Niw Englisch/Modernizing Old English

The Niw Englisch language is essentially a modernized and simplified version of Old English. If you look at Old High German and compare it to New High German (Modern German), you can see how conservative the German language has been over the last 1200 years. In comparison, English has lost nearly all inflection and relies nearly entirely on word order to carry meaning. Niw Englisch takes Old English and modernizes and simplifies it to the degree that modern German has changed from Old High German.

Modernizing Words Edit

Orthography Edit

Nouns are capitalized like they were in the 18th century and in modern German, and adjectives acting like nouns are capitalized.

Example:

  • Stream - "stream"
  • Burg - "city"
  • þe Braade - "the broad one"

To modernize from Old English to Niw Englisch, it is sometimes necessary to look at Proto-Germanic to develop a regular scheme of modernization. In Proto-Germanic, the 'a' broke into 'ea' in some Old English words, and sometimes the 'au' turned into 'ea'. The broken 'ea' is returned to 'a' like some accents of Old English, and the 'au' remains 'ea', pronounced as 'æ'.

Example:

  • stréam from straum; it becomes Stream.

The Proto-Germanic 'eu' became éo, like léoht, céosan. This becomes 'ie,' Lieȝht and ciesen.

Vowel Change to Niw Englisch
Proto-Germanic Old English Niw Englisch
a
ahto
ak
þat
æ, ea
eahta
ac
þæt
a
aȝht
ac
þat
e
fell
nestą
e
fell
nest
e
Fell
Nest
i
fiskaz
i
fisc
i
Fisch
u
duhter
o
dohtor
o
Doȝhter
u
hunds
u
hund
u
Hund
u-i
mūsiz
y
mys
y
Myse
a-i
bankiz
æ/e+nasal
benc
ie
iermþu
æ/e+nasal
Benc
a-i
armiþu
alþizô
kaliz
ie
iermþu
ieldra
ciele
æ
Ærmþe
ælder
Kæle
o-i
fōtiz
œ/é
fét
œ
Fœte
o ea a
e
melkaną
erþō
eo
meolcan
erþe
e
melken
Erðe
i
hirdijaz
ie
hierde
i
Hirde
iu
kiusidi
ie
cíesþ
ie
ciesþ
ai
aiks
a
ác
a
Aak
eu
deupaz
eo
déop
ie
diep
a
ie æ
i
liʀnōn
io/eo
leornian
e
lernen
æ
castra/cæster
ea
ceaster
a
Kaster (k from Latin)
ē
skēpą
ǣ/éa
sċǣp/scéap
ee
Scheep
eww
trewwō
eow
tréow
ee
Tree
we
weraldiz
weo
weoruld
we/wo
Werld/World

Old English æ in simple stems remains in Niw Englisch if followed by ȝ, so nægl becomes Næȝl, and pæþ becomes Paþ. In some of these, leveling of the æ of the singular into the plural led to the crossing of a lot of simple nouns into the umlauting class, so that Paþ becomes Pæðe in the plural, Swaþ->Swæðe.

Digraphs and Trigraphs Edit

The letter combination sce-/sci- represented the 'sh' sound in English before back vowels, while sca-/sco-/-scu- represented 'sk' generally. In Niw Englisch, the combination sch- always represents the 'sh' sound, while 'sk' always represents the 'sk' sound.

Examples:

  • scur->Schur - 'shower'
  • sceacan->schaken - 'to shake'

Consonants Edit

The consonants from Old English to Niw Englisch are generally the same, though distinctions are made between the palatal and non-palatal consonants. The G is always a hard G sound like 'gold,' while the 'ȝ' is always a 'y' sound like 'young.'

Example:

  • geong->ȝong -> young
  • gold->Gold -> gold

In the digraph ȝh, after front vowels (æ, e, i, œ, y) it is pronounced like the ich-laut in German. After back vowels (a, o, u) it is pronounced like the ach-laut in German.

The C is always the 'ch' sound, while 'k' represents the hard 'k' sound from Old English.

