|"A feature of Old English that would quickly become apparent to a modern reader is the rarity of those words derived from Latin and the absence of those from French which form so large a part of our present vocabulary." Baugh and Cable (1993: 53)|
The word-stock of Old English was almost totally Germanic. Many of the Latin loans that did exist (e.g.: "street" from Latin strata via "paved road"; "wine" from Latin vinum) were continental borrowings that had been absorbed into the language prior to the migration into the British Isles. However, after the Norman Conquest, around 85% of the OE vocabulary disappeared largely being replaced by loans from Latin and French. Those features that have survived into modern English include, inter alia, conjunctions, pronouns, prepositions and words that which convey basic concepts. Some examples of the last are provided by Baugh and Cable (1993):
|mete||meat / food|
|fugul||fowl / bird|
It is easy to see the resemblance to modern English in the above but other words have come down to us in a more contracted form e.g.:
Other OE words while appearing familiar to the modern eye had totally different meanings e.g.:
After Pyles and Algeo (1993)
In the general absence of loan words as mentioned above new concepts would be described by resort to compounding, i.e. words would be joined together. For example:
|"book - hoard" = library|
|"new-farer" = stranger|
|"against-fighter" = enemy|
|"dear-worth" = precious|
|folcriht||"folk-right" = common law|
However, as noted by Leith (1996: 113), "Old English words are often retained in specialized varieties of English such as regional dialects." Yorkshire dialect is of course no exception.
Yorkshire Dialect words of Old English origin
The following Yorkshire dialect words exemplify the legacy of OE:
|Dialect word||Standard English||Old English|
|daft||silly, foolish||gedæfte ("mild, meek")|
|fettle||fix, deal with||fetel|
|sam||gather, pick up||samnian|
|starved||very cold||steorfan ("suffer intensely, die")|
|wed||marry||weddian ("to pledge")|
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Crystal, D. (1995) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hughes, G. (2000) A History of English Words, Oxford: Blackwell.
Kellett, A. (1994) The Yorkshire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore, Otley: Smith Settle.
Leith, D. (1996) The Origins of English. In Graddol, D, Leith, D. and Swann, J. (1996) English history, diversity and change, London: Routledge.
Mitchell, B. and Robinson, F.C. (1968) A Guide to Old English, Second Edition, Oxford: Blackwell.
Paynter, D., Upton, C. and Widdowson, J. D. A. (1997) Yorkshire Words Today: A Glossary of Regional Dialect, Sheffield: The Yorkshire Dialect Society and The National Centre for English Cultural Tradition, The University of Sheffield.
Pyles, T. and Algeo, J. (1993) The Origins and Development of the English Language, Fourth Edition, London: Harcourt Brace.
Thompson, D. (ed.) (1996) The Concise Oxford Dictionary, Ninth Edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Wakelin, M. F. (1977) English Dialects: An Introduction, London: The Athlone Press.