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And Cædmi d hi says:
ul And thee Frea mihtig,
Lufige on lyfte." 207
(Thee, mighty Lord,
Frost and snows,
And the welkin-course
Praise in the lift.)
“ Fæder frost and snow,
Winter-biter weder," &c.
The next consonants are V and F. The Anglo-Saxon alphabet did not contain the letter V, but we are not, therefore, to conclude that the spoken language had not the sound; for many, nay most, languages have sounds for which they possess no separate sign, and one sign often does duty for another. The Swedish F, for instance, always has
* In further illustration of this point, two hymns to the Virgin Mary belonging to the end of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th century respectively, were here read by the speaker.
the sound of V; in German, W ;
modern Greek and Russian, B; so that, while we write and speak the word Sebastopol, the Russiar sesis and Greeks always sound it Sevastopol. And Soi'e know, as a fact, that the sound of V not only exits 'sted, but was even common in Anglo-Saxon. It is, ii, pdeed, one of the laws of its pronunciation, that f beloetween two vowels, or at the end of a word, is always sounded v: and we retain one word — the preposmi
sion of in which the final f is still sounded as vn of-ov. The following are instances of f between two vowels having the sound of v:-
Beofer= beaver Onfil = anvil
Ofen = oven
Weafer = weaver
Weafung = weaving.
This explains what has sometimes puzzled grammarians,—- the plural form of such words as calf, half, leaf, loaf, life, wife. According to the law, ending in a sharp mute, they ought to form their plural by the addition of the sharp sibilant s -calfs, halfs, leafs, &c.; but they do not. On the contrary, the final mute is softened, and the plural formed in the soft sibilant sound of z, calves, loaves, &c. Dr. Latham, in discussing the difficulty, suggests it as highly probable, that the original singulars ended in v, calv, &c.; but this probability might, perhaps, have been changed to
certainty, had he known that, in the Western dialect, the singular forms, &c., actually end in v at the present time. By the law of Anglo-Saxon pronunciation, they must have done so originally, and by the practice of the dialect they do so still.
It is doubtful whether the initial f was ever sounded as v, in genuine Anglo-Saxon words, though such forms as vox and vixen go back very far; but if the initial v was unknown in classical Anglo-Saxon, it must have made its appearance immediately on the breaking up of the literary language, as its presence is a striking feature in some of the earliest and best specimens of semi-Saxon we possess. Among these certainly must be included the “ Ancren Riwle," a kind of manual for the guidance and encouragement of nuns in entering on a cloistered religious life. The time of its production must be within a few years of Lazamon, not later probably than 1220; and its author long thought to be Simon of Ghentwas in all likelihood Bishop Poore, who held the see of Salisbury about this date. But whoever was its author, the work is of great value and interest, especially to us, having been produced, if not actually in the county, at least on the borders, originally designed for the use of ladies living near Blandford, and written in the provincial semiSaxon of the West. Apart, however, from its philological and local value, it is of interest on its own account, being written in a lively, vigorous style, abounding with proverbial phrases and homely illustrations, the writer showing throughout, apart from the peculiar views of a religious life incident to his age and position, great freshness of mind, devoutness of heart, sound sense, and wise, shrewd, at times almost humorous, reflectiveness. The book abounds with Somersetshire forms, and especially with the initial V. You cannot open a page without finding a number of instances, such words as vlesh, veond, vlint, vound, valleth, volloweth, vlieth, &c. Take a single sentence, “Little dropen thurleth the vlint, that oft valleth thereon.” “Little drops pierce the flint whereon they often fall.”
The next consonants are Z and S, and they may be dismissed in a few words. The letter Z does not exist in the Saxon alphabet any more than V; but we are far less entitled to infer the absence of the sound from the nonexistence of the sign in this case than even in that of V; for, as Ben Jonson says,
“ Z is a letter often heard amongst us, but seldom seen." And certainly, in common English words, for any single Z that is seen, there are at least a dozen or a score heard. The s of the plural, in a vast number of words, such as trees, days, hills, stags, &c., is really Z.
This notwithstanding, however, it is still questionable whether the sound of Z did exist in AngloSaxon at all. The initial Z, we may say with certainty, did not, except in foreign words; and it is generally thought that it was never sounded in any position. I am disposed, however, to believe, on philological grounds, which it would not be suitable now to detail, that it did exist, and is still
recognisable, at the end of some few words. However this may be, it soon made its appearance in semi-Saxon and early English.
The only remaining letter is R, and about it there is really very little to be said. Both cases of softening by transposition, which I adverted to at the last meeting, were of Anglo-Saxon origin. The softening of the initial R is seen in such verbs as hirsle, to rustle, hurnen, urnen, to run ; being a common form in Saxon and semi-Saxon, sometimes with the aspirate, more commonly without it. The transposition after one or more consonants is also thoroughly Saxon :
:- an instance occurred in a sentence just given, thurl for thrill ; and burge, cerse, forst, gærs, cirps, &c. (bridge, cress, grass, crisp, &c.), were common Anglo-Saxon forms.
This closes the inquiry; and I think we have found, as the result of it, that the vowel system of the Somersetshire pronunciation is not only generally, but in its main features, minutely, AngloSaxon ; that the system of consonants is partially so, the points of difference arising from the predilection of the dialect for softer sounds; and that these softer sounds, though not traceable to classic Anglo-Saxon, appeared immediately on its breaking up, in the semi-Saxon that followed. I believe and there is a curious mass of evidence in support of the belief — that the breaking up of the literary Saxon, although this was the time at which these softer sounds first appeared, was neither the true cause nor era of their production, only the occasion of their manifestation; that they existed contem