Bright's Anglo-Saxon Reader/An Outline of Anglo-Saxon Grammar
|This work is incomplete. If you'd like to help expand it, see the help pages and the style guide, or leave a comment on this work's talk page.|
AN OUTLINE OF ANGLO-SAXON GRAMMAR.
1. The following outline of Anglo-Saxon Grammar is restricted to the West-Saxon Dialect, that form of the language which in the reign of Alfred the Great (871–901) became dominant for literary purposes and maintained that supremacy to the close of the Anglo-Saxon period. The changes which took place within the West-Saxon Dialect, though slight in respect of phonology and inflection, make it necessary to distinguish Early West-Saxon (EWS), the language of Alfred’s time, from Late West-Saxon (LWS), the language of the following two and a half centuries, with Ælfric (died between 1020 and 1025) as the central literary figure. In this outline EWS is regarded as the norm to which LWS is subordinated.
ALPHABET AND PRONUNCIATION.
2. The Anglo-Saxon alphabet, as here employed, has two characters (þ, ð) that are not employed in Modern English.
VOWELS AND DIPHTHONGS.
3. An approximate pronunciation of the vowels is indicated in the following table:
|a||As in German Mann|
|ā||the preceding sound lengthened.|
|æ||like a in at, man.|
|ǣ||the preceding sound lengthened.|
|e||as in let, men|
|ē||the preceding sound lengthened, as in they.|
|i||as in hit, sit, in.|
|ī||the preceding sound lengthened, as in machine.|
|o||as in German Gott.|
|ō||the preceding sound lengthened, as in German so.|
|ǫ||as in not.|
|u||as in full, put.|
|ū||the preceding sound lengthened, as in rule.|
|y||like ü in German: hübsch, Brücke.|
|ȳ||the preceding sound lengthened, as in German grün.|
|œ̄||like ö in German schön.|
|ie||These diphthongs (long and short) receive the stress upon the first element; the second elements, being unaccented, is very much obscured in pronunciation. The sound of ea, ēa is approximately that of æ+a, ǣ+a (perhaps more nearly æ+uh); otherwise the component parts of these diphthongs are to be pronounced as indicated above.|
Note.—The diphthongs ie, īe are peculiar to EWS, where they, however, begin to change into i, ī; in LWS the most usual representation is y, ȳ. (S. §§ 22, 31, 41, 97.)
4. (a) The following consonants are pronounced as ìn Modern English: b, d, l, m, n, p, r (trilled), t, w, x. The pronunciation of the remaining consonants requires special attention.
(b) c has always the sound of k (the use of the symbol k is exceptional). The sound of kw or qu is, accordingly, represented by cw (or cu), as in cwēn, cweðan, etc., and cs has the value of x.
Note.—This k-sound has a guttural or a palatal quality (somewhat as in English cold, and kin), according to its pronunciation with guttural or with palatal vowels.
(c) f has two values. (1) In the initial and final positions, in the combinations ff, fs, ft, and in the medial position (cf. the note below), it has the usual (voiceless) sound. (2) In the medial position between vowels and voiced consonants it has the sound of v; e.g., hlāford, ofer, sealfian, ǣfre.
Note.—In compounds like ā-fyrhtan, of-lystan, etc., f is strictly not in the medial position, and has therefore its usual sound.
(d) g has two values. (1) It almost always represents a voiced spirant, which is either guttural, or palatal (like g in German sagen, or like y in English you), according to its pronunciation with guttural or with palatal vowels. (2) It is pronounced like g in English go only when doubled, as in frogga, frog; and in the combination ng, as in English longer.
The combination cg (by origin a geminated g) may be pronounced as dg in English ridge.
(e) h is never silent; it is always to be pronounced as a voiceless spirant either guttural (as in German ach), or palatal (as in German ich) in quality, according to the sounds with which it is combined.
(f) s has in all positions, the voiceless sound, except for a single s between vowels, which has the voiced sound (z); e.g. wesan, rīsan, etc.
