Now You Know

No, by the grace of God, you will NOT plead ignorance. You will NOT testify that you never knew any better because no one ever taught you anything better. You will not plead that you were never told.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Answer to Yesterday's Old English Question

Yesterday, in the post titled "Knowing Your Language, Knowing Your Roots," I presented a text written in Old English for you to ponder and promised to give you the answer to what it is today. It wouldn't surprise me if you already figured it out, and if you did congratulations! If not, the answer is that it is The Lord's Prayer in Old English.

Below I'll give you a translation line by line so that you can perhaps see what it says a little more clearly by following along, just in case you hadn't already figured it out:

Fæder ure, þu þe eart on heofunum
Our Father, Thou who art in heaven

Si þin nama gehalgod. Tobecume þin rice.
Be Thy name hallowed. May Thy kingdom come.

Gewurþe ðin willa on eorðan swa swa on heofonum.
May Thy will happen on earth as in heaven.

Urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us todæg.
Our daily loaf give us today.

And forgyf us ure gyltas,
And forgive us our sins ("guilts")

Swa swa we forgyfað urum gyltendum.
As we forgive our debtors.

And ne gelæd þu us on costnunge,
And not lead Thou us in temptation,

Ac alys us of yfele. Soþlice.
But release us from evil. Truly.

As you can see, in many ways Old English varies drastically from Modern English. One can easily see why English is classified as a Germanic language. Much like Modern German, Old English nouns had grammatical gender and could be masculine, feminine, or neuter. They were inflected (also called "declined") for gender, number (i.e. singular or plural) and case (i.e. nominative, genetive, dative, accusative and instrumental). If you've ever studied German or even Latin, you'll understand about case and declension. If not, it simply means that you could tell a word's function in a sentence by the endings of the word. For example, you could tell that the noun was the subject of the sentence, the direct object, the indirect object, etc.

After the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and the subsequent domination of England for about 350 years by their French speaking Norman invaders, the English language changed quite a bit.

That's your language and history lesson for the day, along with some religion too.

You've been told and NOW YOU KNOW.