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Feb. 29th, 2016

10:02 am - A Guide to Pronouncing Anglo-Saxon [sticky post]

Written Anglo-Saxon is a medieval language, so it is written basically phonetically—all written letters should be sounded (including r), except that in some cases they are part of a digraph where the combination represents a single sound (like modern th and in some people’s pronunciation, wh). (The Anglo-Saxon digraphs are: ig, cg, hl, hn, hr, hw, and sc.) And as in all medieval languages, the phonetic spelling reveals dialect differences and different scribal preferences, so many words can occur in several different spellings. Above all this affects the vowels in a word: i and y are almost interchangeable, and some dialects had “breaking” and others didn’t, so the same word may have æ, e, or ea--the last, the diphthong, being the “breaking.” Say diphthongs as the two vowels added together—for example, ea as e plus a, as in modern English “pear” not “hear.” (Some scholars think the diphthongs were pronounced differently from how they were spelled, but I don't share this view.)

Modern English has changed the sound of long vowels so that they no longer match the short ones (several are diphthongs, and long e is actually a long version of i--compare “pit” and “Pete”). The long vowels in Anglo-Saxon are long versions of the same sound as the short vowel, as in most foreign languages.

Stress is on the first syllable except when that is a prefix, such as ge- or for-. Modern English has a more variable stress. When the first (main) syllable is a diphthong, stress the entire diphthong as you would in modern English. Feel free to say unstressed syllables as loosely as you would in modern English—the variations in spelling suggest that was how they said them, too.

Americans and Australians may wish to try to pronounce Anglo-Saxon without the nasalization that distinguishes their accents from British accents; this is hard, but Anglo-Saxon should sound English, and absence of nasalization makes a big difference.

VOWELS

Accents indicate long vowels. Books conventionally use macrons, but when the scribes wrote the length mark, it was as an accent.

Note that in Anglo-Saxon y is always a vowel.

a
A “soft short a” as in, for example, Spanish or German. This is in fact the same sound as an American short o. When an m or n follows, an o is often written instead; for example mann or monn; evidently in such words, there wasn’t much difference.
á
A longer version of the above: “ahh.”
æ
A “hard short a,” like most modern English speakers would say for “hat.” The name of the letter in talking about Anglo-Saxon is “ash,” which is another example.
ǽ
Long version of the above. I do just that; what comes out is an open version of the open e, French è. Most people do what Latin and Old Norse use æ to represent, which is the diphthong ai, the sound in Modern English “I.” There is no evidence that was the sound in Anglo-Saxon, but it is less ugly and easier to say.
e
Short e much as in modern English.
é
A long closed e, as in German “See” or French “fée.” In other words a single sound close to the pronunciation of long a in modern English (for example “fare”), but without the diphthongal quality.
i
Short i much as in modern English (perhaps a “purer” sound)
í
Long version of the above. i.e. the sound of modern English ee, or a long i in other languages and as in the modern English loanword "machine." Note: this sound can also be spelled ig in Anglo-Saxon.
o
A short o as in modern British English (but closer, or "purer" than in many dialects), or as in , for example, Spanish or German.
ó
Long version of the above, as in German “so.”
u
The “oo” short u, as in “put.”
ú
oo as in “soon” or “rude.”
y
Short ü as in German “Hütte” or French “tu.” However, spelling shows that this sound was often confused with i.
ý
Long version of the above, as in German “Hüter” or “grün.” However, again, often confused with í.

CONSONANTS

Double consonants are pronounced twice, as in Italian, or as in modern English “penknife,” “unnoticed,” “still living,” and “proof found.” They are not just a mark of vowel shortness, as they usually are in modern English.

