I'm working on a musical setting of Cædmon's Hymn, and I'd like to have the primary setting be in the Northumbrian dialect of its earliest written example (the 737 "Moore" Bede manuscript). I'm pretty familiar with West Saxon's pronunciation rules, but there are far fewer primers on Northumbrian's (especially that early).

I've read that the lack of velarization kept words like "ece" pronounced like "/e ke/" in Northumbrian (rather than "/e tʃe/" as in West Saxon). Similarly, the sources I've been able to find say that Northumbrian didn't velarize "\g\" into a "/dʒ/" sound. However, some sources suggest that this is due more to the Scandinavian influences. Would a text from 737 have the paletalized ċ and ġ letters (the Sack of Lindesfarne didn't occur until 793, so there wouldn't be the Danelaw influence at this time).

However, I can't find any information on when the shift from "\g\" > "\j\" occured in the Old English dialects in the prefix "ge" or "gi" (as some of the Northumbrian words have it) and in the suffix "-g" (which became the Modern English "-y" ending, something that Scots seems to have in common).

Key Questions:

  1. In 8th century Northumbrian, is the participle "gi-" prefix pronounced as /gi/ or /ji/
  2. In 8th century Northumbrian, is the suffix "-ig" / "-eg" pronounced with a hard /g/ or a velarized /j/
  3. If that sound shift was universal across the Anglo-Saxon dialects, is there any linguistic evidence as to when that occurred? Do I need to worry about hard /g/ in early West Saxon literature (if there is any)?
  4. Would a Northumbrian text from 737 have paletalized or unpaletalized c and g?
  5. Does anyone happen to have a good IPA guide to the early Northumbrian pronunciation of the hymn?


Examples from the text. Northumbrian, followed by (West Saxon with approximate IPA pronunciation).

gihwaes (gehwæs - /je hwæs/)

modgidanc (modgeþanc - /mod je þank/)

hāleg (halig - /ha lij/)

allmectig (ælmihtig - /æl mix tij/)

Texts Source:

Moore Manuscript (737), Northumbrian Dialect:

Nū scylun hergan hefaenrīcaes Uard,

metudæs maecti end his mōdgidanc,

uerc Uuldurfadur, suē hē uundra gihwaes,

ēci dryctin ōr āstelidæ

hē ǣrist scōp aelda barnum

heben til hrōfe, hāleg scepen.

Thā middungeard moncynnæs Uard,

eci Dryctin, æfter tīadæ

firum foldu, Frēa allmectig.

Tanner MS 10 (10th century), West Saxon Dialect

Nū sculon herigean heofonrīces Weard

Meotedes meahte ond his mōdgeþanc

weorc Wuldorfæder, swā he wundra gihwæs

ēce Drihten, ōr onstealde.

Hē ǣrest sceōp eorðan bearnum

heofon tō hrōfe, hālig Scyppend.

Þā middangeard moncynnes Weard,

ēce Drihten, æfter tēode

firum foldan, Frēa ælmihtig.

  • Congratulations to the mystery person for the usual gratuitous close vote based on a ridiculously narrow understand of what "language-specifi grammar and and usage" means.
    – LjL
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 18:10
  • I'm sorry, I don't understand the context?
    – Necarion
    Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 22:36
  • it wasn't directed at you, sorry for any confusion. There was (there no longer appears to be?) one vote to close your question as offtopic due to being a "language-specific grammar or usage question". This happens often, usually with that particular explanation, so I grumble; some have stated that they simply use that one because it's the first one listed, which is absurd as it's misleading to the person who asked the question and everybody else too. If someone thinks your question doesn't belong here, they have the option of specifying a custom reason. Laziness isn't an excuse.
    – LjL
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 0:16
  • Ah, thanks. I'm familiar with the intricacies of the programming boards, but I'm new here. I'm having trouble finding a clear articulation for the rule. Further, it seems like there needs to be a board for language-specific usage questions for languages that don't have their own board.
    – Necarion
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 1:21
  • it's always hard to write rules that cover all reasonable cases. It's only under a very strict interpretation that your question can possibly fall under that rule: you're asking about a dead language and specifics of its pronunciation at given times. What the rule is mostly written for is questions about, say, an idiom in English, or clarification of a grammatical rule that was taught. Your question falls squarely into the real of linguistics and is completely acceptable in my view. I think that view is supported by the several upvotes you got. Unfortunately I'm unable to answer it.
    – LjL
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 14:57


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