Example:

  • calan->kalan - to cool
  • sceadan->schaden - to divide, separate

The two letters þ and ð represent the soft and hard version of the 'th' sound from English, as in 'think' and 'that'. They alternate to tell you how to pronounce a word.

Examples:

  • þencan->þenken -> to think; 'th' like 'think'
  • wiþer->wiðer -> against; 'th' like 'that'

HL, HR, HW - the HL and HR like hlud and hring are dropped to luud and Ring. The HW remained in actual English, so it remains, spelled with the Gothic letter hwair (Ƕƕ), like hwisprian->ƕispern.

Verbs Edit

To modernize the Old English verb, change the -an/-ian to -en on the infinitive. All contracted verbs become uncontracted. For example, fón becomes fangen on analogy to the past participle. The verbs téon and téon become teiȝen and tieȝen, so you can now tell which is a type 1 or type 2 strong verb. A verb like 'ascian' becomes 'asken,' since it was pronounced 'as-ki-an' with a k, rather than 'ch' sound, and the -ian becomes -en.

Type 1 strong verbs change the í to ei, pronounced like modern English and German verbs write or schreiben. So, a verb like líðan to travel becomes leiðen.

Type 2 strong verbs change the éo to ie like in German, and regularize the past and past participle vowel to 'o'. Old English dréosan becomes driesen; the past goes from dreas/druron to dros/drosen, and the participle from gedroren to gedrosen, regularizing the 's'.

Type 3 strong verbs regularize the vowel of the singular, 'a' as the past tense vowel, and the vowel of the past participle into the past subjunctive. For example, helpan becomes helpen; hilpþ stays hilpþ; halp, hulpon becomes halp, halpen; the participle geholpen remains geholpen. The past subjunctive in Old English, hulpe, developed into holpe, so the past subjunctive would be hœlpe, with an umlaut like German.

Nouns Edit

Masculine Edit

Masculine nouns by and large were strong and weak:

Strong Nouns
Case/Number OE sg. NE sg. OE pl. NE pl.
Nom stán Stan stánas Stanes
Gen stánes Stanes stána Stanes
Dat stáne Stan(e) stánum Stanen
Acc stán Stan stánas Stanes

Old English generalized the masculine nominative plural into the accusative, while most other Germanic languages generalized the accusative plural. That's an easy way to explain why the -s plural survived in English and not other Germanic languages. Couple that with the Norman Conquest, with French generalizing the -s plural of the Latin accusative plural, and the tendency towards and -s plural is strengthened. Without that, it's possible that the -s plural might not have gone on. Most other Germanic languages with at least 2 plural forms have a distinct dative plural case if any of the cases are distinct. Icelandic has 4 plural forms

Weak Nouns
Case/Number OE sg. NE sg. OE pl. NE pl.
Nom nama Name naman Namen
Gen naman Namen namena Namen
Dat naman Namen namum Namen
Acc naman Namen naman Namen

If the weak noun had continued on as a distinct class, it would have weakened the endings to a schwa/e sound.

As in German, Old English nouns that ended in -el are weak in the plural:

  • laden (to load) -> Lædel (ladle), plural Lædeln.

Feminine Nouns Edit

Many feminine nouns ended in -u in the nominative; this would have weakened to -e as would the other endings of the singular, and the plural, similarly weakened, would have caused many feminine nouns to become weak in the plural so there would remain a distinction between the two.

Strong Nouns
Case/Number OE sg. NE sg. OE pl. NE pl.
Nom coþu Koðe coþa Koðen
Gen coþe Koðe coþa Koðen
Dat coþe Koðe coþum Koðen
Acc coþe Koðe coþa Koðen

A large number of feminine nouns would fall into this category, though a few have dropped the -e in the singular, as Brod, Broden (brood) did. Feminine nouns ending in -el/-er just add -n:

  • Muskel -> Muskeln = mussel
  • Feðer -> Feðern = feather

Feminine nouns ending in -en add -ne in the plural.

Feminine weak nouns all became strong in the singular, and retained their weak endings in the plural.

Verb Inflection Edit

Like Old English, verbs have four inflections in the present: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person singular, and a common plural.