(g) ð and þ are used without distinction to denote the dental spirant th, in all positions, presumably the voiceless spirant (as in English thin), except (as in the case of f (between vowels and voiced consonants where the voiced spirant (as in English thine) is employed; e.g. ōðor, cweðan, siððan, weorðan, etc. The voiced spirant may also be employed in the pronomial forms ðū, ðæt, ðēs, etc.
5. In Anglo-Saxon words are accented according to the following rules:
Rule I.—Simple (uncompounded) words are accented on the first syllable (the radical syllable); derivative and inflectional syllables are unaccented.
Thus, fǽder, dágas, léornunga, túnge, túngan, túngena, swéotole, bérende, frę́mede, wúnode, séalfode.
Note.—There are no tests by which to determine the limits in prose of a secondary stress on derivative and inflectional syllables. In metrical usage a secondary stress may fall on the ptc. ending -ende; on the adj. and pron. endings -en, -er, -ig; on the patronymic ending -ing; on the subst. endings -ung, -ing, -er; on the inflectional ending (gen. pl.) -ena; on the class-vowel in verbs of the second weak conjugation, etc. See the chapter on Versification.
Rule II.—Compound words constitute two classes, (1) substantive compounds, and (2) verbal compounds.
A substantive compound receives the chief stress upon the first syllable of its first component (cf. Rule I); the accent of the second component is usually retained as a secondary stress.
A verbal compound is accented on the radical syllable of the verb; the prefix is therefore unaccented.
Thus, (1) substantive compounds: góld-smìð, mǫ́nn-cỳnn, swī́ð-mṑd (adj.), éarfoð-lī̀ce (adv.), ǫ́nd-gìet, ǫ́nd-swàru, bī́-gǫ̀ng, bī́-spèll, fór-wèard (adj.), ín-gǫ̀ng, mís-dǣ̀d, ón-gìnn, ór-èald, (adj.), tṓ-wèard (adj.), ýmb-hwỳrft.
(2) Verbal compounds: ā-rī́san, be-hā́tan, for-lǣ́tan, ge-bíddan, for-wéorðan, mis-fáran, ofer-swī́ðian, tō-wéorpan, wið-stǫ́ndan, ymb-síttan.
Note 1.—An important exception to Rule II is to be observed in the accentuation of substantive compounds with the prefixes ge-, be-, and for-; these prefixes are unaccented; e.g. ge-bód, ge-brṓðor, ge-féoht, ge-wéald; be-bód, be-gǫ́ng, be-hā́t; for-gýtol (adj.), for-wýrd. That, however, these prefixes were formerly accented in substantive compounds, according to the rule, is, shown by gáfol, gǫ́mel, etc., in which the first element is ga-, the accented form of ge-; the accented form of be- is also left in words like bī́-gǫ̀ng, bī́-spèll, bī́-wìst, etc., and notice bēot < *bī́-hāt, by the side of the later be-hā́t; and frǽ-bèorht (adj.), frǽ-mìcel, frá-coð, show a survival of the accented form of for-.
Note 2.—This difference in accentuation between substantive and verbal compounds (cf. English ábstract: abstráct; présent: presént; súbject: subjéct) has (as, in part, seen above) resulted in a corresponding difference of form in certain prefixes:
|ǫ́nd-gìet, intelligence||: on-gíetan, to understand.|
|ǫ́nd-sæ̀c, resistance||: on-sácan, to resist.|
|ǽf-þùnca, grudge||: of-þýncan, to displease.|
|bī́-gę̀ng, practice||: be-gǫ́ngan, to practice.|
|ór-cnā̀we (adj.), recognizable||: ā-cnā́wan, to know.|
|ór-þǫ̀nc, device||: ā-þę́ncan, to devise.|
|ū́ð-gę̀ng, escape||: oð-gǫ́ngan, to escape.|
|wíðer-sæ̀c, hostility||: wið-sácan, to resist.|
6. By the operation of phonetic processes, the Anglo-Saxon system of vowels is made somewhat diversified and complicated. The most important of these processes affecting the radical vowels will now be briefly described.
