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Old English Language

Old English is a Germanic language, brought to England by the Anglo-Saxons. Before arriving in England, this Germanic language had already borrowed from the Latin and would continue to do so for centuries.

During the period 500-700 AD, Early Old English borrowed also from the Celtic languages as the Anglo-Saxons intermixed with the Britons.

Old English proper is the language of 700 AD - 1000 AD. Later, after the Norman Conquest, much French was added and there were significant changes in inflection and pronunciation (Late Old English 1000 - 1150 AD).

Buy Books about Old English
A Guide to Old English
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A Guide to Old English
by Bruce Mitchell and Fred C. Robinson


No book runs to six editions if it isn't any good. This one is the standard text for learning the Old English language, the first two parts teaching the language and Anglo-Saxon culture and history, and the third part a compilation of the ancient texts for you to practice with and enjoy.
Old English and Its Closest Relatives
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Old English and Its Closest Relatives: A Survey of the Earliest Germanic Languages
by Orrin W. Robinson


Surprisingly accessible to the student or general reader, this wonderful book discusses seven proto-Germanic languages (eg, Old Frisian, Old Norse), with text examples, walking you through their similarities and thereby teaching comparative linguistics. Fun and fascinating. Recommended.
An Invitation to Old English and Anglo-Saxon England
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An Invitation to Old English and Anglo-Saxon England
by Bruce Mitchell


Very engagingly written introduction to the Old English language, as well as a history and literature tour of Anglo-Saxon times. Makes learning easy and fun, and the author's enthusiasm for his subject will inspire you to read the original texts.
Word Hoard : An Introduction to Old English Vocabulary
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Word Hoard: An Introduction to Old English Vocabulary
by Stephen A. Barney


A treasure-trove for the Old English student and a terrific companion for any other text. The author lists and explains the 2,000 base words used in Old English, which combined produce thousands more - virtually all of them. Using this guide, you can tackle Beowulf with no problem.
A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary
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A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary
by John Richard Clark Hall, Herbert D. Meritt (Contributor)


Popular, concise, and very affordable Anglo-Saxon dictionary for use by the student as a companion to learning Old English. This is the choice for anyone beginning their studies, or for those who don't know yet how deeply they want to delve.
Beowulf : Dual Language Edition
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Beowulf: A Dual-Language Edition
edited by Howell D. Chickering, Jr.


Old English on the left, present-day English on the right, plus pronunciation guide, glossary, historical and cultural setting, much more. Perfect for the anyone who wants to read Beowulf in the original, but with backup! An excellent translation as well. Recomended.
Beowulf in Old English
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Beowulf: In Old English
read by J. D. Bessinger, Jr. (audio cassette)


The title is misleading: This audio cassette has magnificent readings of several Old English poems, with only a portion of Beowulf. Still, the narrations are powerful, and this tape provides a wonderful opportunity to hear Old English spoken well.
The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature
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The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature
edited by Malcolm Godden and Michael Lapidge


A thorough introduction to Anglo-Saxon literature (600-1066), with essays by a wide range of experts in the field - covers the language basics, historical and cultural contexts, relationships between the works, and more. Maps and chronology.
Oxford Dictionary of Word Histories
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The Oxford Dictionary of Word Histories
edited by Glynnis Chantrell


What fun! While not focused on Old English, this new book traces the etymology of over 11,000 English words and phrases - how and where they were first used - along with colorful descriptions of original usage in their cultural context. Wonderful resource for any student of English - and particularly delightful for those with a mind for trivia and word play.

You might want to visit the Old English Pages at Georgetown University - tons of Old English resources including fonts, texts in translation, sound bites, history and language references, more.