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 2008)

Posted: Aug 29, 2008 19:08;
Last Modified: Dec 26, 2008 19:12



Times and location

Mon/Wed/Fri, 13:00-13:50, B730.

Office and Office Hours

My office is room B810B. My telephone numbers, a map, and other contact information is available on my Contact page.

I hold regular office hours at the following times:

I am also available by appointment. You can out more about my schedule this semester by visiting my Office Hours web page.

Our subject librarian, Glenna Westwood, will also be holding office hours in the Department. She will be available in B810H from 11:30-12:30 on

She is also available in the Library on a drop in basis or by appointment for advice on research in English studies.

About this course

English 3450 introduces students to Old English, the principal ancestor of our present day English, and the language of daily life in early medieval (Anglo-Saxon) England (from approximately the mid 400s to the mid 1100s).

The Calendar describes the course in this way:

The study of Old English language and literature. Instruction in basic Old English grammar and syntax, translation practice, and an introduction to the language’s literary and historical context.

As this suggests, our main goal will be to learn the Language. The English we speak today is derived largely from that spoken in the Anglo-Saxon period. Indeed, although the English language has borrowed a huge number of words from other languages, our core vocabulary, as much as 80% of the words we use in daily conversation, have their origins in Old English. The Anglo-Saxons often had different words for things we have since borrowed words to discuss—and of course we have developed many words for things the Anglo-Saxons had no knowledge of or reason to discuss! But they might well recognise many of the words we use to tie our sentences together and discuss every day activities.

The real difference will be in the grammar. Old English grammar is quite different from Modern English grammar, and, as a result, must be learned by most students as if it were a foreign language (students who know modern germanic languages such as High or Low German,Dutch, or the Nordic languages may find useful congruences to Old English).

In the course of the year, we will study and practice Old English grammar, phonology (the study of the sounds of a language), and script (how it is written). To provide us with a basis for comparison, we will also devote some attention to practicing and improving our knowledge of Modern English grammar and phonology. Our principal method of study, however, will be practical: most class and study time will be devoted to translation work from Old to Modern English.

Although it will not be the main focus of the course, students will complement their study of the Old English language with some study of its speakers and the culture in which it was used. We will discuss the range of Anglo-Saxon literature, learn about Anglo-Saxon culture and history, and investigate the place of the Anglo-Saxons among their European contemporaries.

Learning goals

By the end of the course students should have a basic reading knowledge of Old English and a sense of the period in which it was used. This involves being able to




This course uses two types of evaluation, formative (intended primarily to assist the student measure their progress and identify areas of improvement) and summative (intended primarily to assess a student’s success in accomplishing the course’s main learning goals.

Formative Assessment

Formative assignments are divided into three categories: exercises, reviews, and participation. Although grades will be assigned to most of these assignments, only the best in each category will count towards the final grade.

I will mark formative assignments handed in on the specific due date and will not mark work handed in late without a prior request for an extension or evidence of an emergency. While it is strongly recommended that students complete these projects on time, there is no specific penalty for failing to do so in any one instance. Students who do not receive a grade for at least one formative assignment in each category, however, will receive a grade of 0 for each category in which they have failed to receive a grade. This works out to a penalty of 8⅓% on the final grade for each such category.

I reserve the right to add additional formative assignments to these categories throughout the semester in response to class interests and needs.

Category Assignment
Exercises What I did/did not know about Anglo-Saxon England
(To be handed in September 15, 2008)
Old English Pronunciation
(To be assessed orally in mid-October).
(To be handed in late November)
Reviews Basic Paradigms and Translation
(WebCT: 29/09-5/10)
Advanced Paradigms and Translation
(WebCT: 3/11-9/11)
Participation Quizzes
Tutorial participation
Practice Translation Portfolio

Summative Assessment

Summative Assignments are used to determine how well students have accomplished the course’s learning goals. In addition to an average of students’ best score in each formative category, these will include a final exam, a research project, and a translation project.

Assignment Value
Average of best score from each formative category 25%
Independent Research Project. Due: December 3, 2008. 25%
Translation Portfolio. Due: December 3, 2008. 25%
Final Exam (WebCT) Exam Window: December 8-16, 2008 25%

The summative evaluation scheme presented here should be considered tentative and open to change until the beginning of the last class before the Add/Drop deadline (i.e. Monday, September 8). After this date, the version found on-line will be definitive.


The following policies will be followed in all my classes unless otherwise announced. You are expected to be familiar with the policies reproduced here and in the more general section on my website. These additional web pages are to be considered part of this syllabus for the purposes of this course. Failure to conform to any of 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 record 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 barely acceptable (minimal pass); and an F that it is failing to meet University-level standards.

I have prepared rubrics for most types of qualitative assignments (assignments that do not expect the student simply to provide a correct factual answer). These can be found in my Academic Policies section:

Submitting Work

Tests, Exams, and Quizzes

Tests and Exams will be written in the University’s testing labs on Blackboard (formerly WebCT). Quizzes may be presented on Blackboard, but will more commonly be given out and collected in class

Essays and Reports

Essays and reports will normally be collected using Turnitin. Information on our account (URL, ID number, and Password) is available from our class space on Blackboard:


This course uses plagiarism detection software. Any plagiarism will be treated very seriously: you can expect to receive a grade of 0 on the assignment as well as other penalties depending on the seriousness of the offence.

Class schedule

The following schedule is intended to help you plan your work for this course. The schedule is tentative and subject to change.