Present Indicative Edit

Old English
Person/Number Singular Plural
First (ic/we) -e -aþ
Second (þu/ge) -est -aþ
Third (he, heo, it / hie) -eþ -aþ

Just like in Old English and German, the 2nd and 3rd person singular have an umlaut of the stem vowel for strong verbs.

Niw English
Person/Number Singular Plural
First (ic/wiȝ) -e -eþ
Second (þu/ȝiȝ) -(e)st -eþ
Third (he, schie, it / hje) -(e)þ -eþ

In Niw Englisch, the plural has weakened to 'eþ', and the 2nd and 3rd person singular, like modern German, regularly lose the 'e' unless the verb stem has a consonant cluster that would result in not being able to pronounce the ending without it. If you look at modern Saxon (Low German), you'll see the same pattern of 3 singular forms, and a common plural form.

Present Subjunctive Edit

In Old English, the present subjunctive was either singular or plural:

Old English
Person/Number Singular Plural
First (ic/we) -e -en
Second (þu/ge) -e -en
Third (he, heo, it / hie) -e -en

For Niw Englisch, the present subjunctive looks like the German present subjunctive:

Niw English
Person/Number Singular Plural
First (ic/wiȝ) -e -en
Second (þu/ȝiȝ) -est -en
Third (he, schie, it / hje) -e -en

Had Old English similar influences as German, it would have been relatively reasonable that the '-est' ending of the 2nd person would be used in the subjunctive mood as well. This goes for the strong verb subjunctives also.

Example:

  • findan->finde or finden; finden-> finde, findest, or finden (strong verb)
  • ascian->ascie or ascien; asken-> aske, askest, or asken (weak verb)

Past Indicative Edit

In Old English, the past tense of 'weak' verbs had a dental (d/t) suffix and the personal endings afterwards. With voiceless consonants like s or þ, it became a 't' instead. For class 2 weak verbs ending in -ian, the ending became -ode, -odest, -odon

Old English (Weak)
Person/Number Singular Plural
First (ic/we) -de -don
Second (þu/ge) -dest -don
Third (he, heo, it / hie) -de -don

For Niw Englisch, all weak verbs have the following endings, the vowels all weakend to the 'e' (schwa) sound.

Niw English (Weak)
Person/Number Singular Plural
First (ic/wiȝ) -de -den
Second (þu/ȝiȝ) -dest -den
Third (he, schie, it / hje) -de -den

There are no longer any distinctions between class 1a, 1b, and class 2 weak nouns. All weak nouns take these endings, but may insert 'e' between the verb stem and the ending to make it clearly pronounced. Similar to Old English, any sibilant (s, sch, z, c) will take a 't' instead of 'd' for the past tense marker, as will k/g/cg.

Example:

  • cyssan-cysste -> kyssen-kysste
  • hangian-hangode -> hangen-hangte (hankte)
  • acealdian-acealdode -> akalden-akaldede; the 'e' was added to make sure the ending was pronounced.


Past Subjunctive Edit

In Old English, the pat subjunctive was either singular or plural:

Old English (weak)
Person/Number Singular Plural
First (ic/we) -de -den
Second (þu/ge) -de -den
Third (he, heo, it / hie) -de -den

For Niw Englisch, the past subjunctive looks like the German present subjunctive:

Niw English (weak)
Person/Number Singular Plural
First (ic/wiȝ) -de -den
Second (þu/ȝiȝ) -dest -den
Third (he, schie, it / hje) -de -den

For strong verbs, the subjunctive operates like in modern German - endings in the present, umlaut plus endings in the past In Old English, the past subjunctive was either singular or plural for strong verbs with the past plural stem:

Old English (strong)
Person/Number Singular Plural
First (ic/we) holpe holpen
Second (þu/ge) holpe holpen
Third (he, heo, it / hie) holpe holpen

For Niw Englisch, the past subjunctive looks like the German past subjunctive:

Niw English (strong)
Person/Number Singular Plural
First (ic/wiȝ) hœlpe hœlpen
Second (þu/ȝiȝ) hœlpest hœlpen
Third (he, schie, it / hje) hœlpe hœlpen