THE CHANGE OF a INTO æ.
7. The occurrence of the vowel a is very much restricted. In a closed syllable, and in an open syllable followed by e(i) in the next syllable, the vowel a is mostly modified to æ; but a remains unchanged in an open syllable that is followed by a, o, or u in the next syllable. (S. § 49 f.)
Thus, dæg, dæges, dæge, ðæt, wæs, fægen, wæter; dagas, daga, dagum, faran, hafoc, wacol.
Note.—It might be supposed that the i of endings in the second weak conjugation, as in the infinitive ending -ian, would change into æ in an open syllable; but this i was originally ō, therefore words like laðian, manian, wanian, etc., constitute only an apparent exception to the rule.
THE CHANGE OF a INTO ǫ.
8. Before a nasal consonant the vowel a is changed into o. But there is no uniformity in the employment of o for a. The predominant form in EWS is o; in LWS it is a. (S. § 65.)
Thus, ǫnd, and; hǫnd, hand; lǫnd, land; mǫnig, manig; gǫngan, gangan; gesǫmnian, gesamnian.
Note.—When the preceding ǫn (< an) occurs before a voíceless spirant, f, ð, s, the nasal disappears, and, in compensation, the vowel is lengthened into ō. Under the same conditions, in and un become ī and ū. (S. §§ 66, 185.)
Thus, sōfte (< *sǫnfte), softly , tōð (< *tǫnð), tooth; ōðor (< *ǫnðor), other; gōs (< *gǫns), goose; sīð (Goth. sinþs), a going, swīð (Goth. swinþs), strong, mūð (Goth. munþs), mouth.
9. Before r+consonant, l+consonant,h+consonant, and h final, the vowels æ (from a. 7), e, i are “broken” into short diphthongs, æ becoming ea, and e, i becoming eo, io. (S. §§ 77-84.)
(a) Thus, æ into ea: *hærd (for hard, 7) > heard, hard; *hælf > healf, half; wearð, pret. sg. of weorðan, to become; wealdan, to wield; beald, bold; feallan, to fall; heall, hall; eahta, eight; seah, pret. sg. of sēon, to see.
(b) e into eo (io): weorðan, to become; eorðe, earth; heorte, heart; feorr, far; weorc, work.
e into eo (io) before l+consonant is restricted to l+c or h: meolcan, to milk; seolh, seal. Otherwise the e remains: helpan, to help; swelgan, to swallow; sweltan, to die.
Before h+consonant, and h final: feohtan, to fight; teohhian, to arrange; feoh, cattle.
(c) i into io (eo): stem *hirdio > *hiordi > hierde (i-umlaut), herdsman. *liht (< līht) > lioht, leoht, light, not heavy; Piht, Pioht, Peoht, Pict. *betwīh > betwih, betweoh, between.
Note.—Breaking results from the combination of a palatal vowel (æ, e, i) and a guttural consonant (r, l, h). In passing from the pronunciation of the vowel to that of the consonant, a glide-sound is produced which is a more or less definite guttural vowel. This may be observed in pronouncing well as wœ-al; there as thœ-ar or the-ur; fire as fi-ur or fi-or. It is this glide-vowel that has supplied the second element of these short diphthongs.
10. The palatals g, c, and sc, in the initial position change a following æ into ea; ǣ (=Germanic ē) into ēa; and e into ie (i, y; see 3, Note). (S § 75.)
(a) Thus, æ into ea: *gæf (7) > geaf, gave; *gæt > geat, got; *cæf > ceaf, chaff; Lat. castra > *cæster > ceaster, town; *scæl > sceal, shall; *scæft > sceaft, shaft; *scær > scear, sheared (pret. sg.).
