Reverse detail from Kakelbont MS 1, a fifteenth-century French Psalter. This image is in the public domain. Daniel Paul O'Donnell

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English 3450a: Introductory Old English (Fall 2007)

Posted: Sep 03, 2007 17:09;
Last Modified: Apr 30, 2008 13:04


About this course

This course introduces students to Old English, the main ancestor of Present Day English and the language of daily life in England during the Anglo-Saxon period (approximately CE 449 to 1200).

Learning goals

Our principal task will be to learn the language. Old English is an ancestor to the language we currently speak and the source of much of our core vocabulary. But its grammar is quite different from that of Present Day English and Old English as a result must be learned as a foreign language. In the course of the year we will study and practice Old English (and Modern English) Grammar, Phonology (the study of the sounds of the language), and script (the way it is written). Most of our time, however, will be spent translating selected prose texts from Old to Present Day English.

By the end of the course, students should be able to

  1. translate Old English prose comfortably with the aid of a dictionary
  2. read Old English texts aloud
  3. understand basic aspects of Old English grammar and (when relevant) Modern English.
  4. transcribe short passages from facsimiles of Old English manuscripts.

Although it will not be the main focus of the course, students will also be expected to have some knowledge of the history of the period and the scope and place of vernacular literature in Anglo-Saxon culture.

This course is suitable for students who have an intrinsic interest in the language, literature, or history of Anglo-Saxon England, or who wish to know more about the earliest stage of the English language and its earliest literary monuments. The course is also suitable preparation for students with more specific advanced interests in early British history, archaeology, literature, or philology.



Assignment Value
Quizzes 5%
Pronunciation Test 10%
Test 1: Inflections, Personal Pronouns, Masculine Strong Nouns, Demonstrative Pronouns (Week 5) 10%
Paleography Exercise 10%
Test 2: Conjugations and Declensions (Week 9) 10%
Presentation (due on date agreed in class) 10%
Essay (due last class) 15%
Final Exam 30%

General policies

The following policies will be followed in all my classes unless otherwise announced. You are expected to be familiar with these policies and any other documents cited here. Failure to conform to these policies may result in your grade being lowered.

Grade scale

The University of Lethbridge keeps track of student performance using a letter and grade point system (See section 4 of the University Calendar). Instructors assign students a letter grade at the end of each course (the University does not issue or keep track of mid-term grades). These letter grades are converted to a numerical value (a Grade Point) for assessing overall academic performance (a Grade Point Average or GPA). The University does not record percentage-type grades and does not have a fixed scale for conversion from percentage scores to letter grades and grade points. Each instructor is responsible for determining their own methodology for determining students’ final letter grade.

In my classes, I use the following letter-grade to percentage correspondences:

  Excellent Good Satisfactory Poor Minimal pass Failing
Letter A+ A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D+ D F
Percent range 100-94 93-90 89-86 85-82 81-78 77-74 73-70 69-66 65-62 61-58 57-50 49-0
Conventional value 100 92 88 84 80 76 72 68 64 60 56 49-0
Grade point 4.0 3.7 3.3 3.0 2.7 2.3 2.0 1.7 1.3 1.0 0

How your grade is determined depends on the type of work being assessed. Tests of specific skills or knowledge (such as identification questions in literature classes, or fact-oriented tests in my grammar and language classes) are usually assigned a numeric score which is easily converted to a percentage. Essays, presentations, and other performance-oriented tests are usually graded by letter. I convert letter grades to percentages by taking the median value in each grade-range, and rounding up to the nearest whole percent. The only exceptions are A+ (which is converted to 100%), and F (which is converted to an arbitrary percentage between 0% and 49% based on my estimation of the work’s quality). These scores can be found in the conventional value row of the above table.

In marking work I try to keep the University’s official description of these grades in mind (a description can be found in the University Calendar, Part IV.3.a). If you get an A it means your work is excellent; a B means your work is good; a C means it is satisfactory; a D that it is poor; and an F that it is failing to meet University-level standards.

Class schedule

The following schedule is intended to help you plan your work for this course.

