For the benefit of those who are new to this Wikipedia, this Help page is written in modern English.
- See also: Wikipedia:Tutorial on Old English, Wikibooks:Old English, Introduction to Old English by Professor Peter S. Baker of UVA
Old English, otherwise known as Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest and longest stage of the English language, having existed in the original time span of about 400 AD to 1150 AD, when the language began to evolve from its West Germanic Anglo-Frisian roots into Middle English, and then Modern English. The most prominent historic writing in Old English is Bēoƿulf. This language is currently experiencing a small revival in use, for both academic and religious purposes.
There are a few special characters you will see on this Wikipedia, ȝ, ƿ, þ, ð, æ, ċ, the macron accent mark ( ¯ ), as well as the Anglo-Saxon runes. In order to see the Runic characters, you will need any font which has Unicode compliance within the "Runic" range. If your browser supports it, you may enable Junicode in your UniversalLanguageSetting preferences. If that is not sufficient for some reason, feel free to give feedback by following the links at the bottom of that page or following the advice here.
The macron is used to represent a long vowel to help distinguish between words which would otherwise appear indistinguishable (īs vs is). The acute accent is often used in the same manner, but for consistency the macron should be used.
(For further and more detailed information, see Help:On Englisce Ƿrītan)
As with anything else, in order to type in Old English, you will need the proper tools to fit the job. Because of automated page conversion, there is no need to type using ȝƿ or runes; and you should not type with runes at all, because it is much more difficult to accurately convert from runes to the Latin alphabet than vice verse. As such, it would be best for you to have a keyboard which could write vowels with macrons, write æ and ǣ, and write þ and ð. Note that all page names will be written using gw, although there may still be a few pages around written in non-gw, which need cleaning up.
- A software-based keyboard can be downloaded here. The provided link also includes instructions on how to type the extra characters, installation, and switching between keyboards. Alternatively, you can create your own software-based custom keyboard layout with a program such as Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator. This allows you to organize the extra characters according to what feels natural to you.
- An alternative is to use the Icelandic keyboard layout, although this will not cover the full range of characters you will need.
- If you use Mac OS X, you can download a pre-made keyboard layout here, and save it to your Hard Drive > Library > Keyboard Layouts folder. Upon a system restart, and enabling your new layout in your System Preferences > International > Input pane, you will now have "Anglo-Saxon" as an option for your system. A map of this specific layout can be seen here. If you wish to write an article in Runes, creating your own layout will be especially helpful.
- You can use ALT codes. A table of numeric values for Windows-based systems is provided on Help:On Englisce Ƿrītan, and on Macintosh, the custom Anglo-Saxon layout (which is based on US International) is shown here.
- You can create Autocorrect values for typing in Microsoft Word.
- In the X Window System, used in free software operating systems such as GNU/Linux and the various BSDs, it is not too hard to customise the keyboard. Specially relevant to customise a keyboard are a Unicode character map such as gucharmap, and editing, as root, the console-setup configuration file at /etc and the Compose file.
Using the speech of a thousand years ago to describe modern concepts can be difficult, but it can be done. Authentic words ought to be used where they exist in the extant Englisc texts. Excessive neologisms should be avoided, if genuine Anglo-Saxon vocabulary can be used and applied accurately. Where a word or a concept is needed which does not exist in the original, there are a few steps you can take when writing or editing articles, to conjure the best possible term.
- See what other Germanic languages call it. One thing you can do, if the word has a Wikipedia article, visit that article's English version, and look at its translation links on the left-hand side of the page. With the cursor hovering over each link, view the URL preview, and see what others call it. Useful languages to look for are Deutsch, Dansk, Íslenska, Svenska, Nederlands, Frysk, and sometimes even Seeltersk. This can also be done on the "Translations" section of any Wiktionary page.
- Translate the etymological root. Sometimes this is a good method, sometimes it is not; you need to use judgement, particularly when blending this potential new term in with the rest of the language. For example, automobile could be rendered as selffērend, but is there a closer authentic concept?
- Create a descriptive term. This is useful when a transliteration or translation is not possible, yet there is no consistency across other Germanic languages as to what they call it either. Remember that Germanic languages tend to be more descriptive in their nature, rather than technical. For instance, fȳrþyrel ("fire hole") is used as "engine cylinder" in the steam car article.
- If all else fails, resort to a loan word. The general trend of modern Old English usage is a strive for language purity, but Old English of yore sometimes made use of loan words, and even today's Icelandic has had to. For example, it would be quite hard simply to represent "guitar" in Old English speech.
Useful resources relating to modern terminology can be found on the Neologism proposal page as well as the "How do I say_?" page. The first relates directly to tackling the issues mentioned in this section, and the second deals with using the best existing terminology, reapplied to the modern world. You will find both to be very helpful.
Finally, you need to remember that it is of utmost importance that you are understood by other people when they encounter your term for the first time. As such, it is important that all neologisms and also historical words used with new meanings in an article should be documented on the article's talk page, using the wordgetæl template. The list of words should be bulletted and contained within the noc template, to ensure that phonological notation will not be muddled by automated page conversion.