(b) ǣ into ēa: gǣfon > gēafon, gave (pret. pl.); *gǣton > gēaton, got (pret. pl.); Lat. cāseus > *cǣsi > cēasi *cēasi > cīese (i-umlaut), cheese; *sǣep > sceap, sheep; *sǣeron > scearon, sheared (pret. pl.).
(c) e into ie (i, y): *gefan > giefan, to give; *getan > gietan, to get; *sceran > scieran, to shear.
Note 1.—Before all vowels except ae, ǣ (= Germanic ē) and e, initial g and c do not change the following vowel (S. § 76); but initial sca- and sco- frequently become scea-, sceo-, e.g., scand, sceand, scǫnd, sceǫnd, shame; pret. scān, scēan, shone; Scottas, Sceottas, the Scots; scop, sceop, poet; scacan, sceacan, pret. scōc, scēoc, shake; pret. scōp, scēop, created.
Note 2.—The palatal pronunciation of medial c, cc, g, and cg, followed by a, o, or u, is often indicated by the insertion of an e (sometimes of an i). This inserted e (i) represents a trace of an original formative i or j. (S. § 206, 6.)
Thus, sēc(e)an (< *sōcian, S. § 45, 8; Goth, sōkjan), to seek; cwęcc(e)an (< *cwæcjan), to quake; męnig(e)o (< *manigī; Goth, managei), multitude; bycg(e)an (Goth, bugjan), to buy; sęcg(e)as, sęcg(e)a, secg(i)um, pi. of sęcg (stem *sægjo), man.
Note 3.—The inserted letter observed in the preceding note marks with prominence the “glide” effect of palatals. This element in the pronunciation leads to further variation in the written forms. Thus, for example, for ia ('ja) the graphic substitutes may be ga, iga, igea; for ie they may be ge, ige : nęrian, nęrgan, nęrigan, nęrigean, to save; hęjr(i)g(e)as, hęr(i)g(e)a, hęr(i)gum, pi. of hęre (stem *hærjo-), army; wundriende, wundrigende, wondering; winig(e)a, gen. pi. of wine (stem *wini-), friend.
Also as a graphic substitute for final ī,' some use is made of ig: bī-spell, big-spell, parable; hī, hig, pron.; sī, sig (Opt.), be; and medial īg is occasionally represented by igg: īgað, iggað, small island. (S. § 24, Note.)
Note 4.—It is also to be observed that initial *jae, *jo become gea, geo (gio). Thus, gēar (< *jǣr; Goth, jēr), year; geoc, gioc (< *joc; Goth, juk), yoke. In like manner initial *ju becomes geo, gio, or is represented by iu (io). Thus, geong, giong, iung (< *jung; Goth, juggs), young; gēo, gīo, īu, īo (Goth. ju), formerly. (S. § 74.)
GEMINATION BEFORE j.
11. A single consonant (except r) when preceded by a short vowel is geminated by a following j. The vowel is also umlauted (13), and the j itself disappears. (S. § 228.)
Thus, cynn (stem *cunjo), kin; sęllan (< *sæljan; Goth, saljan), to give; lęcgan (< *lægjan; Goth, lagjan), to lay; hębban ('*hæfjan; Goth, hafjan), to heave; scieppan, 13 (< *sceapjan, 10 < *scæpjan; Goth, skapjan), to create; hliehhan (< *hleahjan, 9 < *hlæhjan; Goth, hlahjan), to laugh.
But r is not geminated: hęre (stem *hærjo; Goth. harjis), army; nęrian, 10, Note 3 (< *nærjan; Goth. nasjan), to save.
Note 1.—It will be noticed that geminated f and g become bb and cg respectively.
Note 2.—On the other hand, when the radical vowel or radical syllable is long, this formative j, first becoming i (S. § 45, 8), has not caused gemination of the preceding consonant.
Thus, sēc(e)an (<*sōcian), to seek; dēmail (<*dōmian), to judge; sęndan (<*sǫndian), to send.
FINAL DOUBLE CONSONANTS.
