Help:IPA/Old English
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Help:IPA/Old English

The tables below show how the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) represents Old English pronunciations in resource articles. For a guide to adding IPA characters to resource articles, see {{IPA-ang}} and Resource: Manual of Style/Pronunciation § Entering IPA characters.

Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, was an early form of English in medieval England. It is different from Early Modern English, the language of Shakespeare and the King James Bible.

See Old English phonology for more detail on the sounds of Old English.

IPA Examples Modern English approximation
b bysig, lamb, habban busy
ç niht, t?hte[2] hue
d d?n, fæder, land, biddan do
d? sengan, ecg[3] edge
ð ?þer, eorþe[4] other
f fæder, f, offrian[4] father
? g?d, gnætt, geong[3] good
h h?ah, h?lþ[2] heaven
j geong, nægl, ?eg, g?a, bysig[3] year
k cyning, cn, tusc, hnecca, axian[3][5] king
l lufu, h?lþ, nægl love
? feallan, eald, ?lite[6] peal
l? hl?f, hlehhan[7] whispered l
m m?dor, magan, lamb mother
n n?ah, cn?o, gnætt, land, habban,
n? hnutu, hnecca[7] whispered n
? geong, drincan young
p pæþ path
r r?dan, m?dor[8] read
r? eorþe, steorra, ?rang[6][8] ruff ruff
r? hring[7] whispered r
s sunne, missan, axian[4][5] sun
? sceadu, fisc[3] shadow
t t?d, h?æt, settan stand
t? c?ace, ?icce[3] cheese
v ofer, lufu[4] over
? magan, lagu, dagum Spanish fuego
w[9] ??f, c?ic, cn?? wife
? h??, h?æt[7] what (as hwat)
x h?ah, þurh, hlehhan[2] loch (Scottish English)
z bysi?[4] busy
? þæt, pæþ, h?lþ, siþþan[4] through
IPA Examples Modern English approximation
? axian, sceadu, hnecca[11] cot (American English)
?: ?n, hl?f, h?? father
æ æfter, fæder cat
æ: ?nig, h? dad
æ? eald similar to Cockney mouth
æ:? ?age, n?ah similar to pal
e ecg, fæder similar to late
e: ?þel similar to made
eo eorþe, heofon bed + rod
e:o ?o?u, d?or snail (MLE)
i ilca, c?ic, h?lig he
i: ?sig, t?d need
iy siex[12] feet + French tu
i:y n?ehst[12] need + French tu
o ofer, sceolde, heofon[11] similar to thorn
o: ?þer, m?dor door
u under, geong, lufu[11] root
u: ?t mood
y scyld, yfel as in French 'tu'
y: f?r as in French 'tu' but longer


  1. ^ Old English had geminate (double) consonants, which were pronounced longer than single consonants. Double consonants were written with double consonant letters. The double consonants in ⟨habban, missan⟩ can be transcribed with the length symbol ⟨:⟩ or by doubling the consonant symbol: ['h?b:?n 'mis:?n] or ['h?bb?n 'miss?n]. The doubled affricate in ⟨?icce⟩ should be transcribed as ['witt?e] or ['wit:?e], with the stop portion of the affricate doubled.
  2. ^ a b c The phoneme /h/ had three allophones that diverged in the later language: it was pronounced word-initially, when it was single and after a front vowel and otherwise.
  3. ^ a b c d e f ? s?⟩, with a dot above, represent the postalveolar sibilants /t? d? ?/ in modern renditions but not in the original manuscripts. ⟨?⟩ usually represents the palatal approximant /j/ but represents /d?/ after ⟨n⟩. /t? ?/ developed from /k sk/ by palatalization in Anglo-Frisian, but /d? j/ developed partly from Proto-Germanic *j and partly from the palatalization of /g/. Here and in some modern texts, the palatal and postalveolar consonants are marked with a dot above the letter, but in manuscripts, they were written as ⟨c g sc⟩ and so were not distinguished from the velars [k g ?] and the cluster [sk].
  4. ^ a b c d e f s f ð þ⟩ represented voiceless fricatives /s f ?/ at the beginning and the end of a word or when doubled in the middle but represented voiced fricatives /z v ð/ when single, between voiced sounds.
  5. ^ a b x⟩ represented the cluster /ks/, as Modern English still does.
  6. ^ a b /r/ and /l/ probably had velarised allophones [r?] and [?] before a consonant and in some words in which they were geminated. The initial clusters written r? and l? also represented those sounds, and the distinction was then phonemic.
  7. ^ a b c d The sonorants /r l n w/ had voiceless versions [l? r? n? ?], which developed from the consonant clusters [xl xr xn xw].
  8. ^ a b The exact nature of the rhotic /r/ is unknown. It may have been a trill , a tap or, as in most dialects of Modern English, an approximant or .
  9. ^ The letter W did not exist in the Dark Ages, when Old English was spoken. Scribes used the borrowed Runic letter Wynn, .
  10. ^ Old English had a distinction between long and short vowels in stressed syllables. Long monophthongs are marked by placing the length symbol ⟨:⟩ after the vowel symbol, and long diphthongs are marked by placing the length symbol after the first vowel symbol. In unstressed syllables, only three vowels /?, e, u/ were distinguished, but /e, u/ were pronounced i, o in certain words.
  11. ^ a b c Sometimes after the palatalized consonants ⟨? ? s?⟩, ⟨eo⟩ represented /u/ or /o/ and ⟨ea⟩ represented /?/.
  12. ^ a b The diphthongs ⟨ie ?e⟩ occurred in West Saxon and may have been pronounced /ie i:e/ or /iy i:y/.

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