b
As in modern English
cg
Modern English j or dg. For example ecg is pronounced like its modern descendant, “edge.”
c
Two pronunciations: k and ch. Usually k before a, o, and u, long or short, and at the ends of words with such vowels, and ch before e, i, and y, long or short, and at the ends of words after i, é, and ǽ. However, the following vowel is not a reliable guide as it is in, say, Italian. Use the modern pronunciation as a guide. For example, cild (ancestor of “child”) has the ch pronunciation, but cyning (ancestor of “king”) and cene (ancestor of “keen”) have k. It also has the k pronunciation finally after æ (e.g.: bæc (ancestor of “back”) and before a consonant at the start of a word, where it is silent in modern English (e.g.: cnáwan, ancestor of “know”). In some words where it follows n or l, it has the ch pronunciation: e.g.: ǽlc (ancestor of “each”) and þencan (ancestor of “think” and an exception to the modern English guideline rule). Beginners’ books traditionally put a dot over the ch c but one basically has to learn which pronunciation to use where. Note for German speakers: final ch c is not unvoiced German ch, even in ic, which is obviously cognate with German ich. That sound was represented by h.
d
As in modern English
f
Two sounds, modern English f (unvoiced) and v (voiced). Unvoiced at the beginning of a word, at the end of an accented word, next to another unvoiced consonant (e.g., p or t), and when double (e.g.: full, léof--ancestor of Shakespeare’s “lief”). Voiced, the v pronunciation, when single between vowels, between a vowel and another voiced sound (e.g., l, r, m, n), and finally in words like of when unstressed (e.g., lufian, ancestor of “love” and efne, ancestor of “even”).
g
Three or four pronunciations: g (as in “girl”), y (as in “yell”), a velar voiced ghh sound, and a short j.
--g before a, o, u, and y, long or short; after n; before a consonant; and when doubled. e.g.: gán, god, gylden, lang (ancestor of “long”), springan; glæd (ancestor of “glad”), and frogga (ancestor of “frog”).
--y before e and i, long or short, after those vowels and æ, long or short, and sometimes after r and l. e.g.: (ancestor of “ye”), giefan (ancestor of “give”), þegen, hálig (ancestor of “holy”), weg (ancestor of “way”), dæg (ancestor of “day”), sægde (ancestor of “said”), byrgan (ancestor of “bury”), fylgan, (ancestor of “follow”), and all the words with the ge- prefix. Note that i followed by the y g is identical to the sound ee, i.e.: í, which is why ig is an alternate spelling for í.
--ghh as sometimes in German “sagen” and “Wagen” when preceded and followed by any of a, o, and u, long or short, between one of them and an l or r, or after one of them even if in a group with another consonant. e.g.: dagas (ancestor of "days"), boga (ancestor of "bow"), hálga, beorgan, genog (ancestor of "enough"), and burg.
--Although g after n is usually sounded g, occasionally (e.g. sprengan, ancestor of "spring") it is instead j as in "edge," but shorter than in cg words.
As with c, beginners’ books traditionally put a dot over the y g and the few occurrences of j after n, but one basically has to learn which pronunciation to use where.
hl
Unvoiced l, similar to Welsh ll; this can be approximated by saying h and l in as quick succession as possible.
hn
Unvoiced n; again this can be approximated by saying h and n in as quick succession as possible.
hr
Unvoiced r; again this can be approximated by saying h and r in as quick succession as possible.
hw
Unvoiced w; this is the sound indicated by modern English wh and still a distinct phoneme in some British dialects; e.g.: "white," "whether." Again it can be approximated by saying h and w in as quick succession as possible.
h
Other than in the digraphs listed above, three pronunciations:
--initially, h as in modern English
-- Voiced chh as in Scottish "loch" or German "brauchen" after a, o, and u, long or short, and after consonants. e.g.: héah (ancestor of "high," and that is the reason for the "gh")
--Unvoiced chh as in German "ich" and as some English speakers say in "Munich" after e, i, and y, long or short. e.g.: riht (ancestor of "right," and that is the reason for the "gh")
j, k
rarely or never used
l, m, n, p
As in modern English
q
rarely or never used; the sound combination is written phonetically as cw or sometimes cu
r
Initially: slightly trilled
Otherwise: tongue-tip curved back, as in US English
sc
Modern English "sh," e.g.: scip, fisc, except in a few words, mainly loan-words, e.g.: scól (ancestor of "school" and borrowed from Latin), Scottas, áscian (ancestor of "ask," has past tense áscode)
s
As in modern British English "is," can be the voiced sound of "z" as well as unvoiced modern "s." Rules as for f: unvoiced at the beginning of a word, at the end of an accented word, next to another unvoiced consonant (e.g., p or t), and when double (e.g.: sunu, ancestor of "son," wæs, ancestor of "was," fæst, ancestor of "fast"). Voiced, the z pronunciation, when single between vowels, between a vowel and another voiced sound (e.g., l, r, m, n), and finally in words like is when unstressed (e.g., céosan, ancestor of "choose").
t
As in modern English
þ, ð (referred to as "thorn" and "eth" or sometimes "bar-d")
Used interchangeably for the two sounds of modern English th, voiced as in "this" and unvoiced as in "thin." Rules as for f and s: unvoiced at the beginning of a word, at the end of an accented word, next to another unvoiced consonant (e.g., p or t), and when double (e.g.: þencan, ancestor of "think," wearþ, "became," siþþan, "after"). Voiced when single between vowels and between a vowel and another voiced sound (e.g., l, r, m, n) (e.g., bróþor, ancestor of "brother," máþm, "treasure").
v
rarely or never used
w
As in modern English
x
rarely used, never initially; the sound combination is usually written phonetically as cs
y
never used as a consonant, only as a vowel
z
rarely or never used

Jan. 1st, 2017

09:18 am - Twelfth day of Yule

On another cloudy morning, with a dandelion clock in the lawn behind me, I blóted Loki, Sigyn, Hel, Narfi, Nari/Vali Lokasónr, Hǫðr, and the forgotten gods and goddesses with another little bottle of rosé, and then wassailed my trees.

