The Old English Language

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

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Old English is the term generally used to refer to the period of the English language extending, approximately, from 600 to 1150. These dates are arbitrary, because linguistic changes do not happen overnight. However, they are useful pointers, on the one hand, to the developing differences between the Continental Germanic linguistic varieties brought over by the Germanic tribes who conquered Britain in the fifth century and, on the other hand, to the considerable changes in terms of pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary that the language underwent in the transition from the Old to the Middle English period.

Scholars commonly identify two branches in fifth-century Germanic: East Germanic (spoken by the Goths; this branch is nowadays extinct) and North-West Germanic; the latter is said to

3372 words

Citation: Pons-Sanz, Sara. "The Old English Language". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 10 December 2011 [, accessed 03 December 2023.]

17654 The Old English Language 2 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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