After defeating the Danes, King Alfred set about reforming the educational system of Wessex. His reforms promoted English to an unprecedented level. His reforms required the translation of many texts from Latin to English, and Alfred himself assisted with those translations. He also issued a new legal code and initiated the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. One of Alfred’s goals was the unification of the Anglo-Saxon people under Wessex leadership, so we explore the history of English words related to unity.
In this bonus episode, Kevin Stroud discusses the new audiobook, “Beowulf Deconstructed.” An excerpt from the audiobook is included.
King Alfred is the only English monarch to be known as “the Great.” His struggles and ultimate victory over the Danes ensured the survival of the Anglo-Saxon culture and the English language. In this episode, we explore the life of King Alfred and the historical events which led to the defeat of the Danes in Wessex. We also explore the history of certain words related to topography.
In this episode, we look at the English terms associated with kings and nobility and explore the concept of Anglo-Saxon kingship. We also look at the poetry of the 9th century poet Cynewulf. The link between kings and Cynewulf is a shared root word which gave us the modern word ‘kin.’ Lastly, we examine the initial phases of Viking raids in Francia and Britain.
At the end of the 8th century, Western Europe saw its most powerful kings to date. That included Charlemagne in Francia and Offa in Britain. Those kings shared a close relationship which extended to their currency. The establishment of an official currency in both kingdoms spurred trade in northern Europe. And the remote beneficiaries of that trade were the Scandinavians. Meanwhile, Charlemagne’s reforms in Francia led to the emergence of the Carolingian Renaissance. In this episode, we explore the impact of these events on the English language.
The modern French language evolved from a Latin dialect spoken in Gaul during the period of the late Roman Empire. That language ultimately became mixed with Old English after the Norman Conquest of 1066. Approximately half of the words in conversational English come from French. So in this episode, we explore the ultimate origins of the early Romance dialect known as ‘Old French.’ We also examine the impact which the early French language had on English. And along the way, we look at the evolution of the Frankish kingdom from Clovis to Charlemagne.
Many Anglo-Saxons believed in a world inhabited by monsters and mythological creatures. They also believed in the power of sorcery and witchcraft. These ideas are reflected in the literature of the Anglo-Saxons, most notably the epic poem Beowulf. In this episode, we explore the monsters and mythological creatures of the Anglo-Saxons and their ancestors.
The Viking-era states of Denmark, Sweden and Norway emerged from several North Germanic tribes in Scandinavia. These tribes also included the Geats who were prominently featured in Beowulf. In this episode, we explore the early history of these tribes and discuss the historical context of Beowulf. We also explore how the Old Norse language of the Vikings impacted the Old English language of the Anglo-Saxons.
In this bonus episode we explore a few odds and ends which didn’t make into the earlier episodes. We examine the Old English words related to knowledge and wisdom. And we also look at the original terms for the fingers.
The Anglo-Saxons created new words within Old English through the use of compound words, as well as standard prefixes and suffixes. This process expanded the vocabulary of Old English and enabled the language to emerge as an important literary language. In this episode, we explore many of the words created in this manner during the period of Old English.