Dec. 31st, 2016

08:19 am - Eleventh day of Yule

On another cold, sunny morning, with a neighbor starting up a power drill, I blóted Sjǫfn, Lofn, Gefjon, Fulla/Volla, Sighærta/Sinhtgunt, and the Norns, with a little bottle of rosé.

Dec. 30th, 2016

08:25 am - Tenth day of Yule

In the cloudy morning, I blóted Ár/Eir, Bragi, Saga, Snotra, Mímir, and Holda/Perht with the last of the red wine.

Dec. 29th, 2016

08:18 am - Ninth day of Yule

On the new moon morning, as the day became bright and the birds twittered, I blóted Mona, Sunne, Bil, Hjúki, Dæg, Niht, Vǫr, Gná, and Hermóðr with more red wine.

Dec. 27th, 2016

06:55 pm - Eighth night of Yule

After sunset, with the fed dog snuffling about, I blóted Iðunn, Seaxnót, Mæginde, Auschlinde, and Eostre in the back yard with more red wine. (Two of those are UPI.)

Dec. 26th, 2016

06:47 pm - Seventh night of Yule

Rather late after sunset, I blóted Erce (Jǫrð, Eorþe), Nerthus and Hreþe in case Tacitus and/or Bede was right, Fjǫrgyn, Ægir, Rán, their nine daughters, and Nehalennia in the yard with more red wine.

Dec. 25th, 2016

07:58 pm - Sixth night of Yule

I blóted Wulþor/Ullr, Skaði, Rind, and Háma/Heimdallr in the dark and quiet yard, starting a new bottle of red wine.

08:38 am - Fifth day of Yule

On a cloudy morning, the humans all quiet but a hummingbird and two other birds flying over me in turn on their way to the great oak tree, I blóted Tíw, Fosite, Hlín, Syn, Vár, Þorgerðr Hǫlgabrúðr, and Irpa in the yard with the last of the bottle of wine.

Dec. 24th, 2016

08:35 am - Fourth day of Yule

On another pretty blue morning, the wind now died down, I blóted Njǫrðr, Yngvi-Freyr, Freyja, Hnoss and Gersemi, Óðr, Gerðr, and the forgotten Vanir in the back yard with more red wine.

Dec. 23rd, 2016

08:58 am - Third day of Yule

As the night's rain was dying down to a gentle misting, I blóted Wóden, Frige, Baldr, Nanna, Vili, Vé (Hœnir, Loðurr), Buri, Bor, Viðarr, and Váli in the backyard with more red wine.

Dec. 22nd, 2016

08:26 am - Second day of Yule

On a cold, sunny morning, I blóted Thor, Sif, Magni, Móði, and Þrúðr in the backyard with red wine.

Dec. 20th, 2016

05:55 pm - First night of Yule

I set up our little Yule tree then blóted in the garden for Mothers' Night with red wine.

Jan. 2nd, 2016

06:09 am - Twelfth night / day of Yule

I blóted Loki, Sigyn, Hel, Narfi, Nari/Vali Lokasónr, Hǫðr, and the forgotten gods and goddesses in the pre-dawn quiet, with more rosé. Later this morning I'll wassail the trees.

Jan. 1st, 2016

05:58 am - Eleventh night / day of Yule

Under the stars and with the lawn faintly white with frost behind me, I blóted Sjǫfn, Lofn, Gefjon, Fulla/Volla, and Sighærta/Sinhtgunt from a new bottle, of rosé.

Dec. 31st, 2015

05:05 am - Tenth night / day of Yule

I fortified my stomach with lime sherbet and then walked across frosted grass under a bright half-moon and blóted Ár/Eir, Bragi, Saga, Snotra, Mímir, Holda/Perht, and the norns with more white wine.

Dec. 29th, 2015

05:33 pm - Ninth night of Yule

As the sunset waned, I blóted Iðunn, Eostre, Auschlinde, Mæginde, and Seaxnót in the back yard with more white wine. (Yes, two of those are UPI.)

Dec. 28th, 2015

05:36 pm - Eighth night of Yule

As the light waned, I blóted Erce (Jǫrð, Eorþe), Nerthus and Hreþe just in case Tacitus and/or Bede was right, Fjǫrgyn, Ægir, Rán, their nine daughters, and Nehalennia in the yard with more white wine.

05:26 am - Seventh night/day of Yule

There was a cold rain as I walked home from the bus, that became heavier after I reached home, but it had stopped by the time I had fortified my stomach with blueberry frozen yoghurt. I blóted Wulþor/Ullr, Skaði, Rind, and Háma/Heimdallr in the sodden quiet of the yard with a Cabernet blanc that turned out to be in a screw-top bottle and to be a bit lively.

Dec. 27th, 2015

04:16 am - Sixth night/day of Yule

In the frosty early hours, I blóted Tíw, Fosite, Hlín, Syn, Vár, Þorgerðr Hǫlgabrúðr, and Irpa in the yard with the last of the red wine.

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