12. Double consonants (except cg) at the end of a word are usually simplified. (S. § 225.)
Thus, mǫnn, mǫn, man; męnn, męn, men; eall, eal, all; cynn, cyn, kin; będd, będ, bed; sibb, sib, peace.— But, sęcg, man; hrycg, ridge; węcg, wedge.
13. The accented vowels (radical vowels) are palatal- ized by an i or j of the following syllable. This species of palatalization is called i-umlaut, or, briefly, umlaut. The i and j causing the umlaut were, for the most part, either changed into e or entirely lost in an early period of the language. (S. § 85–100.)
The results of umlaut may be tabulated thus:
|æ (<a. 7)||becomes ę. (Sometimes æ. S. § 89, 1, Note 1.)|
|ǫ (<a. 8)||becomes ę.|
|ā (< Germanic ai)||becomes ǣ.|
|ǣ (< Germanic ē)||remains ǣ.|
|o, ō||become e, ē.|
|u, ū||become y, ȳ.|
|ea, ēa||become ie, īe; i, ī; in LWS usually y, ȳ (3, Note)|
(a) Thus, æ into ę: hęre (< stem *hærjo), army; lęcgan (< *lægjan), to lay; sęllan (< *sæljan), to give; męte (stem *mæti), meat.
(b) ǫ into ę: dat. sg. męn(n) (< *mǫnni), nom. (acc.) pl. męn(n) (< *mǫnniz), man; ðęnc(e)an (< *ðǫncian), to think; węndan (< *wǫndian), to turn.
(c) ā and ǣ into ǣ: dǣl (stem *dāli; Goth. dails), portion; dǣlan (< *dālian; Goth. dailjan), to share; hǣlan (< *hālian; Goth. hailjan), to heal; dǣd (stem *dǣdi; Goth. -dēds), deed; lǣce (stem *lǣcio; Goth. lēkeis), leech.
(d) o, ō into e, ē: morgen (< *morgan). but mergen (< *morgin; Goth. maurgins), morrow; dat. sg. dehter (< *dohtri), daughter; dēman (< *dōmian), to judge; fēt, tēð, gēs, dat. sg. and nom. (acc.) pl. of fōt, foot, tōð (8, Note), tooth, gōs, goose.
Note.—The umlaut of o (short) is restricted by reason of the Germanic law according tu which o is changed into u before a following i or j. (S. § 45, 3.)
(e) u, ū into y, ȳ: cyning (< *cuning), king; cyme (stem *cumi), a coming; lyre (stem *luri), loss; gylden (< *guldin < *goldīn, S. § 93, Note), adj. golden; bycgan (Goth, bugjan), to buy; lȳs, mȳs, dat. sg. and nom. (acc.) pl. of mūs, mouse, lūs, louse; cȳðan (< *cūðrian < *cunðian, 8, Note; Goth, kunþjan), to make known.
(f) ea, eo, io into ie (i, y), and ēa, ēo, īo into īe (ī, ȳ): wielm, wylm (stem *wælmi > *wealmi, 9), a surging; eald, old, comp. ieldra, supl. ieldesta; hierde (stem *hirdio > *heordio, 9), herdsman. feorr, far, āfyrran, to remove; hīeran (< *hēarian; Goth, hausjan), to hear; gelīefan (< *gelēafian; Goth, galaubjan), to believe; lēoht, light, līehtan, to illuminate; frīend, fiend, dat. sg. and nom. (acc.) pl. of frīond (frēond), friend, fīond (fēond), foe.
14. In the accented syllable, and when followed by a single consonant, a may be changed into ea, and e, i into eo, io, by the influence of u or o (a) in the following syllable. This process is called u- o-umlaut. It is, however, not uniformly operative in the West-Saxon dialect. (S. §§ 103–109.)
Thus, eafora, heir; heafola, head; weorold, world; heofon, heaven; metod, meotod, Creator; seofon, seven; wita, wiota, wise man; tilian, tiolian (< *tilōian), to endeavor; clipian, cliopian, cleopian, to cry out; medu, medo, meodo, mead; siodu, custom.