While Old English of yore did not have steadfast rules about spelling, a bit more structure is needed here. You should already know how Old English spelling works, but posted below are guidelines specific to this Wikipedia.
- þ is in preference used where the th sound is unvoiced, and at the beginning of words. Thus, you will almost always see "þæt" and "pæþ," not "ðæt" or "pæð", though these did exist historically.
- ð is typically used for the voiced sound, and is found in the middle of a word, and when coupled with a back vowel. An exception is when th is doubled, in which case þ is used (example, cȳþþu).
- k is rarely seen, as it is rarely needed, although it is certainly not forbidden. In general, it should only be used for loan words, words of foreign origin, proper names or titles, or in Old English words to make a clear distinction about pronunciation, where the use of c won't always make its pronunciation obvious.
- z is rare as well. Generally, reserve it for non-Englisc words where the z indicates a ts pronunciation, as this was how it was used in Old English. Examples include Nazi and pizza.
- ȝ and ƿ are used in many publications, and on this Wikipedia one can read a page in ȝƿ via the automated conversion. Articles used to be written in ȝƿ, but this is no longer necessary, and would in fact be unhelpful. You should write on this Wikipedia in gw.
There were natural spelling variants in Old English, which accommodated for the various dialects and pronunciations, as well as spelling conventions of authors. Spelling consistency within an article and in general is tidy and easier to read, and due to automated page conversion, is now quite achievable.
With that said, as long as alternate spellings did exist, then they are considered acceptable, and no choice is more correct than the other.
Fonts and styles[adihtan]
Please see Wikipedia:Stylistic and font options.
In order to create a tidy, quality, and unified feeling across this Wikipedia, it is necessary to have some standard practices.
- Use good grammar! Be careful to make sure you are using the appropriate case, the appropriate tense, etc., and that you are actually represented these cases and tenses properly. Poor grammar is confusing, misleading to a learner, and difficult to read. Also, do not just assume that a particular grammatical structure existed in Old English just because it does in Modern English or another related language.
- Don't just assume that a cognate word has the same or a similar meaning in Old English as it does in another language - look it up in credible dictionaries and/or historical source texts.
- Sources are good. They help support information in an article. If you can provide a trustworthy source for some uncited information in an article, please do.
- All neologisms should be documented on an article's talk page using this template, and ideally also here to make it easier for other people to find and understand. When documenting neologism, give appropriate grammatical information (to see how, look at the template). Also, we explicitly mark palatalization in neologism lists, to make the words easier to read for beginners.
- Need a neologism? Check to see if there is one already in use before you create another one - there should be only minimum necessary neologisms. All neologisms should be documented on the talk pages of the articles they are used in (giving their Modern English translations with them), so if you use "advanced search", mark "talk pages", and search for the Modern English equivalent, you should be able to find an already exisiting neologism, if there is one. Also, see this page: Wikipedia:Full getæl nīwra worda, which is not necessarily absolutely comprehensive. If those two methods fail, also check obvious articles such a neologism might be used on (for example, for "solar system", you could look on one of the articles for the planets). If you still can't find one, you might then need to make one, but make sure you document it in the talk page! If you can find one, but you think it is rubbish (because it demonstrates a poor understanding of or poorly represents the concept itself, or uses bad grammar, or misuses the Old English stems used to create the new word, for example), please raise the issue with other members of this project, and move forward from there. Also, it is best to use historically precedented methods for word formation to create new words - otherwise the words will be less likely to be understood well, and will look out of place.
- Names for pieces of software or a website should not be translated (for example, Ubuntu and Windows 8 instead of "Menniscness" and "8. Ēagduru"), unless that is the usual or a common practice in the case of that specific piece of software (for example, Wikipǣdia). A literal translation for the name of software may be given within the article (for example, see World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King).
- Category names should usually be in plural, except for when the category is related to one specific thing (for example, the category tōlas is plural, but the category Nīwe Sǣland is singular)
- Categories should be organised in a useful, succint, hierarchical, and non-redundant way (e.g. put the page āte only in the category "corn", not both "corn" and "wyrta", because the category "corn" is already a sub-category of "wyrta").
- Ordinal numbers should be marked as such with a period after them, for example: "Se 12. mann".
- Additional information given to specify the meaning of a word in an article's name should be put in brackets, for example: Niht (gyden). This should also be done for places, for example: Weolingtūn (Nīwe Sǣland).
- Unlike many modern languages, including Modern English, where cardinal numbers can be used as ordinal numbers (for example, "contestant number 5" instead of "the fifth contestant"), cardinals could not be used as ordinals in Old English. As such, cardinals used as ordinals in other languages, should be translated as ordinals in Old English. The exception is when a whole proper noun has been borrowed, and it included an ordinally used cardinal, for example: Windows 8. Although written as two words, for grammatical purposes this should be regarded as one word, perhaps indeclinable neuter.
- The names of articles on categories of things should be in the singular nominative, for example: Hēapplega.
- Do not put adjectives in an article name in the weak declension unless they are normally weak (like comparative adjectives) or there is actually another word in the article name that causes the weak declension (but there usually isn't such a word in article names).