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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Cædmon Citation Network - Week 14

Posted: Sep 02, 2016 18:09;
Last Modified: Sep 02, 2016 18:09

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Hi all!

I spent this week putting information into the newly updated database. It works much faster than it did before, and is very intuitive to use. Dan mentioned that he would like to see some screenshots, so please enjoy the following images:

Here we see the front page of the database, with two text boxes, one for the Source and one for the Reference.

Options will pop up after you begin typing which makes adding sources and references super quick.

The Location box allows you to type the page number on which you found the reference in your source material (I simply type the number without any “p.” or “pg” preceding it) and the drop down box allows you to choose whether the reference is a Text Quote, Text Mention, Scholarly Reference, or Other Reference.

Clicking on the “View Entries” link allows you to view all of the entries that you have made. They are listed from oldest to newest in one big list.

So far I have had zero problems with the database, however I have been coming across a few snags with regards to gathering references from the sources. To use this first article by Lenore Abraham as an example, it is not noted anywhere which edition of Bede’s “History of the English Church and People” that she uses, she just simply gives the title. I am not sure how to figure this out, but feel that it is important to know as the edition cited is the most important piece of information that we are attempting to gather. I am concerned that a lot of other articles might omit this information as well, but I suppose we shall see as the collection continues. I was also curious as to whether or not we count the “about the author” blurbs when adding references. The beginnings of articles will occasionally list other pieces the author has published and I am not sure whether or not to count these as references. My initial instinct was to ignore them, as they do not necessarily have anything to do with the article in question, and if they are important they will be cited again further on, however I thought I would bring it up to be sure.

I am excited to continue collecting information. I will be back in Lethbridge for school on Tuesday, so I can start requesting inter-library loans again and keep our project rolling!

Until next week,

Colleen

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Cædmon Citation Network - Week 12+13

Posted: Aug 23, 2016 10:08;
Last Modified: Aug 23, 2016 10:08

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Hi all!

Summer is winding to a close, and our project continues to progress. The database is working, and is currently being made faster for even easier use. Books and articles are still being collected and scanned, and I am trying to split my time between scanning sources and collecting data.

At our last meeting Dan and I went over the exact specifications for the references I am collecting. Information is sorted into four types:

Text Quotes (TQ)

Text Mentions ™

Scholarly References (SR)

Other References (OR)

Text Quotes and Text Mentions come from editions, facsimiles, translations, and manuscripts, and only refer to Cædmon’s Hymn itself. Quotes are direct quotations from the poem, while mentions are references to other editions.

Scholarly References will consist of references made to anything other than Cædmon’s own words. This can include books and articles about the hymn or other topics, as well as supplementary text from the editions of the hymn.

Other References is simply a catch-all category for anything that does not fit into the previous three categories.

Unfortunately I have been having laptop issues and had to reinstall the operating system on my computer, losing some programs in the process. I am not sure if this will affect my GLOBUS endpoint, but I will try transferring some files later to determine if I need to figure all of that out again.

My goals for this week are to scan the ILL books that I currently have checked out, transfer all the files I have scanned to GLOBUS, and fine tune the way I collect my data from the books and articles. I have been finding that it is quicker to write down a large chunk of references on paper and then input the info to the database in one go. This may change as Garret makes the database quicker. The faster version of the database should be ready this week, but I do not currently have access to it so today will be a scanning day. I also plan to request another chunk of ILL books and articles from the library.

For next week’s blog I hope to write a sort of how-to guide on collecting information from the sources and inputting the info into the database. As the new semester starts in two weeks, I will have less time to spend on the project and I believe Dan plans on hiring more students to help the collection go faster. The how-to guide should ensure that we are all collecting data in the same way, and should ease any confusion that might cause errors. As the semester progresses I and whoever else might be working on the project can go through the data collection at a steady pace, and I can continue to collect and scan the sources needed to complete the bibliography.

Things seem to be on track, and hopefully the transition into the new semester will be smooth!

Until next week,

Colleen

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Cædmon Citation Network - Week 11

Posted: Aug 05, 2016 13:08;
Last Modified: Aug 05, 2016 13:08

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Hi all!

I have a very short blog post this week, as the week itself was very short. I spent the last few days collecting more sources, doing some scanning, and preparing to begin data collection.

The database should be up and running this weekend, meaning data collection can officially start next week. I will see Garret on Sunday and we will be able to do some test runs on the database to make sure it is working properly. We have been discussing its functions over video conference several times throughout the week, and it seems to be coming along very well!

