Nouns in Old English
Nouns are words which indicate a person, place, animal, thing, or idea. In Old English they have 3 genders (masculine, neuter, feminine), 2 numbers (singular, plural), and 5 cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, instrumental). In Old English, nouns were inflected (they changed how they were written and spoken) to show add little bits of extra information to communicate their function within the sentence and the number of things a noun represented. Although learning a language with three different genders might seem hard, it isn't really very hard - it can easily enough be done if you just make sure to memorize nouns along with their definitive article. For example, don't just remember the word "ġiefu" - remember "sēo ġiefu", so you'll always know it's a feminine noun - you can easily just not say the article if you don't need to; on the other hand, if you don't know the gender of a noun, it might be annoying.
Nouns were the essential element to a noun phrase (either a noun or a pronoun had to be in a noun phrase). Also in the noun phrase you could put noun modifiers, like numbers, adjectives, articles, and demonstratives. All other words within a noun's phrase had to agree with the noun in gender, number, and case. In addition, most adjectives (but not most numerals) could either be declined strong or weak, according to whether or not the adjectives were preceded by a possessive pronoun, the article, or a demonstrative. For more information on adjectives, see the adjectives page.
Nouns are divided into two main, broad categories of declension in Old English, the so called Strong and Weak nouns. There are other minor declensions, as well, but most nouns fall into these two classifications.
The strong noun paradigm declines for case, gender and singular/plural.
|Nominative||--||-as||--||-u / --||-u / --||-a, -e|
|Accusative||--||-as||--||-u / --||-e||-a, -e|
In the Nominative Plural and Accusative Plural of the Strong Neuter declension, an -u follows only after short syllables (1 short vowel and 1 consonant), while neuters with long syllables (short vowel and 2 consonants or long vowel and one consonant) have no ending. This is also the case with singular Feminine Nominative nouns.
|Nominative||stān||stānas||scip / þing||scipu / þing||ġiefu / sorg||ġiefa / sorga, -e|
|Accusative||stān||stānas||scip / þing||scipu / þing||ġiefe / sorge||ġiefa / sorga, -e|
|Genitive||stānes||stāna||scipes / þinges||scipa / þinga||ġiefe / sorge||ġiefa / sorga|
|Dative||stāne||stānum||scipe / þinge||scipum / þingum||ġiefe / sorge||ġiefum / sorgum|
Some masculine and some feminine nouns belong to the u-declension. They were either short-stemmed and two-syllabled (like "sunu"), or long-stemmed one-syllabled (like "hand").
They had the same endings for both genders, but slightly different endings depending on which of the two types mentioned above a word was. Here are two examples of this declension:
|hand (fem.) - hand||wudu (masc.) - wood, forest|
|Nom. and acc.||hand||hand-a||wud-u||wud-a|
Other nouns in this category are feld - field (masc.), weald - forest, wood (masc.), and sunu - son (masc.)
Nouns whose stem ended in -u or -o (the two were interchangeable) would turn this -u/o to a -w- before a vowel of a grammatical suffix. For example:
|searu (neut.) - devce, machine|
|Nom. and acc.||searu||searu|
Note that this applied to the other genders, as well. There are quite a few nouns like this, and it is fairly easy to remember that their stem ends with -u/o, so I won't list them here. But do make sure you don't confuse nouns like this with u-nouns (see above) or strong feminine nouns with the grammatical ending -u.
The weak paradigm is more simplified and has less variation between the genders and cases.
|Genitive||-an||-ena, -a||-an||-ena, -a||-an||-ena, -a|
|Genitive||naman||namena, -a||ēagan||ēagena, -a||tungan||tungena, -a|
There are many other weak masculine and feminine nouns that can easily enough be remembered by themselves, so I won't list them here, but there is only one other weak neuter noun, and that is ēare - ear.
Make sure not to confuse weak feminine nouns with some strong masculine or neuter nouns that end with -e.