Section II ___>

A Convenient Old English Grammar





Lesson 1
Letters & Sounds


The first most important step in reading Old English is learning the letters and sounds. Each vowel in the chart below is represented with its "long" sound and printed with a line over it. When a vowel is to be pronounced as "short" it shall have the same sound but pronounced for a shorter amount of time, and will be printed without the line over it. Any consonants not listed are pronounced as those in Modern English, except there are no silent letters.


Front VowelsBack VowelsVowel-Pairs
i / y    machineū   ruleea   ( Pronounce
ē        heyo   boneeo    as the vowels suggest,
      have ā   fatherio     but as one syllable
ie     not two.)
Consonants
c   can by back vowels.f   five between vowels or m, n, l, or r.
     child by front vowels.    five everywhere else.
g    good before back vowels.h  hat beginning a word.
     bow after back vowels or after l or r.    loch everywhere else.
     yelp by front vowels.
s   size between vowels or m, n, l or r. /    father between vowels or m, n, l, or r.
     size everywhere else.     thin everywhere else.

Special Letter-Groups and ExceptionsSoft c = "ch"
sc  ship-cce
cg   edge -ccan   -can
eng  stonehenge
enc  benchHard c = "k"
c-, g-  cat, gap-c
cy-, gy-  king, giddy-cca, -ca, -cu
-ecan   -ican   -cian



Note:

The letter (uppercase ) is called "ash" after a runic letter that had the same sound.

Runic "thorn," and "eth" a d with a line through it, are interchangeably used for the th-sound. The uppercases are and .






                     c
"k""ch"
cocccockcildchild
cucowlceach
eacalsogeliclike
ilcasameheofonlicheavenly
bacanto bakeceastquarrel
                     f
"v""f"
cnifasknivescnifknife
hofaslovehofhoof
giefugiftselfself
yfeleviloftoften
freeverfderfather





                     g
"g""w""y"
godgoodbogabowgearyear
godGodlagulawgearayore
gumamanbrogafeargeayea
hungorhungermorgenmorrowdgday
gripeacedagianto dawngiefanto give
                     h
"h""ch" (loch)
hamhomecnihtknight
hlafloafdohtordaughter
hlafordlordmearhhorse
hwtwhatneahnigh
hietheyhtproperty







                     S
"z""s"
busigbusyssea
risanto risesawolsoul
nosunoseblisshappiness
bosmbosombletsungblessing
usendthousandhushouse
                      /
"th" (father)"th" (thin)
broerbrothersochurch
furerfurtherwiagainst
hraequicklyrowungsuffering
famembraceancgratitude
wiereworthyuthou





sc
"sh"
scipship
discdish
hnescenesh
flscflesh
scohshoe
cg
"dge"
ecgship
brydgbridge
secganto say
hecghedge
mycgmidge
eng
"enge" (stonehenge)
engelangel
hengesthorse
senganto singe
twenganto twinge
lengestlongest
enc
"ench"
bencbench
stencstench
drencanto drench
cwencanto quench
wrenctrick





-cce
(Soft c = "ch")
wiccewitch
biccefemale dog
cryccecrutch
wccewatch
sticcea piece
-ccan, -can
(Soft c = "ch")
feccanto fetch
wccanto watch
reccanto tell
tcanto teach
rcanto reach
c-, g-
"ca-", "ga-"
cgekey
cppecap
grsgrass
gtgoats
glsaluxury
cy-, gy-
"ki-", "gi-"
cynnkin
cyningking
cystexcellence
gyddengoddess
gyltguilt





-c
(Hard c = "k")
bcback
fca space of time
blcblack
smca taste
wrcwrack
-cca, -ca, -cu
(Hard c = "k")
sticcastick
wicca(male) witch
pricaprick
stricastreak
wicuweak
-ecan, -ican, -cian
(Hard c = "k")
wrecanto wreak
sprecanto speak
stricanto strike
macianto make
liccianto lick


Note:

A small group of words have ce- or ci- where the c is pronounced as "k" instead of "ch":



(Hard c = "k")
cenekeen, brave
cembanto kemb, to comb
cempawarrior
cennanto conceive
centKent
cepanto keep
citelkettle
citelianto kittle, to tickle



Different Spellings





Vowels

1. a/o

2. Vowel Pairs

ie and ea

Words with ie sometimes vary in spelling between an i-sound and an e-sound, while words with ea vary in spelling between an e sound and an a-sound. When ea is followed by l the a-sound is sometimes a alone.

Below are the different spellings of the words giefan "to give" and ceaster "chester, city" and ealdor "elder, parent"

ie:
i-soundgifan / gyfan
e-sound:giefan, gefan

ea:
e-sound:cestereldor
a-sound:ceaster, cster, ealdor, aldor




eo and weo

Words with eo have e-sound spellings and i-sound spellings, and sometimes have o or no o. After w the eo instead sometimes has no e and the i sound is sometimes u.

eo:weo:
e-sound:le(o)htw(e)or,
i-soundli(o)htwir / wyr, wur










Lesson 2
Nouns and their Terminology


The second most important step is learning the inflections or special word-endings that show grammatical relationships between words.

Inflections for nouns (and adjectives) are called declensions.

There are two main declensions for nouns: The Strong Declension and the Weak Declension.

Within each declension are three genders or special groups called Masculine, Feminine,and Neuter. These don't revolve around being "manly" or "womanly". They are simply special groupings of words that must be learned as they are encountered. When a noun is given in the vocabulary it will have m., n., or f. beside it to indicate if the noun is of the masculine, feminine, or neuter gender.

Within each special group there are four cases:

Nominative: The subject being or doing something (The messenger gives the message.)
Accusative: Something the subject is acting upon or using. (The messenger gives the message)
Genitive: Expressing possession: (The messenger's message)
Dative: Used with or implying to, for, in, with, etc. (The messenger gives the message to the people)

And within each case are two numbers: singular (referring to one) and plural (referring to more than one).





Lesson 3
Strong Declension
Masculine Nouns


The masculine group of nouns of the Strong Declension add these endings:

N.   (no ending) -as
A.   (no ending) -as
G.   -es -a
D.   -e-um


Therefore the masculine noun cyning is:

N.   cyning "king"cyningas"kings"
A.   cyning"king"cyningas"kings"
G.   cyninges"king's"cyninga"kings'"
D.   cyninge"to a king"cyningum"to kings"


Note: "A/an" is naturally implied in the singular, so that cyning "king" also means "a king".

Some other masculine nouns are:


hund "hound"
egn"thane"
engel"angel"
deofol"devil"







Lesson 4
Strong Declension
Neuter Nouns


Neuter nouns of the Strong Declension add the same endings as masculine nouns, except they use -u in the plural instead of -as:

N.   (no ending) -u
A.   (no ending) -u
G.   -es -a
D.   -e-um


Therefore the neuter noun scip is:

N.   scip "ship"scipu"ships"
A.   scip"ship"scipu"ships"
G.   scipes"ship's"scipa"ships'"
D.   scipe"to a ship"scipum"to ships"


Some other neuter nouns are:


gewrit "writing"
lim"limb"
bod"command"
fam"embrace"







Lesson 5
Strong Declension
Feminine Nouns


Feminine nouns of the Strong Declension add the following endings:

N.   -u -a
A.   -e -a
G.   -e -a
D.   -e-um


Therefore the feminine noun lufu is:

N.   lufu "love"lufa"loves"
A.   lufe"love"lufa"loves"
G.   lufe"love's"lufa"loves'"
D.   lufe"to love"lufum"to loves"


Some other feminine nouns are:


giefu "love"
cearu"care"
sacu"strife"