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Table X - sound & spelling changes OE > eME

from Old English (early West Saxon) to Early Middle English (East Midland c 1200)

The main developments - a summary:


Peterborough Chronicle (EM 1154)
Ormulum (EM 1161)
Owl & Nightingale (SE 1200?)
Layamon (WM 1220?)
Ancrene Wisse (WM 1220?)
Proclamation of Henry III (SW 1258)
Sir Orfeo (EM 1300?)
Chaucer (EM 1368)
Early Middle English
Old English
Modern English
Comparison Table
sound (change)2 OE spelling eME spelling OE examples eME equivalents PC2/Orm Ch ModE
/a/ > /a:/ a + ng a__ + ng strang, lang (o) stra__ng, la__ng lange stroong, long(e) strong, long 3
/ae/ > /a/ ae a waes, t`aet, aet was, t`at, at was, t`at, at was, that, at was, that, at
/ae:/ > /e/ ae_ + g` e + y% 9 ae_g`t`er ey%t`er ey%y%t`err, eit`er Owl eyther either
/ae:/ > /a/ ae_ + fd/st a + fd/st lae_fdig`e, lae_stan lafdiy%, lasten laffdiy%, lastede lady, laste(n) lady, last
/ae:/ > /E`:/ ae_ ae sae_, wae_pen, hae_lan, lae_dan sae, waepen, haelen, laeden laed, laeden Lmn - sea, weapon, heal, lead
/k/ c + e/i/y k + e/i cynn, cy_t`an, ascian kinn, ki__t`en , asken kinn, kit`enn aske(n) kin, ask
/k/ c final k 11 a_c, bo_c, e_ac (e_c) a__k, bo__k, e__k ac, boc (boke), ec book book
/tS`/ > /k/ c` + ea c + a c`ealf calf callf - calf 4
/E`A`/ > /a/ ea a eall, c`ealf, g`eaf all, calf, y%af all, iaf all, yaf all, calf
/E`:A`/ > /E`:/ e_a ae g`e_ar, e_ar y%aer, aer gaer, aer ye(e)r, ere year
/E`A`/ > /e/ ea + h e + h eahta ehte ey`te PH3 eight eight
/E`:A`/ > /e:/ e_a + h (g, c) e__ + h (g, k) ne_ah, he_ah, e_agen, e_ac ne__h, he__h, e__gen, e__k neh, heh, ey%h`ne, ec negh, heigh, eyghen, eek nigh, high, eye
/E`A`/ > /a:/ ea + ld a__ + ld eald, healdan a__ld, ha__lden ald, haldenn oold, holde(n) old, hold
/e:/ > /e/ e_ + g` e + y% 9 be_g`en, twe_g`en bey%en, twey%en beien, bey%y%en, twey%y%enn - -
/eo/ > /2`/ > /e/ eo e eort`e, heorte, feoh ert`e, herte, fe__ ert`e, he(o)rrte, fehh erthe, herte earth, heart, fee
/e:o/ > /2`:/ > /e:/ e_o e__ t`e_ostrode, le_of, le_oma t`e__strede, le__f, le__me t`estrede, le(o)me leef -
/j/ g` y% ong`e_an, g`i_et, manig`, daeg`, pleg`an, weg`, manig` ony%aen, y%e__t, maniy%, day%, pley%en, wey%, maniy% onny%aen, y%et, daei, day%y%, maniy% ayen, yet, day, wey, many yet, day, play, way, many
/j@`/ > /i:/ g`e (prefix) i g`ehwilc`, g`ehaten, g`ecleoped ihwilc, ihaten, icleped iwhillc, y%ehatenn which, yclept which
/h/ > /-/ h + l/n/r l/n/r hlae_fdig`e, hnesce, hreowsung lafdiy%, nesce, rewsing laffdiy%, nesshe, rewwsunng lady lady
/i@`/ > /e/ ie e g`iefan, g`ieman, wiersa y%efen, y%emen, werse y%emenn, y%ifenn, waerse yeve(n), werse(e)  
/i:@`/ > /e:/ i_e e__ hi_eran, a_nli_epig` he__ren, a__nle__piy% anlepiy% he(e)ren hear
/i/ > /i:/ i + ld/nd i__ + ld/nd c`ild, findan ci__ld, fi__nden child, findenn /i:/ child, fynde(n) child, find /ai/
/u/ > /u:/ u + nd u__ + nd hund, g`efunden hu__nd, ifu__nden hund /u:/   hound, found
/y/ > /i/ y i hyll, synn hill, sinn hill, sinne synne /i/ hill, sin
/y:/ > /i:/ y_ i__ my_s, fy_r mi__s, fi__r fir fyr(e) /i:/ mice, fire /ai/
/y/ > /i:/ y + nd i__ + nd cynd ki__nd kinde /i:/   kind /ai/
One-off or infrequent changes
sound OE spelling alt. eME spelling OE examples eME equivalents PC2/Orm Ch ModE
/e:/ > /e/ e_ + pt/tt e + pt/tt ce_pte, me_tte kepte, mette keppte met kept, met
/i@`/ > /e:/ ie + ld e__ + ld bieldan be__lden beldenn - -
/ij@`/ > /ij/ ig`e iy% 10 hlae_fdig`e, Fri_g`edaeg` lafdiy%, Friy%day% laffdiy%, Fridaei lady, Friday lady, Friday
/indg/ > /ing/ i + ndg i + ng 8 mindgian mingen mynged Gaw, mingen MED - -
/o:/ > /O`/ o_ + ht o + ht t`o_hte t`ohte t`ohhte   thought
/u:/ > /u/ u_ + st/ht u + st/ht du_st, t`u_hte dust, t`uhte dusst   dust
Special cases: WS ae_ = A e_, WS e_oh = A i_h and dual stems
sound OE spelling alt. eME spelling OE examples eME equivalents PC2/Orm Ch ModE
/ae:/ > /e:/5 ae_ e__ 5 dae_d, ae_fen, ae_l, grae_dig`, nae_dl, sae_d, slae_pan, strae_t 5 de__d, e__fen, e__l, gre__diy%, ne__del, se__d, sle__pen, stre__t 5 dede, efenn, nedle, sed, slepen de(e)de, se(e)d, strete, sle(e)p deed, eve, eel, greedy, needle, seed, sleep, street 5
/e:o/ > /i:/ e_o + h i__ + h we_oh, le_oh imp sg, fe_ol (< *fi_hlu), t`e_on, wre_on12 wi__h, li__h, fi__l, t`i__(g)en, wri__(g)en wriy`en Lmn, wrihen AW wry, wrien wry obs
/h/ > /-/ h final e/- 7 feoh, sc`o_h, mearh, seolh, wealh, feorh fe__, sco__, mare, sele, wale, fere fehh, fe dat, sco nom fee, sho(o), mare fee, shoe, mare, seal, Wales, walnut
/-(@`)/ > /G``@`/ h final + (e)(s) g final + e(s) 7 e_ales, e_os, e_oles, fe_ares, he_ales, ho_res, se_ales, slo_s, wo_s gen sg alges, eges, elkes, farges, halges, horges, salges, slo__ges, wo__ges woy%h`e, woge dat, iferhet AW slow/slough elk, farrow, slough
/u/ (-) > /w@`/ u (-) final -ew 6 sinu, stre_a, mae_d, sc`eadu, lae_s, beadu, bearu, searu, nom sg sinew, straw, maedew, scadew, laesew, badew, barew, sarew, schadewe AW synwes, shad(e)we, medewe sinew, straw, meadow, shadow, leasow obs
/w@`/(s) > /@`/(s) we(s) final -es 6 cneowes, hleowes, melwes, smerwes, teorwes, treowes, bealwes gen sg cne__s, le__s, meles, smeres, teres, tre__s, bales mele, smere acc bale dat knee's, lee's, meal's, smear's, tar's, tree's, bale's


