Pronunciation

I’m trying out a new pronunciation system! I’m staying away from the International Phonetic Alphabet — it’s more precise but less accessible — but I’m trying out some symbols used in common English dictionaries. My hope is that my pronunciation guides will be more accurate than in the past but still easy enough to read.

The high-set stress mark ( ˈ ) precedes syllables with primary (strongest) stress. The low-set stress mark ( ˌ ) precedes syllables with secondary (medium) stress.

A diphthong is a speech sound that combines two vowels in one syllable. For example, modE ‘toy’ (pronounced ˈtȯi) is a diphthong, but ‘chaos’ (ˈkā-ˌäs) is not. When there is no hyphen between a pair of vowels, this indicates a diphthong; for example, the pronunciation of OE diphthong ēa is written āä, not ā-ä.

Vowels

  • a sounds like a in modE ‘cat’
  • ā … a in modE ‘cape’
  • ä … a in modE ‘father’
  • e … e in modE ‘tell’
  • ē … e in modE ‘be’
  • i … i in modE ‘bit’
  • ȯ … o in modE ‘on’
  • ō … o in modE ‘bone’
  • … u in modE ‘put’
  • ü … u in modE ‘flute’
  • … u in French tu; ü in German füllen; i in modE ‘bit’ with lips pursed

Consonants

  • g sounds like g in modE ‘go’
  • j … j in modE ‘jam’
  • th … th in modE ‘thin’
  • w … w in modE ‘wood’
  • y … y in modE ‘yes’

If you want to learn more about how to pronounce Old English words, here are some helpful resources:

  • R. Marsden, The Cambridge Old English Reader, 2nd edn (2015)
  • B. Mitchell and F. C. Robinson, A Guide to Old English, 8th edn (2011)
  • P. Baker, Introduction to Old English, 3rd edn (2012)
  • Þæt Eald-Ænglisce Blog
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