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: Old English (Fall 2020)

Posted: May 20, 2020 18:05;
Last Modified: Jul 29, 2020 13:07



Contact information

My email is

If you wish to set an appointment for an online (Zoom) meeting with me, you can also use my Bookable Calendar

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, investigate the place of the Anglo-Saxons among their European contemporaries, and read some Anglo-Saxon literature in translation along side our readings in the original language.

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.

You can read more about my approach to grading here and (in much greater depth, with a justification), here

Formative Assessment

Formative assignments are divided into two categories: exercises and reviews. Although grades will be assigned to most of these assignments, your final formative grade will consist of an equally weighted average of your best performance in each categories.

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 assignment in a formative category, however, will receive a grade of 0 for the entire category.

Details TBA. Typically these involve blogging exercises, term tests, translations, a poster, and so on.

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, a translation project, and an attendance mark.

Typically these will involve a final essay, final exam, and perhaps other kinds of tests and exercises.


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 on Moodle. Quizzes may be presented on Moodle.

Essays and Reports

Essays and reports will normally be collected using Turnitin via Moodle.


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

This schedule is a work in progress and will be updated over the next few weeks.

Week Date Exercises OE Text Background Reading
0 Prior to 9 September Before classes begin, please do the following:
  1. Fill in the intake survey to let me know about the technology available to you
  2. Fill in the Doodle poll (coming soon) indicating when you could be available for a once-a-week tutorial (in lieu of our scheduled class times)
  3. Record a brief (90 sec) introduction to the class about yourself on Flipgrid
1 9-11 Sept
  • Book Exercises 1a, 1b, 1c;
  • Online exercises 1a, 1b, 1d
None McGillivray Gentle Chapter 1: Grammatical Terminology
2 14-18 Sept Abraham and Isaac, ll 1-9 (Gentle) McGillivray Gentle Chapter 2: Pronunciation and Spelling
3 21-25 Sept
  • Online exercises 3a, 3b
  • Book exercises 3a-c
Abraham and Isaac, ll 10-19 (Gentle) McGillivray Gentle Chapter 3: Strong Nouns and Cases
4 28 Sept-2 Oct
  • Online exercises 4a, 4b
  • Book exercises 4a-c
Birth of Jesus, ll 1-11 (Gentle) McGillivray Gentle Chapter 4: Demonstratives; Nominative and Genitive Case
5 5-9 Oct
  • Online exercises 5a, 5b, 5c
  • Book exercises 5a-c
Birth of Jesus, ll 12-21 (Gentle) McGillivray Gentle Chapter 5: A Few OE Verbs; Accusative and Dative Cases
6 12-16 Oct
  • Online exercise 6a
  • Book exercises 6a-c
Story of Ohtere, ll 1-24 (Gentle) McGillivray Gentle Chapter 6: Weak Verbs; Subjunctive, Participles, Infinitives
7 19-23 Oct
  • Online exercises 7a, 7b
  • Book exercises 7a-c
Story of Ohtere, ll 25-51 (Gentle) McGillivray Gentle Chapter 7: Strong Nouns and Cases
8 26-30 Oct
  • Online exercises 8a, 8b, 8c
  • Book exercises 8a-c
Alfred’s Preface to the Pastoral Care, ¶¶ 1-3 (OE Reader) McGillivray Gentle Chapter 8: Strong Verbs; Personal Pronouns
9 2-6 Nov
  • Online exercises 9a, 9c, 9d
  • Book exercises 9a-c
Alfred’s Preface to the Pastoral Care, ¶¶ 4-6 (end) (OE Reader) McGillivray Gentle Chapter 9: Weak Nouns and Noun Oddities; Numerals
Reading Week 9-13 Nov (no classes)
10 16-20 Nov
  • Online exercises 10a, 10b, 10c
  • Book exercises 10a-c
Bede’s Account of the Poet Cædmon, From the beginning to the end of poem (OE Reader) McGillivray Gentle Chapter 10: Adjectives
11 23-27 Nov
  • Book exercises 11a-c
Bede’s Account of the Poet Cædmon, Rest of the story to the end (OE Reader) McGillivray Gentle Chapter 11: Word order in Noun Phrases and Sentences; The Subjunctive
12 30 Nov-4 Dec
  • Online exercises 12a
  • Book exercises 12a-c
Deor (complete) (OE Reader) McGillivray Gentle Chapter 12: Old English Poetic Metre, Poetic Diction, and Poetic Syntax
13 4-9 Dec. Wife’s lament (OE Reader)




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