Next week I will be splitting my time between continuing to collect sources and beginning data collection, a suggestion made by Dan during our last meeting. This will allow us to understand any flaws in our collection system earlier on, rather than waiting for EVERY source to be collected and scanned before we try out our system. I am optimistic that it should all go well, and will report back at the end of next week!

Until then,

Colleen

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Cædmon Citation Network - Week 10

Posted: Jul 25, 2016 10:07;
Last Modified: Jul 25, 2016 10:07

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Hi all,

It is week 10 already, and I feel like I am nowhere near where I thought I would be with regards to this project. While the list of the sources we need for our data collection on Zotero are as complete as we can know at present, not everything on the list has been collected yet. I was in high spirits at the beginning of last week thinking that the collection of sources was nearly complete, however I realised later on that I had missed a good chunk of the list. It turned out that I had some filters set that were omitting a portion of the 700-ish books and articles. To make a long story short, more collection is still needed!

This will mean more inter-library loan books will need to be ordered and scanned, and more articles will need to be transferred to the GLOBUS folder. Thankfully the book scanner is back up and running again! If it holds out it should make the process painless and a good deal quicker than scanning things on the photocopier.

My plan for this week is to:

- finish scanning the inter-library loan books I currently have checked out (there are about four left to scan)

- finish collecting EVERYTHING on the Zotero list, keeping track of how many inter-library loan books are due to come in so I can account for future scanning time.

- transfer all electronic copies of articles and books to the GLOBUS folder (the internet guy is FINALLY coming on Tuesday to hook up my apartment, so I can work on this every night starting tomorrow)

- And then, if by some miracle I finish everything before the end of the week, I will begin data collection.

To be quite honest, I have been very frustrated with myself and the fact that I have not begun the data collection sooner. I suppose that collecting and organising hundreds of articles just takes longer than I imagined. I really have been working at it steadily throughout the summer, trying to maintain a level of organisation that allows information on the project to transfer easily between myself, Dan, Garret, and anyone else that might happen to work on the project. Although scanning and photocopying seem like menial tasks, I think I need to remind myself that such tasks take time and are necessary to keep our project organised and moving forward.

I do hope though that if Dan has any concerns with the pace of the project that he will let me know, as I do not want to drag things out way longer than he was expecting. The project IS moving forward, however slow it may have seemed the past couple of weeks. Although collecting and organising the sources is not the most exciting part of the job to write updates about, you all can be assured that it is almost complete and the data collection will begin very soon! I am very much looking forward to beginning this part of the project, seeing what we find, and facing the challenges that I am sure we will encounter.

Until later,

Colleen

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Cædmon Citation Network - Week 9

Posted: Jul 18, 2016 09:07;
Last Modified: Jul 18, 2016 09:07

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Hi all!

I finally get to start reading this week!!! While I am still not 100% complete in my sourcing of all the books and articles, it is looking as though I will definitely be able to start reading by Wednesday if not earlier.

I also have a bunch of books from inter-library loans that I need to scan portions of. That will be part of my job today.

The database will be ready this week as well. Garret says that there will be a few improvements that he will want to make, but I will be able to start using it this week. All the information that I collect will still be available as the database is upgraded.

You may have noticed that I have switched to blogging at the beginning of the week as opposed to the end. I have found that at this point it is more beneficial to myself to post at the start of the week outlining some goals and then adding an update post sometime during the middle of the week. I am going to continue this model for the next while.

Until next time!

Colleen

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Cædmon Citation Network - Week 8

Posted: Jul 11, 2016 10:07;
Last Modified: Jul 11, 2016 10:07

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Hello!

Just a quick blog post this morning to give you an update of what’s to come this week:

I am continuing to gather all of the articles/books needed for the project, and hope to complete the search this week. There may be a few inter-library loans that we will be waiting on, but I would like everything else to be ready to go!

Not all the articles will be accessible on GLOBUS right away, as the transfers do not work on the university network and I am currently living without internet at my apartment (The horror! The horror!). I will be transferring them when I can, as free wi-fi will allow.

This means that reading and data collection can start next week! The database should be good to go by then as well. It is all coming together!

