Northumbrian dialect

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Northumbrian was a dialect of the Old English language 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 and Bede's Death Song. 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 Leiden Riddle[1] and the glosses in the Lindisfarne Gospels (mid 10th century).

The Viking invasion forced the dialect to split in two, the southern Northumbrian dialect was heavily influenced by Norse and the northern Northumbrian dialect not only retained a lot of the Old English words but was also a strong influence on the development of the English language in northern England, especially the dialects of modern North East England and Scotland. The north-south split was around the Tees river.[citation needed]

Scots (including Ulster Scots) is descended from the Northumbrian dialect,[2] as is 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 arðin 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.


  1. ^ In MS. Voss. lat. Q. 166 at the University of Leiden, 9th century (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)