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Old English represented the sound of th by p and ð as in the word

wiρ (O. E.) — with (Mod. E.), and the word

ðā (O. E.)then (Mod. E.), the sound of sh by sc as in

scēap (O. E.) sheep (Mod. E.) or

scēotan (O. E.)shoot (Mod. E.), and the sound of k by c as in

cynn (O. E.)kin (Mod. E.) or

nacod (O. E.)naked (Mod. E.).


The vocabulary of Old English consisted mainly of Anglo-Saxon words. But when the Norman Conquest in 1066 brought French to England much of the English vocabulary was replaced by words borrowed from French and Latin. If we open any Old English dictionary, we find that about 85 percent of the Old English vocabulary was no longer in use during this period. Of course, the basic elements of the vocabulary have remained. They express fundamental concepts of human life, such as:

mann (man); wīf (wife), cild (child), hūs (house), bern (bench), mete (meat , food) , gærs (grass), lēaf (leaf) , fugol (fowl, bird), gōd (good), hēah (high), strang (strong), etan (eat), drincan ( drink ), slæpan (sleep ), libban (live ) . feohtan (fight), etc.


declensions and conjugations.: Old English was a highly inflected language. It had a complete system of declensions with four cases and conjugations. So Old English grammar differs from Modern English grammar in declensions and conjugations.


There are two classes of languages in the world: synthetic and analytic. A synthetic language is one which shows the relation of words in a sentence largely by means of inflections. An analytic language is one which indicates the relation of words in a sentence by means of word order, prepositions or auxiliary verbs, rather than by inflections.

Old English is a synthetic language. Old English nouns and adjectives have four cases: the nominative case, the genitive case, the dative case and the accusative case. Apart from these four cases, Latin nouns have the ablative and the locative cases. That is to say, Latin nouns have six cases just like Modern Russian nouns.


In Modern English, a noun used as a subject and object does not have different forms. There remain today only two case forms: those of the nominative case and the possessive case: man, man’s. Modern English depends upon word order to show the relation of words in a sentence. Different word order may result in different meaning. The sentence “Nero killed Agrippina.” is completely opposite to the sentence “Agrippina killed Nero.” in meaning.


(Lin Chenzhang. 1997. An introduction to English lexicology Wuhan University Press.)

Date: 2015-02-16; view: 967

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