Until Friday,

Colleen

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Cædmon Citation Network - Week 7.5

Posted: Jul 07, 2016 13:07;
Last Modified: Jul 07, 2016 13:07

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Hi all!
You might have noticed that I forgot to blog last week… This is true and totally my fault. I moved into a new apartment and in the process may have suffered a mild concussion. Oops! I have been keeping up with my work, however because I was working at random times of the day and night in chunks of a few hours each I definitely forgot to blog! So here is my update from the last two weeks:

Unfortunately I don’t have much news to report. I have been going through our Zotero bibliography and collecting missing articles through online databases and inter-library loans. It is going well, but it is taking a bit of time.
GLOBUS is now working for me thanks to Gurpreet’s help figuring out what was going on. It was mainly a permissions issue. I can now access our group research folder which is excellent.

The database is also on its way. I am expecting an update from Garret regarding that this weekend.

I will post another blog tomorrow to outline my goals for next week. In the meantime I will continue to pull articles to complete our pool of data.

Until tomorrow!
Colleen

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Cædmon Citation Network - Week 5

Posted: Jun 17, 2016 10:06;
Last Modified: Jun 17, 2016 10:06

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Hi all!

Painfully short blog entry this week, I’m afraid. A lot has been accomplished this week, but there is not a lot to report.

The bibliography has been completed, with the final count being approximately 700 pieces of Cædmon scholarship. This number may increase or decrease as I read through the actual works. Some may have nothing to do with Cædmon (I erred on the side of having to much rather than too little), and others may point me in the direction of something I might have missed.

I have also begun to search out access to the pieces that make up the bibliography. This week I have been finding most things on JSTOR, but I expect that I will be requesting a lot of inter-library loans next week! Once I have found all I can find online I can start reading while I wait for the inter-library loans to come in. As the loans come in I will be splitting my days between scanning the loans and reading. (Note to self: locate that book scanner Dan told you about.)

The database to record what I find while I read is in the works as well. I should have an update from Garret early next week, so I will have more info on that in next week’s blog!

Until then!

Colleen

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Cædmon Citation Network - Week 4

Posted: Jun 11, 2016 10:06;
Last Modified: Jun 11, 2016 11:06

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Hello!

This blog comes to you a day later than usual, as Friday’s work ended up taking a lot longer than I thought and I ran out of time! To be honest, this week was spent much like last week: checking our Zotero bibliography against other bibliographies of Cædmon scholarship.

I ended up re-doing a bit of my work from last week, as I learned in my meeting with Dan on Monday that our scope was a bit wider than I had previously thought. I was worried that I had not been considering certain entries in the various bibliographies to be “about Cædmon enough”, so I decided to go through the entries again and add some that I may have missed. It makes sense to add more rather than less, as I can simply remove an article from the list if I read it and realise it has nothing to do with Cædmon. At the moment our bibliography is almost complete, and we have nearly 700 entries!

What are we going to do with this giant list of articles and books? Well, firstly I have to acquire access to each entry, either via JSTOR, inter-library loans, or through one of our library’s other databases. Then I read through EVERYTHING and count each quote and mention of Cædmon and note which of the approximately sixty different editions of the Hymn are cited. We have also decided to try and note every other citation as well. For example if one article about “Cædmon’s Hymn” cites a book about the history of peanut butter sandwiches, I will take note of it, as there may be other pieces of Cædmon scholarship that also cite that book about the history of peanut butter sandwiches. It will be interesting to see if there are identifiable relationships between writing about Cædmon and seemingly unrelated topics – not peanut-butter-sandwich-history obviously, I just haven’t eaten breakfast yet so I am giving you a delicious example.

How am I going to keep track of all this? Good question! We will need a database that I can use to mark down each citation as I come across them in my reading. On Monday Dan and I discussed at length what we will need from this database, and how we would like it to work. At first we were hoping something on Google Forms would do the trick for us, however we discovered as we talked that we need more control over our information than this tool would allow.

One problem emerged when we realised that among our gigantic list of 700 articles (and books, etc) we would find certain works that were actually editions of the Hymn not included in our original list of editions. We would need a way to add this piece to the Editions list… Several other concerns were raised as well, but to be honest I am finding them difficult to explain without drawing you all a little picture. (I should ask Dan how to add images to these blog posts!)

I mentioned at some point that I would pick the brain of my boyfriend, Garret Johnson, who has his degree in Computer Science from the University of Lethbridge and is my go-to person whenever I have a question about these sorts of things. Dan suggested that he could hire Garret to build our database if he would be willing, as someone with a programming background could probably produce what we need a lot faster than either Dan or I working on it ourselves. So that is our current plan! Garret will begin building us a database that will suit our needs and my job for next week will be to start acquiring the 700 articles and books on our list. By the end of next week I am sure I will have thoroughly annoyed the librarians at school with the amount of inter-library loans I will be requesting.

