The tables below show how the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) represents Old English pronunciations in Wikipedia articles. 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.
- 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 ⟨ː⟩ or by doubling the consonant symbol: [ˈhɑbːɑn ˈmisːɑn] or [ˈhɑbbɑn ˈmissɑn]. The doubled affricate in ⟨wiċċe⟩ should be transcribed as [ˈwittʃe] or [ˈwitːʃe], with the stop portion of the affricate doubled.
- The phoneme /h/ had three allophones that diverged in the later language: it was pronounced [h] word-initially, [ç] when it was single and after a front vowel and [x] otherwise.
- ⟨ċ ċġ sċ⟩, with a dot above, represent the postalveolar sibilants /tʃ dʒ ʃ/. ⟨ġ⟩ usually represents the palatal approximant /j/ but represents /dʒ/ after ⟨n⟩. /tʃ ʃ/ developed from /k sk/ by palatalization in Anglo-Frisian, but /dʒ 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 thus not distinguished from the velars [k g ɣ] and the cluster [sk].
- ⟨s f ð þ⟩ represented voiceless fricatives /s f θ/ at the beginning and the end of a word or when doubled but represented voiced fricatives /z v ð/ when single, between voiced sounds.
- ⟨x⟩ represented the cluster /ks/, as Modern English still does.
- /r/ and /l/ probably had velarised allophones [rˠ] and [ɫ] before a consonant and in some words in which they were geminated. The initial clusters written ⟨wr⟩ and ⟨wl⟩ also represented the sounds, and the distinction was then phonemic.
- The sonorants /r l n w/ had voiceless versions [l̥ r̥ n̥ ʍ], which developed from the consonant clusters [xl xr xn xw].
- The exact nature of the rhotic /r/ is unknown. It may have been a trill [r], a tap [ɾ] or, as in most dialects of Modern English, an approximant [ɹ] or [ɻ].
- Old English had a distinction between long and short vowels in stressed syllables. Long monophthongs are marked by placing the length symbol ⟨ː⟩ 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 /ɑ, e, u/ were distinguished, but /e, u/ were pronounced i, o in certain words.
- Sometimes after the palatalized consonants ⟨ċ ġ sċ⟩, ⟨eo⟩ represented /u/ or /o/ and ⟨ea⟩ represented /ɑ/.
- The diphthongs ⟨ie īe⟩ occurred in West Saxon and may have been pronounced /ie iːe/ or /iy iːy/.