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Words and Alphabets of the Anglo Saxons

Old Anglo Saxon Writings

Just like the alphabets of the modern English language, it is obvious that there was also presence of the Anglo Saxons words, Anglo Saxon alphabet. This not only frames the literature of the Anglo Saxons but is also the basic of literacy for anyone learning. The language broadly used by the Anglo Saxons was initially their very own runes which later evolved into old English. Thus, the alphabets were also in accordance with the same.

Let us now go through the detailed study of the alphabets used by the Anglo Saxons which contributed to their words, sentences, literature and literary senses.

History of the Runes of the Anglo Saxons

The alphabets which were used by the Anglo Saxons was collectively known together as futhorc. This term ‘futhorc’ was developed from the sound values or the phonetics of the first six runes belonging to the old English.

Another term given to the futhorc was the Anglo Frisian runes because of the fact that the same futhorc was put into use initially in Frisia, which marks a time period even before the Anglo Saxons invaded England and settles in England. This time period is recorded to be as from the very beginning of the 5th century and onwards. During the initial stages, the futhorc was developed from the Elder Futhark which consisted of a total of 24 characters.

From Frisia, the Anglo Frisian runes were then brought to England by the Irish missionaries and supplanted by the Anglo Saxons settled in England into the alphabets of the old English.

Being introduced in the 5th century, the futhorc was widely put into use and was understood by people until the 11th century, the time known the conquest of the Normans. However, after studying the different manuscripts and the entire literature of the Anglo Saxons, historians placed forward a fact that the runes were not used in a wide manner but was still understandable by the people till around the 20th century.

On the contrary, there are studies placed by archaeologists that the futhorc was not initially brought up from Frisia but was present in England from Scandinavia and later has been taken to Frisia.

Research on the studies by the archaeologists proves that both the theories have their own strong significance as well as their own weakness points also. This implies that there is yet no evidence as to a definite answer regarding the origination of the futhorc. The archaeologists can only wait for further investigations or studies to come out and place a definite answer.

Alphabets and their Phonetics

Anglo Saxon Alphabets

It is of uttermost importance to study the phonetics of each of the alphabets in order to understand and pronounce properly the words of the Anglo Saxons. But, the main point of problem occurs in the fact that till date there has been no unified list which is authentic which can actually prove the alphabets and their phonetics to 100%. This is only due to one factor that is the designing of the Anglo Saxons alphabets or the futhorc.

The unique point of the futhorc is that the phonetics of each of the alphabets used to fluctuate because of two factors, location and time. One particular alphabet could have more than one type of phonetics which depended on the location and time. Similar is the case with all the other alphabets of the futhorc.

On studying the alphabets used by the Anglo Saxons, there was a presence of a total 29 characters. Out of these 29 characters, the last 5 characters were the added vowels. The first 24 characters were the ones which continued to the Elder Futhark and their sequence was also the same in both, that is, not being changed.

Culture and Usage of the Anglo Saxons alphabets and words

In the field of style and contents, the inscription of the futhorc was diversely rich. What was not at all uncommon in the use of futhorc was the bind runes. This is because the purpose of the bind runes was to ensure that the runes of the Anglo Saxons fit into a space which is limited. This also made the bind runes one of the most commonly used alphabets by the Anglo Saxons in framing their words and sentences.

Another design was the logography of the futhorc, which was comprehended by giving a rune stand for the particular name or a word which had a similar sounding. Attestation of this logography of the futhorc was also found in few of the manuscripts.

Looking at an example, we have already heard about one of the legendary works of literature of the Anglo Saxons, the poem, Beowulf. In that poem, the rune ēðel was put to use to as a logogram to describe the word “ēðel”, which in today’s modern English translation means estate or homeland according to the paraphrase.

There is also another manuscript of the Anglo Saxons, where a writer beautifully makes use of the futhorc runes in terms of numerals of the Romans and the number looked something alike “ᛉᛁᛁ⁊ᛉᛉᛉ” which in the present modern English may mean ‘12&30’.

There is also the attestation of magical or stylized runes found in some of the literature of the Anglo Saxons. Similar type of symbols can be noted in the Holborough Spear as well as the Buckland Spear where the use of t-runes is found which are stylized.

Perhaps, it can also be akin to the victory runes which are spoken of in the Norse myth. The sequence of alu of the Anglo Saxons alphabets are most likely found on the Spong Hill which is in cryptic spiegelrunes.

Further, archaeologists have found the use of futhorc rings which appear to be like the enchanted inscriptions reflecting the “stanching of blood”. In a story in the “Ecclesiastical History” (which is written in Latin) written by Bede, Imma is a man known to be not bounded by the captives and he is also interrogated if he makes use of the “litteras solutorias” (which means letters which are loosening) to break the binds of the captives. Translating in modern English, it simply means if Imma is using any kind of magic in order to break the binds.

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