Researchers on the renowned lexicographic project that covers the English language from 600 to 1150 AD found a heavy preponderance of "for" compounds such as forgive and forgotten. "It seemed like there was this ever-expanding list of compounds starting with 'for,'" says Professor Antonette di Paolo Healey, DOE editor. "It took us by surprise." Another unexpected finding involved the commonly used modern English phrase "to be on fire," she notes.
The expression, long believed to have originated in Middle English, was discovered in an Old English quotation.
The basic structure of Modern English and some of its vocabulary are derived from this earliest period of our language when the alphabet had only 22 letters, notes di Paolo Healey. "Language is a conveyor of culture and, through it, we have a better understanding of our social, political and intellectual institutions. It reminds us where we came from or, in Robertson Davies' words, tells us what's bred in the bone."
The DOE project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
CONTACT: Professor Antonette di Paolo Healey, Dictionary of Old English, 416-978-8883, firstname.lastname@example.org or Michah Rynor, U of T public affairs, 416-978-2104, email@example.com
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