  1. and less frequently or consistently, before mb and rd as well
  2. the values assigned to OE diphthongs in this table are often approximations and/or simplifications; greater detail is given in the development of sounds from OE in this site; however for a clearer and more accurate picture of OE sounds, please consult Lass 1, particulaly the chapter on Phonology & Morphology, or Wikipedia's Old English Phonology, or a reputable OE grammar
  3. but OE sang ( of singan) > ModE sang
  4. but OE c`ealc > ModE chalk
  5. ModE test; rule is as follows: where OE has ae_ and ModE has ee, eME has e_; most common affected forms are listed given here;
    note: the usual reflex of OE ae_ is ModE ea, e.g. sae_, wae_pen > sea, weapon; however OE WS ae_ appeared as e_ in OE A in a small number of words where the ancestral vowel was WGmc or Lat a_;
  6. see wa- and wo-stems; if no pre-1250 simplification, ModE test applies: final -u > -e where ModE has reflex without final -ow, otherwise -u > -we; complete list of affected forms is given here;
  7. see a-stem nouns ending in <h>; if no pre-1250 simplification, ModE test applies: final -h drops where ModE has reflex without final -gh or -ow; otherwise -h remains and gen & pl are formed with -g; complete list of affected forms is given here;
  8. see reduction of consonant clusters; note - this sound change is not covered in Johannesson 2
  9. eME ay% and ey%, regardless of origin, had probably become the diphthongs /ai:/ and /ei:/ respectively, by the end of the 12th century; this is reflected in the alt eME spelling variant
  10. eME iy%, regardless of origin, had probably dropped the yod to become /i:/ by the end of the 12th century; this is reflected in the alt eME spelling variant
  11. k is used for /k/ at the end of a word in the default spelling of this site, since final c represents /tS`/
  12. the OE verbs cited here are derived from primitive OE forms *li_han, *t`i_han, *wri_han; OE i_h changed to i_oh then e_oh in WS before the intervocalic <h> was dropped; that vowel change didn't happen in A; see notes for Optional grammar - contracted verbs in eME;
Changed spelling in alternate eME
sound OE spelling alt. eME spelling OE examples alt. eME equivalents PC2/Orm Ch ModE
/tS`/ c` ch ciric`e, c`i_ese, c`ild, g`emaec`c`a chirche, che__se , chi__ld, macche circe, caese, child, macche chirche, chese church, cheese, child, match
/cw/ cw qu cweartern, cwec`c`an, cwellan, cwe_me quartern, quecchen, quellen, que__me quarterne PC2, cwarterrne (qu) Orm, quarterne Lmn, cwarterne AW, quecchen (cw) Lmn, quich AW, cwellen Orm, quellen Lmn, cwemenn Orm, queme (cw) Lmn, queme Owl quelle, quemen quitch, quell
/v/ f (intervocalic) v de_ofol, ae_fre de__vel, aevre deofell, deoules, aefre, aeure devel, ever(e) devil, ever
/G``/ g (medial) y% a_gen, bolgen, lagu a__y`en, boly`en, lay`e ay%h`enn, bolly%h`enn, lay%h`e owen, lawe own, law
/xw/ hw wh hwaet, hwa_, hwi_l what, wha__, hwi__l whatt, wha, whil what, who, whil(e) what, who, while


  1. Lass, Roger. The Cambridge History of the English Language Volume II 1066-1479, Cambridge University Press 1992
  2. Johannesson, Nils-Lennart. East Midland dialect features, formerly housed at the Orrmulum Project. NB - follow the numbered links for details on Phonology and the lengthening and shortening of vowels. Installing fonts will make these pages easier to read.