Week Date Topic Readings Due
1 Mon. 3/9 Labour Day (no class)
Wed. 5/9 Syllabus
Introduction: The Anglo-Saxon Period: Historical, Literary, and Linguistic overview (lecture)
Fri. 7/9 Introduction: Spelling and Pronunciation §§ 1-4: About Old English; §§ 5-9: Orthography and Pronunciation 1.a Practice Sentences
2 Mon. 10/9     1.b Practice Sentences
Wed. 12/9 Old English as an Inflectional Language §§ 10-12: Old English Inflections; §§ 18-21: Personal Pronouns; § 127 beon ‘to be’; Essential Grammar 1: Inflections 1.c Practice Sentences
Fri. 14/9     3 Ælfric’s Colloquy, 1-6
3 Mon. 17/9 Strong Nouns and Demonstrative Pronouns §§ 33 Masculine Strong Nouns; §§ 16, 17: Demonstrative Pronouns; Essential Grammar 2: Parts of Speech 3 Ælfric’s Colloquy, 7-13
Wed. 19/9     3 Ælfric’s Colloquy, 14-21
Fri. 21/9     3 Ælfric’s Colloquy, 22-32
4 Mon. 24/9 More Declensions: Weak nouns, Adjectives, Strong Feminine and Neuter Nouns §§ 34, 37: Strong Feminine and Neuter Nouns, §§ 25, 63-65: Weak Nouns and Adjectives 3 Ælfric’s Colloquy, 33-49
Wed. 26/9     3 Ælfric’s Colloquy, 50-70
Fri. 28/9     3 Ælfric’s Colloquy, 71-94
5 Declensions test (WebCT) 2/10-11/10
Mon. 1/10     3 Ælfric’s Colloquy, 95-107
Wed. 3/10     3 Ælfric’s Colloquy, 108-130
Fri. 5/10     3 Ælfric’s Colloquy, 131-162
6 Mon. 8/10 Statutory Holiday (no class)
Wed. 10/10 Introduction to Old English Verbs §§ 87-88, 114: Introduction to OE Verbs; §§ 110-113: Strong Verb singan 3 Ælfric’s Colloquy, 163-216 (end)
Fri. 12/10   §§ 124-125: Weak Verb lufian 4. Ælfric’s Life of Edward, 126 (beginning) -146
7 Mon. 15/10     4. Ælfric’s Life of Edward, 147-172
Wed. 17/10 ‘Irregular’ Verbs: habban, beon, weorðan §§ 126, 127; A.3b: habban, beon, weorðan 4. Ælfric’s Life of Edward, 172-205
Fri. 19/10     4. Ælfric’s Life of Edward, 205-236
8 Mon. 22/10 Classes of Strong Verbs §§ 26-32: Vowels; §§ 87-95: Principal Parts of the Strong Verb 4. Ælfric’s Life of Edward, 236-270
Wed. 24/10 Strong and weak Adjectives §§ 66-67 Strong Adjectives (learn using gōd (‘good’) not til). 4. Ælfric’s Life of Edward, 271-297
Fri. 26/10     4. Ælfric’s Life of Edward, 298-331 (end)
9 Mon. 29/10 Introduction to Anglo-Saxon Paleography   5. Alfred the Great’s Preface to Gregory, 1-39
Wed. 31/10 *No class: Instructor at Meeting *
Fri. 2/11
10 Verbs Test (WebCT) 29/10-4/11
Mon. 5/11     5. Alfred the Great’s Preface to Gregory, 40-81 (end)
Wed. 7/11 Introduction to Old English Syntax §§ 139-142: Outline of Differences between Old and Modern English Syntax 4. Ælfric’s Preface to Genesis, 1-43
Fri. 9/11     4. Ælfric’s Preface to Genesis, 44-80
11 Mon. 12/11 Remembrance Day (no class)
Wed. 14/11     4. Ælfric’s Preface to Genesis, 81-125
Fri. 16/11 Introduction to Old English poetry Appendix: Old English Metre 9. Bede’s Account of the Poet Cædmon, 1-44
Presentations: Literacy in Anglo-Saxon England
12 Mon. 19/11     9. Bede’s Account of the Poet Cædmon, 45-86
Presentations: Anglo-Saxon Riddles
· Karen Mahar
· Sarah Gagnon
· Tiffany Paxman
Wed. 21/11     9. Bede’s Account of the Poet Cædmon, 87-126 (end)
Presentations: King Alfred and the West-Saxon Revival
· Meghan Payne
Fri. 23/11     14. The Dream of the Rood, 1-20a
Presentations: Veneration of the Cross in Anglo-Saxon England
· Kayla Marcinkowski
· Andy Audet
13 Mon. 26/11     14. The Dream of the Rood, 20b-40
Presentations: The Rise of Anglo-Saxon Studies
· Heather Morrison
·Travis Wilson
Wed. 28/11     14. The Dream of the Rood, 40-60a
Presentations: Current Topics in Anglo-Saxon Archaeology
· Heather Hobma
· Melissa Ostroski
Fri. 30/11     14. The Dream of the Rood, 60b-80a
Presentations: Rome and Anglo-Saxon England
· Nathan Maret
·Roberto DeSandoli
·John Heikoop and Kimberly Knapp
14 Mon. 3/12     14. The Dream of the Rood, 80b-101a
Presentations: Anglo-Saxon latinity
·Tori Elliott
·Richard Chang
·Robin Fischer
Wed. 5/12     14. The Dream of the Rood, 101b-121
Fri. 7/12     14. The Dream of the Rood, 122-156 (end)
Final Exam (WebCT) 10/12-13/12




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