Intervening c and g prevent the operation of this umlaut: nacod, adj. naked; magu, mago, son; racu, narrative; sacu, strife; regol, rule; plega, play; sigor, victory.
15. In some instances, eo (io) which resulted from the breaking of e before h + consonant (9) becomes ie (i, y). This process presupposes the change of the guttural h, which caused the breaking, into a palatal h, which then produces an effect agreeing with that of i-umlaut. (S. § 101.)
Thus, reoht, rieht, riht, ryht, right; cneoht, cnieht, cniht, cnyht, boy; seox (x = hs), siex, six, syx, six.
Note 1.—In LWS ea, ēa before h, x, g, and c are sometimes changed into e, ē: sleh (for sleah) imp. sg. of slēan, to strike; seh (for seah) pret. sg. of sēon, to see; geneahhe, geneh(h)e, enough; nēah, nēh, near; ðēah, ðēh, though; weaxan, wexan, to grow; bēag, beg, ring; ēac, ēc, also.
Note 2.—In LWS ea, ēa after the palatals g, c, and sc are also sometimes changed into e, ē (S. § 102): gef (for geaf ) pret. sg. of giefan, to give; get (for geat) pret. sg. of gietan, to get; geat, get, gate; gēar, gēr, year; ongēan, ongēn, against; cealf, celf, calf; scēap, scēp, sheep.
LOSS OF MEDIAL g.
16. After a palatal vowel, g (palatal) often disappears before d and n, and, in compensation, the vowel is lengthened. (S. §214, 3.)
Thus, bregdan, brēdan, pret. sg. brægd, brǣd, to brandish; pret. sg. sægde, sǣde, pp. gesægd, gesǣd, of sęcgan, to say; frignan, frīnan, to inquire; mægden, mǣden, maiden; ðegen, ðēn, servant; ðegnian, ðēnian, to serve; wægn, wǣn, wain.
The occasional disappearance of g (guttural) after a guttural vowel is therefore due to the influence of palatal forms: pret. pl. brūdon, pp. brōden (for brugdon, brogden) follow the pattern of bregdan, brēdan, etc.
Note.—The spirant quality of medial g, which underlies this process of disappearance, is further shown in the frequent change (especially in LWS) of final (and occasionally of medial) g into h. This change is most frequent after a long guttural vowel and after l and r, but it occurs also under other conditions. Thus, bēag (bēah), ring; burg (burh), borough; earg (earh), cowardly; lergđu (lerhđu), cowardice; sorg (sorh), sorrow; flōg (flōh), lōg (lōh), slōg (slōh), pret. of flēan, to flay, lēan, to blame, slēan, to slay.
LOSS OF MEDIAL h.
17. Medial h (not hh) preceded by a consonant and followed by an inflectional vowel disappears, and, in compensation, the stem-vowel is lengthened. (S. § 218.)
Thus, mearh, gen. mēares, horse; feorh, gen. fēores, life; seolh, gen. sēoles, seal.
18. Intervocalic h disappears, and the vowels thus brought together are contracted, or the first vowel absorbs the second. (S. §§ 110-119, 218, 222.)
Thus, feoh, gen. fēos, property; eoh, gen. ēos, horse; pleoh, gen. plēos, peril; hēah, gen. hēas, and hēan (< *hēahan), high.
Note 2. Many contracted themes are due to the early loss of intervocalic h.
Thus, ah + a (ǫ), o, u results in ēa: slēan (Goth. slahan), to strike; đwēan (Goth. đwahan), to wash; tēar (< *tahur), tear.
eh + a (ǫ), o, u results in ēo (īo): sēon (<*seh(w)an; the ending of these infinitives should perhaps be written -ǫn), to see; gefēon (<*gifehan), to rejoice; twēo (<*tweho), doubt.
i, ī + a (ǫ), o, u results in īo (ēo): đēon (<*đīhan < *đenhan;