A Quick Note on Pronunciation

In written Old English, the same letter represents both the long and short pronunciations of a vowel. Vowel length refers to the duration of a vowel sound and it significantly changes how the vowel is pronounced.

To differentiate between short and long vowels in Old English, long vowels are often marked with a macron (¯) above the letter in modern editions of Old English texts. In the table below, and when identifying the vowel signature at the start of each topic, macrons will be included as a pronunciation guide. However, these macrons are never present in original Old English sources, so they will not be included in the grammar tables or example sentences.

Class Root Signature Example Change Pattern
I i + consonant Writan ī - ā - i
II eo/u + consonant Beodan, Brucan ēo/ū - ēa - u
III vowel + l/r/h/n + consonant Helpan, Weorpan, Feohtan, Findan i - a - u, eo/e - ea - u
IV e + l/r/m Beran, Stelan e - æ - ǣ
V e + consonant (not l/r/m/n) Sprecan e - æ - ǣ
VI a + consonant or e/ie + double consnant Wascan, Hliehhan a - o - ō
VII a/o/ea/æ/e + consonant Hatan, Rædan a - e - ē, ea - eo - ēo

To hear the difference between vowel sounds, you can select the relevant IPA symbol in the table below. To hear the vowel in a word, select one of the orange words on the right. Long vowels are marked with a macron.

Old English Vowels
Letter IPA Symbol Explanation Old English
a like the 'a' in 'can'
ā like the 'a' in 'father'
æ like the 'a' in 'mat'
ǣ like the 'a' in 'bra'
e like the 'e' in 'bed'
ē like the 'ay' in 'may'
i like the 'i' in 'bit'
ī like the 'ee' in 'seen'
o like the 'o' in 'cough'
ō like the 'o' in 'so'
u like the 'u' in 'pull'
ū like the 'oo' in 'cool'
y like the 'ew' in 'few'
ȳ like the 'u' in 'mule'
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