There’s a great deal of useful information at the pronunciation page of Syd Allan’s Beowulf site, which itself looks quite valuable:

These pages present work done by translators of Old English, and Beowulf scholars. I am a Beowulf hobbyist (how nerdy can you get!) and not an expert on Anglo-Saxon literature or translation. But I do own about 140 books on Beowulf and related topics, and I have tried to present information that will help others to get started in their studying of the poem…
I currently have 93 translations of Beowulf, and links on this site to images of the book covers and information about each book. Forty percent of the translations have not been transcribed yet, but I have transcribed all version published before 1902, and after 1998, and almost half of the ones in between.

The pronunciation page quotes some basic information about the OE writing system and poetic meter, and links to much more. (Via No-sword.)


  1. It’s amazing how people can actually dedicate their life to such a specific bit of human life and culture… I don’t think it makes them narrow-minded. I find it entirely admirable.

  2. Me too.

  3. It feels great to know that such people still exist in the world. Good job!

  4. Yeah, this is exactly the kind of thing I want the internet to be. I don’t really care much for videos and streaming things, but people presenting hard-to-find text and images on interesting but obscure topics in exhaustive detail… that’s where it’s at. (And the fact that even in the age of the blog he’s so modest is very refreshing.)

  5. Medievalists were apparently among the first to utilize the internet effectively. One thing that they’ve done is post a lot of obscure texts and translations which are only of interest to a few people, but which might be quite important for special purposes.
    For example, the translation of Cosmas Indicopleustes, the 6th-century flat-earth-theorist and geographer.
    To me this should be the research library of the future. A lot of obscure journals only are carried by a few hundred libraries worldwide, or even a few dozen, so stuff gets lost.

  6. I would’ve loved to have had, some ten years ago, such easy access to Old and Middle English text as we can find today on the Internet. And it’s not only a question of access to the material itself, it’s also having it in electronic form. I could have gone through those Paston Papers and Cely Letters so much the faster, leaving more time to the actual research.

  7. Random tangental question; is there an accepted pronunciation of the family’s name when it comes to the Cely letters? My Sprachgefühl said /kelɪ/ when I encountered it in a diachronics class at Louvain-la-Neuve; my professor wasn’t sure.

  8. I would have assumed /seli/; /ke-/ seems an odd pronunciation for ce- in both French and English. But this is the first I’ve heard of them, so I await more informed responses.

  9. Ah, excuse me, I didn’t mean to imply they had anything to do with the French-speaking world. They were a wool-trading family of (apparently) Cornish background; they travelled a lot between England, Flanders and Calais (then often a Dutch-speaking English posession). Absolutely, /ke-/ for <ce> is odd in English today; but almost all of the words where <ce> or <ci> arise are of Romance origin, something which the family name probably isn’t.

  10. But why would they have spelled it with c- if it was pronounced /k-/? What models would they have had?

  11. Older English practice? (Would need to be combined with mild affectation, I suppose.) I was about to suggest older Cornish practice, but on looking up the mediaeval Cornish I can find online [I can find Mediaeval Cornish in three minutes' searching! These are halcyon days.], <ce> is only used for “certan”, apparently borrowed from French.
    The OED’s entries for words starting with ke- and ki- of any vintage show a sharp break in the spelling after the Norman conquest—I can’t find any of them with spellings of <ce> or <ci> after 1066. And the Celys had lots to do with the ruling classes, where this tendency will have been at its strongest. So I’m now tending to think my feeling for the language was off in this, which is something I can live with, happily my continued existence doesn’t depend on understanding and producing Middle English :-) .

  12. Hanks and Hodges says Cely = Sealey < OE. sælig ‘happy’ > Mod. E. silly. So pre-Norman and almost certainly soft.

  13. Ah, excellent! Thank you, MMcM. The German „selig“ has been in my consciousness a lot lately, my flatmate is prone to facetiousness in a liturgical direction—the connection between it and the letters cheers me up immensely, for no reason I can fathom, but nonetheless it does.

  14. I add my thanks, and I’ll have to get a copy of that book — I love their dictionary of first names.

Speak Your Mind