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The scripting of Old English: An analysis of Anglo-Saxon spellings for w and þ


Seiler, Annina (2008). The scripting of Old English: An analysis of Anglo-Saxon spellings for w and þ. Sprachwissenschaft, 33(2):139-172.

Abstract

The Anglo-Saxons, like the other Germanic peoples, adopted Latin literacy with their conversion to Christianity. When they started to write their vernacular language they used the Latin alphabet rather then the indigenous runic script for the scripting of Old English. This caused some problems because the Latin alphabet lacked symbols for the specifically Old English sounds. An analysis of the spelling variants for w and þ in some of the earliest Old English sources shows that at first the scribes just used the Roman letter representing the sound which was most like the Old English one in question. Later on, they improved the spelling by the use of digraphs like 〈uu〉 and 〈th〉 or the help of diacritics (e. g. the dash of 〈ð〉 ʽethʼ). Only towards the end of the 8th century are the runic symbols 〈ƿ〉 ʽwynʼ and 〈þ〉 ʽthornʼ included into the Anglo-Saxon alphabet.

The Anglo-Saxons, like the other Germanic peoples, adopted Latin literacy with their conversion to Christianity. When they started to write their vernacular language they used the Latin alphabet rather then the indigenous runic script for the scripting of Old English. This caused some problems because the Latin alphabet lacked symbols for the specifically Old English sounds. An analysis of the spelling variants for w and þ in some of the earliest Old English sources shows that at first the scribes just used the Roman letter representing the sound which was most like the Old English one in question. Later on, they improved the spelling by the use of digraphs like 〈uu〉 and 〈th〉 or the help of diacritics (e. g. the dash of 〈ð〉 ʽethʼ). Only towards the end of the 8th century are the runic symbols 〈ƿ〉 ʽwynʼ and 〈þ〉 ʽthornʼ included into the Anglo-Saxon alphabet.

Citations

3 citations in Web of Science®
1 citation in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Language:English
Date:2008
Deposited On:17 Oct 2008 14:57
Last Modified:02 Jun 2016 07:32
Publisher:Universitätsverlag Winter
ISSN:0344-8169

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