandjan (Goth.) > sendan - to send

*lahgiţu > lengţ(u) - length

*manniz (prim. Ger.) > menn - man

æ> e

- primitive Old English æ becomes e:

badi (Goth.) > bedd - bed

batiza (Goth.) > bet(e)ra - better

harjis (Goth.) > here - army

o > e (older œ)

- primitive Old English o becomes e:

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*dohtri > dehter (nom. dohtor) - daughter

oleum (Lat.) > ele - oil

oxa > exen - ox

u > y

- primitive Old English u becomes y:

bugjan (Goth.) > bycgan - to buy

kuning (Old High Ger.) > cyning - king

kuni (Goth.) > cynn - race, generation

ā > æ

- primitive Old English ā becomes æ:

dáiljan (Goth.) > dælan - to divide

háiljan (Goth.) > hælan - to heal

háibi (Goth.) > hæb - heath

ō > ē (older œ)

- primitive Old English ō becomes ē:

*bōkiz > bēc - books (Wyld 66)

dōmjan (Goth.) > dēman - to judge

*kwōni > cwēn - queen

ū > y

- primitive Old English ū becomes y:

mūsiz > miys - mice

*brūkiţ > brycb- (he) enjoys

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*kūiz > cy* - cows

I-mutation created a huge range of new lexical forms; many of them still exist in Modern

English. But beside that i-mutation also laid (as it can be seen above) the foundation for new

grammatical alternations: it not only redistributed phonemes but created several new ones.

Therefore it can be said that Old English shows, in spite of its many phonetic changes, a

remarkable stability of phonemic system.

3. 4. 2. A-restoration

The Anglo-Frisian languages underwent a sound change in their development from Proto-West

Germanic by which the vowels *a, ā were fronted to /æ, æː/ unless followed by a nasal

consonant, a process known in the literature as Anglo-Frisian brightening.

Later in Old English, short /æ/ (and in some dialects long /æː/ as well), was backed to /ɑ/ when

there was a back vowel in the following syllable. Because strong masculine and neuter nouns

have back vowels in the plural, alternations like /æ/ in the singular vs. /ɑ/ in the plural are

common in this noun class:

/æ/~/ɑ/ alternation in masculine and neuter strong nouns


Masculine Neuter

Singular Plural Singular Plural

Nominative dæġ dagas fæt fatu

Accusative dæġ dagas fæt fatu

Genitive dæġes daga fætes fata

Dative dæġe dagum fæte fatum

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3. 4. 3. Breaking

Breaking in Old English is the diphthongization of the short vowels /e, æ/ to short /eo, æɑ/ when

followed by /h/ or by /r/ or /l/ plus another consonant. The geminates rr and ll count as r or l plus

another consonant. (But the change /e/ → /eo/ does not happen before /l/ plus consonant unless

the cluster is /lh/.)


weorpan "to throw" < /werpan/

wearp [wæɑrp] "threw (sing.)" < /wærp/

feoh [feox] "money" < /feh/

feaht [fæɑxt] "fought (sing.)" < /fæht/

healp [hæɑlp] "helped (sing.)" < /hælp/

feorr [feorr] "far" < /ferr/

feallan [fæɑllɑn] "to fall" < /fællɑn/

eolh [eolx] "elk" < /elh/ (but no breaking in helpan "to help" because the consonant after

/l/ is not /h/)

The breaking of /i, e/ as a result of i-mutation of /e, æ/ is /iy/.

3. 4. 4. H-loss

In the same contexts where the voiceless fricatives /f, θ, s/ become voiced, i.e. between vowels

and between a voiced consonant and a vowel, /h/ is lost, with compensatory lengthening of the

preceding vowel if it is short. Breaking before /rh/ and /lh/ takes place regardless of whether the

/h/ is lost by this rule. An unstressed short vowel is absorbed into the preceding long vowel.


sċōs "shoe" (gen.) < /ʃoːes/ < /ʃoːhes/, cf. sċōh (nom.)

fēos "money" (gen.) < /feːoes/ < /feohes/ < /fehes/, cf. feoh (nom.)

wēalas "foreigners, Welsh people" < /wæɑlhɑs/ < /wælhɑs/, cf. wealh (sing.)

Our knowledge of the pronunciation of Old English vowels and consonants can be only

approximate. The precise quality of any speech sound during the vast era of the past before

phonographs and tape recordings can never be determined with absolute certainty. Scholars have

always assumed that the Old English spelling is a closer representation of pronunciation than is

the case with Modern English. In Old English every single sound had to be pronounced; the so

called ˝silent letters˝ were unlikely. Another assumption is that spellings had the sound - values

originally associated with spoken Latin (it was, aft hb 098e< r all, the Latin

Page 48: Povijest engleskog jezika

alphabet that the Anglo - Saxons learned). If these assumptions are valid, quite a lot of

information about possible Old English pronunciations may be inferred from spellings.

But the problem represents the fact, that the Anglo - Saxons had more than one system of

spelling, depending on where the texts were written. In Old English times, as today, there were

regional and individual differences, and doubtless social differences as well. A period in which

all members of a given linguistic community speak exactly alike is inconceivable, and the Old

English period is not an exception.