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2017 | 26/2 | 5-23

Article title

Irish Influence in the Consonantal Spellings of Old English



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Languages of publication



The consonantal spellings of Old English (OE) were significantly influenced by the
consonantal spellings of Old Irish (OI). 1) <th/þ> vs. (post-vocalic) <d/ð>: though OE
did not have a distinction between /θ/ and /ð/, OI did, spelling this as <th> vs. (postvocalic)
<d>. 2) <h> vs. <ch>: though OE did not have a distinction between /h/ and
/x/, OI did, spelling the latter as <ch>. 3) <ch> and <th>: both spellings appear to be
from Irish. 4) <cg>: spellings of the “mixed voice” type, including “cg”, occur in OI,
where they can spell either single or geminate voiced plosives. 5) <bb> (and <cg>):
almost certainly in final position <bb, cg> in OE represent singles, not geminates, as
they can in OI. 6) Spelling rules referring to post-vocalic position: all cases show
OE spelling having had, like OI spelling, rules referring to post-vocalic position,
which appear to be additionally evidenced by “illogical doubling” in Northumbrian.
7) The meaning of <g> before front Vs: in OE spelling as in OI spelling, but not as in
Roman Latin spelling, <g> before front Vs spells a palatal approximant rather than a palatal
affricate. The overall conclusion is that the OE spelling system was developed by Irish
missionary linguists.


  • Independent Scholar


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