Northumbrian Old English

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Northumbrian was a dialect of Old English spoken in the Anglian Kingdom of Northumbria. Together with Mercian, Kentish and West Saxon, it forms one of the sub-categories of Old English devised and employed by modern scholars.

The dialect was spoken from the Humber, now within England, to the Firth of Forth, now within Scotland. During the Viking invasions of the 9th century, Northumbrian came under the influence of the languages of the Viking invaders.

The earliest surviving Old English texts were written in Northumbrian: these are Caedmon's Hymn (7th century) and Bede's Death Song (8th century). Other works, including the bulk of Caedmon's poetry, have been lost. Other examples of this dialect are the Runes on the Ruthwell Cross from the Dream of the Rood. Also in Northumbrian are the 9th-century Leiden Riddle[1] and the mid-10th-century gloss of the Lindisfarne Gospels.

The Viking invasion forced a division of the dialect into two distinct subdialects. South of the River Tees, the southern Northumbrian version was heavily influenced by Norse, while northern Northumbrian retained many Old English words lost to the southern subdialect and influenced the development of English in northern England, especially the dialects of modern North East England and Scotland.[citation needed] In addition, Scots (including Ulster Scots) is descended from the Northumbrian dialect,[2] as is modern Northumbrian and other dialects of Northern English.

The Lord's Prayer[edit]

Some Scottish and Northumbrian folk still say /uːr ˈfeðər/ or /uːr ˈfɪðər/ "our father" and [ðuː eːrt] "thou art".[3]

FADER USÆR ðu arð in heofnu
Sie gehalgad NOMA ÐIN.
Tocymeð RÍC ÐIN.
suæ is in heofne and in eorðo.
HLAF USERNE of'wistlic sel ús todæg,
and f'gef us SCYLDA USRA,
suæ uoe f'gefon SCYLDGUM USUM.
And ne inlæd usih in costunge,
ah gefrig usich from yfle.[citation needed]


  1. ^ In MS. Voss. lat. Q. 166 at the University of Leiden (see article by R. W. Zandvoort in English and Germanic Studies, vol. 3 (1949-50))
  2. ^ "Ulster-Scots Language". 2012-01-30. Retrieved 2012-12-30.
  3. ^ Gray, Alasdair, The Book of Prefaces, Bloomsbury Publishing, London 2000 (2002 edition) ISBN 0-7475-5912-0

Further reading[edit]

  • Sweet, H., ed. (1885) The Oldest English Texts: glossaries, the Vespasian Psalter, and other works written before A.D. 900. London: for the Early English Text Society
  • Sweet, H., ed. (1946) Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Reader; 10th ed., revised by C. T. Onions. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ("Northumbrian texts"—pp. 166–169)