Noun Exercise

            Now that the pronouns in riddle eight have been identified, we can begin looking at the nouns in the passage. The words emphasized in red are nouns which we will explore in further detail with the help of the noun paradigms and glossary in your main text.

Riddle 8  
  Hrgl mīn swīgađ     onne ic hrūsan trede
  oe ā wīc būge      oe wado drēfe.
Hwilum mec āhebbađ        ofer hlea byht
  hyrste mīne      ond ēos hēa lyft,
(5) ond mec onne wīde wolcna strengu
  ofer folc byređ.     Frtwe mīne
  swōgađ hlūde    ond swinsiađ,
  torhte singađ,      onne ic getenge ne bēom
  flōde ond foldan,      fērende gst.

       

            Looking at each noun in detail we will unpack what information each inflection is giving us. Remember, every inflection or lack thereof is a clue as to how the noun is functioning in the sentence. The translations of the following words can be found in any Old English glossary.

            In line one we have the noun hrgl, which can be translated garment, covering or clothes. This particular noun has no inflected ending or alteration to the root-word, a good indicator of its nominative case and function. It stands in the sentence unchanged in its basic nominative singular neuter state. Being nominative, as you recall, the word is acting as the subject of the verb or the thing that is performing the action in the sentence. Also in line one we find the noun hrūsan, which means ground or earth. As we can tell from looking at the noun paradigms, hrūse is a weak feminine noun because of its -an ending. In this particular sentence it happens to be accusative singular and is, therefore, the direct object of the verb.

            In line two the noun wic is present. Wic can be translated into the modern day English word abode. This noun is in its nominative singular neuter form and is, therefore, the subject of the verb. The next noun, wado, means water or sea. This particular word is neuter and experiences a change in the stem from its original root word, wd. As we can tell from looking at the paradigm of strong nouns, the -o inflection on the end combined with the stem change indicate that the word is plural. In this sentence it is performing its accusative function, as it is the direct object of the verb.

            The third line begins with hwilum, which is a feminine noun in its dative plural form. The -um suffix dictates this information and the glossary tells us that the word means time or while.  Line three also has two nouns directly beside one another. Hlea means warrior or man and it has an -a inflection, indicating that it is genitive plural masculine and therefore possessive. Byht can be translated as dwelling and is a neuter noun; in this sentence it is acting as the accusative plural. As we can see from the paradigm of strong nouns byht is a long-stemmed noun and therefore experiences no inflection in the plural form. Because it is in the accusative, this noun is the direct object of the verb. We know, therefore, that this sentence has something to do with mens dwellings or the dwellings of men.

            The fourth line contains the noun hyrste which experiences an -e inflection, indicating to the reader that the word is feminine and both nominative and plural. Hyrste is, therefore, the  subject of the verb; in Modern English it means ornament or trappings. The other noun in this line is Lyft, which translates air, sky or atmosphere. It is a feminine noun in its nominative singular form and experiences no inflection. Both words are subjects of the main verb in this clause.

            In line five we find the noun wolcna, which means cloud or sky. In its infinitive it is spelt wolcen but undergoes an inflection and gains the ending -an. This makes it a strong masculine noun and also genitive plural. The other noun in this line is strengu which translates strength or power. Referring to the paradigm we can tell from the -u ending that this is a strong feminine noun it its nominative singular form. This strength, therefore, is the thing that is performing the action in the sentence.  

            Line six contains two nouns, the first being the neuter noun folc, which refers to a people, a tribe or mankind. This noun does not experience any inflection and is in its nominative singular neuter form, making it the subject of the verb. The second noun is frtwe, and by looking at the noun paradigms, we can see that it is a strong feminine noun. In this sentence it is nominative and plural, also acting as the subject of the verb and meaning ornaments when translated.

            Although lines seven and eight contain no nouns, the last line contains the noun flōde which means body of water, stream or sea. Its ending undergoes an -e inflection which demonstrates to us that it is a dative singular masculine noun. The noun foldan is also in this line and translates to ground, earth or soil in Modern English. In its nominative singular form it is spelt folde but experiences and -an inflection indicating that it is a singular feminine noun that is in its accusative form. The last noun is the word gst, which translates into spirit, ghost or angel. This word experiences no inflection and is therefore in its nominative singular masculine form and is the subject of the verb.

            As complicated as this information might at first seem, try to identify each word separately and examine it. Uncover all the grammatical information for each individual word and then put it all the pieces together to analyze the text as a whole. Do not attempt to memorize every noun paradigm, but rather refer to the paradigms as you translate. Try to understand what each inflection means and why a noun is of the particular case it is. As you refer to your textbook you will slowly become familiar with the endings of the nouns. Always remember that practice makes perfect and that the best way to learn Old English is to repeat, repeat, repeat!

            Thus far this is the information we have discovered. Nouns are in red and pronouns are in blue. The Modern English meaning of the words are provided beside the Old English text. The letters in brackets are representative of the grammatical information we have already deciphered. Nsn, for example, stands for nominative singular neuter.

Riddle 8 Translation
  Hrgl mīn swīgađ     onne ic hrūsan trede covering [nsn], my [gs], I [ns]   earth [asf] 
  oe ā wīc būge      oe wado drēfe.  the [af], abode [nsn], water [apn]
  Hwilum mec āhebbađ        ofer hlea byht  time [dp], me  [as], man [gpm], dwelling [apn]
  hyrste mīne      ond ēos hēa lyft, trapping [npf], my [gs], this  [nf], air [nsf]  
(5) ond mec onne wīde wolcna strengu me [as], sky [gpm], strength [nsf]
  ofer folc byređ.     Frtwe mīne mankind [nsn], trapping [npf], my [np]
  swōgađ hlūde    ond swinsiađ,  
  torhte singađ,      onne ic getenge ne bēom I [ns]
  flōde ond foldan,      fērende gst. sea [dsm], soil [asf], spirit [nsm]

 

            Slowly but surely our translation is coming together. Now that we are aware of the pronouns and nouns in this passage we need to identify the verbs. In the next exercise we will find out what actions are taking place in this text.

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