1. Describe some examples of how Scandinavian/Old Norse influenced English, in terms
of both vocabulary and grammar. From the kinds of Scandinavian loanwords that
ended up in English, what conclusions can you draw about the kinds of contact that
Scandinavians had with English people?
Read Box 4.3, pages 94-95, in David Crystal’s The Stories of English, which
contains three Old English riddles, and answer the following questions. As you
read, try to guess the answers to the riddles, too! To see if your guess is correct,
look at Crystal, page 539, Note 4 in the Chapter 4 section.
2. In Riddle 43, look at the phrase “wrætlice wyrd.” Wrætlice (adj.) means strange,
wondrous, curious. Wyrd (noun) means event, phenomenon, occurrence.
a. What modern English word is wyrd related to? Look up that word in the OED
and list the definition number (e.g. “adv., 8c”) that applies to the use of wyrd
in Riddle 43.
b. Which of the following types of meaning change do you think best describes
how the meaning of wyrd has changed since Anglo-Saxon times, and why?
narrowing, widening, metaphorical extension, or shift
c. The complete phrase me þæt þuhte wrætlice wyrd is called an “impersonal”
construction, literally to me it seemed a strange event. It’s impersonal
because the grammatical subject is “it,” although “me” is the person really
doing the thinking. (As an interesting side note, this phrasing is fossilized in
the archaic-sounding word “methinks.”) When me þuhte is used in this way,
the object, wrætlice wyrd, is in the dative case.
Using the table of sample adjective endings (Van Gelderen 66), can you guess
what gender the noun wyrd is?
3. In Riddle 32, are there any Old English words you can identify because they seem
similar to modern English words? Which ones, and why?
4. What conclusions about Anglo-Saxon culture can you draw from the content and
tone of these poems?
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