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    Old English ( Englisċ, pronounced [ˈeŋɡliʃ] ), or Anglo-Saxon, [1] is the earliest recorded form of the English language, spoken in England and southern and eastern Scotland in the early Middle Ages.

  2. Old English The Old English language, often called Anglo-Saxon, was spoken in Anglo-Saxon England from 450 AD to 1100 AD. It was spoken by the Anglo-Saxons, who came to Great Britain from what is now Germany and Denmark. Different Anglo-Saxon kingdoms spoke different dialects, but a western dialect became the main literary version.

  3. It is possible that in Anglo-Frisian, Proto-Germanic /ɛː/ simply remained a front vowel, developing to Old English ǣ or ē without ever passing through an intermediate stage as the back vowel [ɑː]. [2]

    Late Old English (anglian), C. 1000
    Middle English Pronunciation, C. 1400
    Modern English Spelling, C. 1500
    Early Modern English Pronunciation, C.
    a; æ; ea; ā+CC; often ǣ+CC,ēa+CC; occ.
    a; æ; ea; ā+CC; often ǣ+CC,ēa+CC; occ.
    (leng.) /aː/ [æː]
    e; eo; occ. y; ē+CC; ēo+CC; occ.
    e; eo; occ. y; ē+CC; ēo+CC; occ.
    (+r) ar
    • Extant Manuscripts
    • Poetry
    • Prose
    • Writing on Objects
    • Semi-Saxon and Post-Conquest Old English
    • Reception and Scholarship
    • editions
    • See Also
    • References
    • Further Reading

    Over 400 manuscripts remain from the Anglo-Saxon period, with most written during the 9th to 11th centuries. There were considerable losses of manuscripts as a result of the Dissolution of the Monasteriesin the 16th century. Old English manuscripts have been highly prized by collectors since the 16th century, both for their historic value and for t...

    Form and style

    The most distinguishing feature of Old English poetry is its alliterative versestyle. The Anglo-Latin verse tradition in early medieval England was accompanied by discourses on Latin prosody, which were 'rules' or guidance for writers. The rules of Old English verse are understood only through modern analysis of the extant texts. The first widely accepted theory was constructed by Eduard Sievers (1893), who distinguished five distinct alliterative patterns. His system of alliterative verse is...

    Oral tradition

    Even though all extant Old English poetry is written and literate, many scholars propose that Old English poetry was an oral craft that was performed by a scop and accompanied by a harp.[citation needed] The hypotheses of Milman Parry and Albert Lord on the Homeric Question came to be applied (by Parry and Lord, but also by Francis Magoun) to verse written in Old English. That is, the theory proposes that certain features of at least some of the poetry may be explained by positing oral-formul...


    Most Old English poems are recorded without authors, and very few names are known with any certainty; the primary three are Cædmon, Aldhelm, and Cynewulf.

    The amount of surviving Old English prose is much greater than the amount of poetry. Of the surviving prose, the majority consists of the homilies, saints' lives and biblical translations from Latin.The division of early medieval written prose works into categories of "Christian" and "secular", as below, is for convenience's sake only, for literacy...

    James Paz proposes reading objects which feature Old English poems or phrases as part of the literary output of the time, and as "speaking objects". These objects include the Ruthwell monument (which includes a poem similar to the Dream of the Rood preserved in the Vercelli Book), the Frank's Casket, the Alfred Jewel.

    The Soul's Address to the Body (c. 1150–1175) found in Worcester Cathedral Library MS F. 174 contains only one word of possible Latinate origin, while also maintaining a corrupt alliterative meter and Old English grammar and syntax, albeit in a degenerative state (hence, early scholars of Old English termed this late form as "Semi-Saxon"). The Pete...

    Later medieval glossing and translation

    Old English literature did not disappear in 1066 with the Norman Conquest. Many sermons and works continued to be read and used in part or whole up through the 14th century, and were further catalogued and organised. What might be termed the earliest scholarship on Old English literature was done by a 12th or early 13th-century scribe from Worcester known only as The Tremulous Hand - a sobriquet earned for a hand tremor causing characteristically messy handwriting. The Tremulous Hand is known...

    Antiquarianism and early scholarship

    During the Reformation, when monastic libraries were dispersed, the manuscripts began to be collected by antiquarians and scholars. Some of the earliest collectors and scholars included Laurence Nowell, Matthew Parker, Robert Bruce Cotton and Humfrey Wanley. Old English dictionaries and references were created from the 17th century. The first was William Somner's Dictionarium Saxonico-Latino-Anglicum (1659). Lexicographer Joseph Bosworth began a dictionary in the 19th century called An Anglo-...

    19th, 20th, and 21st century scholarship

    In the 19th and early 20th centuries the focus was on the Germanic and pagan roots that scholars thought they could detect in Old English literature. Because Old English was one of the first vernacular languages to be written down, 19th-century scholars searching for the roots of European "national culture" (see Romantic Nationalism) took special interest in studying what was then commonly referred to as 'Anglo-Saxon literature', and Old English became a regular part of university curriculum....

    The entire corpus of Old English poetry is being edited and annotated to available digital images of manuscript pages and objects, with Modern English translations, in the Old English Poetry in Facsimile Project.

    Alexander, Michael, ed. (1995), Beowulf: A Glossed Text, Penguin.
    Baker, Peter S. (2003), Introduction to Old English, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, ISBN 978-0631234548, OCLC 315514208
    Benson, Larry D. (1966), "The Literary Character of Anglo-Saxon Formulaic Poetry", Publications of the Modern Language Association, 81 (5): 334–41, doi:10.2307/460821, JSTOR 460821.
    Bjork, Robert; Niles, John (1998), A Beowulf Handbook, Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska, ISBN 978-0803261501
    Anderson, George K. (1966), The literature of the Anglo-Saxons, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
    Crépin, André (2005), Old English Poetics: A Technical Handbook, hors série, vol. 12, Paris: AMAES.
    Fulk, R. D.; Cain, Christopher M. (2003), A History of Old English Literature, Malden: Blackwell.
    Godden, Malcolm; Lapidge, Michael, eds. (1986), The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature, Cambridge.
  4. The Dictionary of Old English ( DOE) is a dictionary of the Old English language, published by the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto, under the direction of Angus Cameron, Ashley Crandell Amos, and Antonette diPaolo Healey.

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  6. Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, was an early form of English in medieval England. It is different from Early Modern English, the language of Shakespeare and the King James Bible, and from Middle English, the language of Geoffrey Chaucer. See Old English phonology for more detail on the sounds of Old English. Notes [ edit]

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