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The Old English alphabets. OE major written records




The earliest written records of English are inscriptions on hard material made in a special alphabet known as the runes. The word rune originally meant ‘secret’, ‘mystery, and hence came to denote inscriptions believed to be magic. There is no doubt that the art of runic writing was known to the Germanic tribes long before they came to Britain. The runes were used as letters, each symbol to indicate a separate sound. The two best known runic inscriptions in England is an inscription on a box called the «Franks Casket» and the other is a short text on a a stone known as the «Ruthwell Cross». Both records are in the Northumbrian dialect. Many runic inscriptions have been preserved on weapons, coins, amulets, rings. The total number of runic inscriptions in OE is about forty; the last of them belong to the end of the OE period. The first English words to be written down with the help of Latin characters were personal names and place names inserted in Latin texts. Glosses (заметки) to the Gospels (Евангелие) and other religious texts were made in many English monasteries, for the benefit of those who did not know enough Latin (we may mantion the Corpus and Epinal glossaries in the 8th c. Mercian).OE poetry is famous for Bede’s HISTORIA ECCLESIASTICA GENTIS ANGLORUM, which is in Latin, but contains an English fragment of 5 lines. There are about 30,000 lines of OE verse. OE poetry is mainly restricted to 3 subjects: heroic, religious and lyrical. The greatest poem of that time was BEOWULF, an epic of the 7th or 8th c. It was originally composed in the Mercian or Nuthumbrian dialect, but has come to us in a 10th c. West Saxon copy. OE prose: the ANGLO-SAXON CHRONICLES. Also prose was in translating books on geography, history, philosophy from Latin. TE LIVES OF THE SAINTS by Alfric, the HOMILIES by Wulfstan (passionate sermons – страстные поучения). OE Alphabet. OE scribes (писцы) used two kinds of letters: the runes and the letters of the Latin alphabet. The runes were used as letters, each symbol to indicate a separate sound. Besides. A rune could also represent a word beginning with that sound and was called by that word. In some inscriptions the runes were found arranged in a fixed order making a sort of alphabet. After the first six letters this alphabet is called futhark. The runic alphabet is a specifically Germanic alphabet, not to be found in languages of other groups. The letters are angular (угловые), straight lines are preferred, curved lines avoided: this is due to the fact that runic inscriptions were cut in hard material: stone, bone, or wood. The shapes of some letters resemble those of Greek or Latin, others have not been traced to any known alphabet. Some OE letters indicate two or more sounds, even distinct phonemes. The letters could indicate short and long sounds. The length of vowels is shown by a macron or by line above the letter; long consonants are indicated by double letters.







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