Week Date Topic Classwork Background Reading
1 Mon. 1/9 Labour Day (no class)
Wed. 3/9 Welcome Syllabus and assessment  
Fri. 5/9 Spelling, Pronunciation, and Grammar
1) Spelling and Pronunciation
2 Mon. 8/9  
  • 1.a Practice Sentences
  • 1.b Practice Sentences, 1-9
  • § 6-9: Stress, Vowels, Diphthongs, Consonants
Tue. 9/9 Last day for course add/drop and registration
Wed. 10/9  
  • 1.b Practice Sentences, 10-16 (end)
Fri. 12/9 2) Grammar
  • 1.c Practice Sentences
3 Mon. 15/9 What I did/did not know about Anglo-Saxon England Due 2359 at
Essays handed in today will receive a grade
(see above under formative assessments).
Please keep a copy for yourself.
Whole Class Tutorial: Old and Modern English Grammar
Wed. 17/9 Putting it all together, “Old School”: Ælfric’s Colloquy
  • 3. Ælfric’s Colloquy.
    • Translation (1-11): Group F
Fri. 19/9 Grammar and Translation Tutorial: Group E [10am, room B883]
Grammar and Translation Tutorial: Group A (in class)
4 Mon. 22/9 Nouns: The Major Declensions
1) Strong Nouns
  • 3. Ælfric’s Colloquy.
    • Performance (1-21): Group A
    • Translation (anything left over): Group F
    • Translation (11-21): Group E
  • Cheatsheet: Nouns Row;
  • § 33: Masculine Strong Nouns; § 34 Strong Neuter Nouns; § 37 Strong Feminine Nouns
Wed. 24/9  
  • 3. Ælfric’s Colloquy.
    • Performance (22-45): Group C
    • Translation (22-40): Group D
Grammar and Translation Tutorial: Group B 3pm, Room B883
Fri. 26/9 Grammar and Translation Tutorial: Group C (in class)
5 Mon. 29/9 2) Weak Nouns
  • 3. Ælfric’s Colloquy.
    • Performance (45-91): Group E
    • Translation (41-70): Group C
  • Cheatsheet: Nouns Row;
  • § 25: Weak Nouns
Wed. 1/10  
  • 3. Ælfric’s Colloquy.
    • Performance (92-130): Group F
    • Translation (71-107): Group B
Thurs. 2/10 Grammar and Translation Tutorial: Group D 2pm, Room B883
Fri. 3/10 Grammar and Translation Tutorial: Group F (in class)
6 Basic Paradigms and Translation Review (WebCT) 29/09-5/10
Mon. 6/10 Verbs: The Major Declensions
1) Weak Verbs
  • 3. Ælfric’s Colloquy.
    • 3. Ælfric’s Colloquy.
      • Performance (131-167): Group D
      • Translation (108-149): Group A
  • Cheatsheet: Verbs Row;
  • §§ 87-88, 114: Introduction to OE Verbs; §§ 124-125: Weak verb lufian
Wed. 8/10  
  • Translation (150-178): Individual Students
Research Tutorial: Group A, 2pm Room B883
Fri. 10/10 Research Tutorial: Group E (in class)
7 Mon. 13/10 Statutory Holiday (no class)
Wed. 15/10 2) Strong Verbs
  • 3. Ælfric’s Colloquy.
    • Performance (168-205): Group B
    • Translation (179-215): Individual Students
  • Cheatsheet: Verbs Row;
  • §§ 110-113: Strong Verb singan
Fri. 17/10 No class due to instructor absence
(CaSTA 2008)
8 Mon. 20/10 3) Irregular verbs
  • 4. Ælfric’s Life of Edward, 126 (beginning)-149 (translation)
  • Cheatsheet: Verbs Row;
  • §§ 126, 127, A.3b: habban, bēon, wēorðian
Wed. 22/10  
  • 4. Ælfric’s Life of Edward, 150-180
Research Tutorial: Group C, 4pm, room B883
Fri. 24/10 Research Tutorial: Group B (in class)
9 Mon. 27/10 Adjectives: Declension and Syntax
  • 4. Ælfric’s Life of Edward, 180-212
  • Cheatsheet: Adjectives column;
  • §§ 66-67 Strong adjectives (learn gōd not til)
Wed. 29/10  
  • 4. Ælfric’s Life of Edward, 212-250
Fri. 31/10 Research Tutorial: Groups D and F (in class)
10 Advanced Paradigms and Translation Review (WebCT) 3/11-09/11
Mon. 3/11  
  • 4. Ælfric’s Life of Edward, 250-292
Wed. 5/11 No class due to instructor absence
(TEI Members Meeting)
Thu. 6/11 Last day for withdrawal
Fri. 7/11 No class due to instructor absence
(TEI Members Meeting)
11 Mon. 8/11
Wed. 12/11  
  • 9. Bede’s Account of the Poet Cædmon, 1-44
Fri. 14/11 Metre/Paleography Tutorial: Group E, 10am, room B883
Metre/Paleography Tutorial: Group A (in class)
12 Mon. 17/11 Introduction to Anglo-Saxon Metre
  • 4. Ælfric’s Life of Edward, 292-331 (end)
  • 14. The Dream of the Rood, 1-20a
Wed. 19/11  
  • 14. The Dream of the Rood, 40-60a
Metre/Paleography Tutorial: Group B, 3pm, Room B883
Fri. 21/11 Metre/Paleography Tutorial: Group C (in class)
13 Mon. 24/11 Introduction to Anglo-Saxon Paleography
  • 14. The Dream of the Rood, 60b-80a
Wed. 26/11  
  • 14. The Dream of the Rood, 101b-121
Fri. 28/11 Metre/Paleography Tutorial: Groups D and F (in class)
14 Mon. 1/12  
  • 14. The Dream of the Rood, 122-156 (end)
Wed. 3/12 Conclusion
Independent Research Project and Translation Portfolio due last class
Exam Period 8/12-16/12 Final Exam (WebCT)

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