Introduction

Have you ever wondered why English pronunciation differs so much from written language?

When was the English language born?

Who invaded Britain?

What were these invaders like? What did they eat and drink? What were they like?

Basically, the history of the English language is dived into tree periods called Old English or Anglo Saxon, Middle English and Modern English. Old English came into being in the 5th century A.D., when the Germanic tribes migrated to England from what are now northern Germany and Denmark.

tribes2

The languages spoken by these tribes fused together into Old English

tribes

(In this video you can see how English was evolved)

timeline

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Old English

Which language did these tribes speak?

The invading tribes spoke similar languages (all of them shared the same language branch), which in Britain developed into what we call Old English. Old English didn’t sound or look like English today. Native English speakers now would have great difficulty understanding Old English. Nevertheless, around half of the most commonly used words in PdE (Present-Day English) have Old English roots. The words be, strong or water, for instance, derive from Old English.

What did the Old English sound like?

Old English was closer to modern Dutch or German. All letters were pronounced. There are many sounds which don’t turn up in PdE like the /x/ or /ç/ which appear after a back or front vowel (when there’s an <h>). Actually, the word “right” was not pronounced as /rait/, instead, it was /riçt/.

If you hear it spoken or read aloud, you  may be able to get an idea of what you’re hearing, but in general, you would have to study it like another foreign understand it. Let’s see an example from the Beowulf:

Old English (from Beowulf):


Hwæt! Wē Gār
Dena   in geārdagum
þēod
cyninga                        þrym gefrūnon,
hū þā æðelingas         ellen fremedon.
Oft Scyld Scēfing       sceaðena þrēatum,

Old English Reviews http://oldenglish.umwblogs.org/audio-reviews/