Old English/Appositives

Appositives are a grammatical construction where two elements, often noun phrases, are placed beside each other, with one modifying the other (like an adjective). For example in Modern English: "This is Johnny my son", where "Johnny" and "my son" are appositives that modify each other. The main use of appositives in Old English was for people's titles or nicknames, as in ""Carl cyning" - "King Charles"; but they were also used for other things.

In Old English, in the case of titles and nicknames, the title or nickname came after the other half of the appositive (usually a personal noun) when it had no article, demonstrative, or possessive pronoun modifying it, like this: "Alfrēd cyning" - "King Alfred". When one half of the appositive was modified with a possessive pronoun, an article, or a demonstrative, then that half could come either before or after the other half, for example: ...Thomas his diācon..." - "...Thomas his deacon..." (where the half modified by the possessive pronoun "his" comes after the other half) and "...se cyning Æðelrēd..." - "...the king Æthelred..." (where the half modified by the article "se" comes before the other half). You could also divide the two halves of the appositive with other words between them, like this: "Hēr Aldhelm beƿestan Seleƿuda bisċeop forþfērde" - "On this date Aldhelm bishop to the west of Selwood died."

Both halves of the appositive always agreed with each other in case in Old English, unlike in Modern English were only the latter half of an appositive gets declined in the genitive, for example: "King John's..." (in Modern English rather than "King's John's..." (which would be more like how it is done in OE).

In the genitive (possessive), it was the normal practice to separate the two halves of the appositive with whatever was being possessed, for example: "...Osƿies sunu ðæs cyninges" - "a son of King Oswy". However, they could be kept together, for example: "...be Ælfrēdes cyninges geƿitnesse and lēafe." - "with the knowledge and permission of King Alfred." and "...Ecfriþes faðu ðæs cyninges..." - "...the paternal aunt of King Ecgfrith...".