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Caedmons Hymn: Line by Line

Caedmons Hymn: Line by Line

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Published by: eng4820 on Jun 02, 2010
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10/24/2012

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ENG4820 | History of the English Language | Week 6 |
Cædmon’s Hymn 
| Page 1 of 5
Cædmon’s Hymn: Line by LineNorth. = Northumbrian (Northern) WS = West Saxon (Southern)Line 1
North. Nu scylun hergan hefæn-ricæs wardWS Nu sculon herigean heofon-rices weard
TODAY Now shall-you hear of (the) heaven-kingdomguardian
Notes
 
Our diphthong(two-vowel)sequence cameabout in the GreatVowel Shift, whichdidn’t start untilthe 14
th
century.
 
The original vowelcan still be heardin conservativeScottish dialects
 
The initial consonantsound(s) would havebeen either thenorthern, conservative[sk] or the southernassimilated [
ʃ
].
 
The –un/-on marksthat the subject, whichis left unexpressed, isplural.
 
The /i/ in theWest Saxonform isoriginal. The /g/ in theWest Saxonwould havebeenpronounced[j] uderAssimilation#2
 
Compound of  ‘heaven’ and ‘kingdom’ or ‘empire.’ Theoriginal word ric fellout of use in thelater Middle Agesbut is familiar frommodern GermanReich.
 
The /-es/ affix onthe end is thedirect ancestor of our possessiveaffix, whichsurfaces as /-s/ /-z/ and /-
I
z/ informs like
Pete’s
,
Dave’s
and
Chris’s
.
 
The modern words
guard 
,
guardian
,
ward 
,
warden
alongwith
beware
and
aware
are all relatedvia the PIE root
*wer-
meaning ‘watch’ 
 
ENG4820 | History of the English Language | Week 6 |
Cædmon’s Hymn 
| Page 2 of 5
Line 2
North. Metudes mæcti end his Mod-gidancWS Meotodes meahte ond his Mod-ge
ϸ
anc
TODAY Destiny’s might and his mind-thought 
Notes
 
This is a poetic circumlocution for ‘God’ and is related to our wordmete, which means ‘measure’ or ‘allot’ as in ‘The thief’s sentence wasmeted out by a panel of judges.’ 
 
The /-es/ affix on the end is thedirect ancestor of our possessiveaffix, which surfaces as /-s/ /-z/and /-
I
z/ in forms like
Pete’s
,
Dave’s
 and
Chris’s
.
 
Our conventionalspelling with <gh>reflects the WestSaxonpronunciation.
 
The vowel we nowhave is a more orless randomdevelopment. Aslate as the 15thcentury, this wordwas pronounced[m
I
xt]Thedifferencesin vowelshere aremostlyrandom
 
Old English
mod 
became our word
mood 
by semantic narrowing, aprocess whereby a word’s meaningbecomes less general (a person’swhole consciousness), and morespecific (a part of consciousnesshaving to do with emotions). Theoriginal Old English word
mynd 
,which meant only ‘memory,’ tookover as the general term, but westill have the original meaning inour word
remind 
.
 
The prefix
gi-
or
ge-
had a prettyobscure, ‘collectivizing’ or ‘completive’ meaning. By itself,
ϸ 
anc 
only means ‘thought.’ 
Gi 
ϸ 
anc 
 means ‘all thoughts’ or ‘the totalityof thought.’ The prefix survives, viaAssimilation #2, in a few words like
elope
, which means ‘to run (lope)away.’ 
 
ENG4820 | History of the English Language | Week 6 |
Cædmon’s Hymn 
| Page 3 of 5
Line 3
North. werc wuldur-fadur swe he wundra gihwaesWS weorc wuldor-fæder swa he wundra gehwæs
TODAY work glory-father as he of wonders each
Notes
 
Our letter <k> isborrowed fromthe Greekalphabet. TheRoman alphabethad only <c> toindicate avoiceless velarstop.
 
The West Saxonform wasprobablyaffected byAssimilation #3
 
We’ve lost the OldEnglish word,which derived fromthe name of apagan Germanicgod
*Wul 
ϸ 
 z 
,described in Norsedocuments justafter theChristianization of Scandinavia as amythical archerand stepson of thegod Thor.
 
The OldEnglish formdevelopedinto
so
, whichbecame acoordinatingconjunction(like and, but,and or), notthesubordinatingconjunctionwe see here.
 
Again,this is[he],like ourword
hay 
 
 
This is a plural form(the singular is
wundur 
 /
wundor 
),and the –a endingcommunicates thesame thing that ourpreposition
of 
doesnow.
 
This is a formof the sameroot we havein
which
, alongwith thecollectivizingprefix we sawin
ge
ϸ 
nc 
 
Line 4
North. eci dryctin, or anstelidæWS ece drihten or onstealde
 
TODAY eternal lord beginning established 
Notes
 
The Latin
eternal 
 completelydisplacedthis word.
 
Another lost word;survives inSwedish/Danish/Norwegianand Icelandic
drottning
  ‘queen’ 
 
Another lost word; survives inthe German prefix
ur-.
Example:
alt 
= ‘old’ but
uralt 
= ‘ancient.’ 
Germanisch
= ‘Germanic’ but
Urgermanisch
= ‘Proto-Germanic’ 
 
There’s an understood ‘the’ inthe meaning here, i.e. ‘established the beginning.’ 
 
The first syllable is aprefix directly related toour word
on
.
 
The rest,
stelidæ/stealde
 meaning ‘placed’ isanother lost worddisplaced by the Latinloan we use today;survivies in German
stellen
andSwedish/Danish/Norwegian
stella
.

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