Until next week!

Colleen

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Cædmon Citation Network - Week 3

Posted: Jun 03, 2016 10:06;
Last Modified: Jun 03, 2016 10:06

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Hi all!

Another short post this week, but I will try to make up for it by posting more than one blog next week as I get further and further into the project!

Most of this week was spent methodically checking our body of Cædmon scholarship against various databases (all listed in my previous post). I felt a bit bad that it was going so slowly, as I do not want to lollygag in my work at all. Several things seemed to make the task slower than I hoped, however.

First of all, when I started going through the lists I would try and find access to each article or book that was missing from our body of scholarship as I became aware of it. I soon abandoned this practice and decided that I would create a running list of what we are missing FIRST, and then find access to these pieces as my next step.

I also found that many of the works we are missing were in a foreign language, which made my search for them (before I submitted to simply creating a list) more difficult. I will need to ask Dan if we are including foreign language articles in our data. If we are I will also need to figure out how I am going to comb the articles for quotes later on if we do decide to include them. I suppose quotes of the original will be written in Old English, so that is simple enough to pick out, but paraphrasing of the poem in something like Italian or German might prove difficult.

And finally I was a bit impeded by my own inability to figure out how to add new entries to our shared bibliography on Zotero. This is not a huge deal at the moment as I eventually decided to create a running list of missing pieces before finding sources, however I did waste quite a bit of time fighting with the program to add new entries before settling on this. This is something else that I’m sure Dan can help me with. I believe I might just need some sort of permission to add to the shared database.

In any case, next week should provide fodder for a some more interesting blog posts! It will be like a mystery: The Search For the Missing Cædmon Articles…

Until then,

Colleen

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Cædmon Citation Network - The Return

Posted: May 19, 2016 10:05;
Last Modified: May 19, 2016 11:05

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Hello, Readers of Dan’s Blog!

My name is Colleen Copland, and I am a student of Dan’s who will be working with him on the Cædmon Citation Network which he and Rachel Hanks began work on last summer. I will be blogging here weekly, and thought I’d use this first post to introduce myself and more-or-less explain the project as I understand it so far. I am still familiarizing myself with everything, so my descriptions may fall short of the actual scope of the project or they might be totally off-base altogether, but as I learn more I will let you know all the juicy details!

Little intro on myself: I am an undergraduate student at the University of Lethbridge, majoring in English and hoping to be accepted into the English/Language Arts Education program this fall (cross your fingers for me, internet!). I have taken three courses with Dan in the past two years, Medieval English, Intro to Old English, and Advanced Old English in which we spent an entire semester reading Beowulf. Suffice to say I think Dan is a pretty excellent prof and I am excited to work for him this summer so I can continue to learn from him!

The Cædmon Citation Network (also known as the Cædmon Bibliography Project and possibly a few other names – I will need to ask Dan if there is something he’d like me to call it officially) is a gathering of data on the citations of various editions of Cædmon’s Hymn. The project is interested in tracking how long it takes a new edition of a work to start being cited in studies of said work. Cædmon’s Hymn, since it is such a short piece, has been re-translated and re-published a great many times since 1644, which should allow us to notice some patterns in the way each new edition is cited.

The project is also interested in looking at the differences between the citing of digital editions of works as opposed to print editions. Many people assume that it takes longer for digital editions to begin being cited, but this project aims to suggest that they are actually cited more quickly. It will be interesting to see what the data shows us.

Where are we right now with regards to the project? Personally, I am becoming oriented with the project’s goals and working to gain access to all of the excellent data collected by Rachel Hanks who worked on the project last year – figuring out where everything was left off and where Dan would like it to go this summer.

I am excited about gathering more information and will share it with you as I progress. It often seems that I gain a better understanding of a project when I explain what is happening to someone else, so I think this blog will be an excellent tool. It will also serve as a good record of what went on at different points during the project for Dan and I. Any questions you might have can be left in the comments section that I believe is located below this post…

Until next week,

Colleen

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Living out loud: The Visionary Cross Project and the Public Humanities (CMRS/ETRUS. University of Saskatchewan January 16, 2014)

Posted: Feb 19, 2014 16:02;
Last Modified: Feb 19, 2014 16:02

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Just posted our talk on Living out loud: The Visionary Cross Project and the Public Humanities to slideshare.

Living out loud: The Visionary Cross Project and the Public Humanities from Heather Hobma, Daniel O'Donnell, Marco Callieri, Matteo Dellepiane, James Graham, Catherine Karkov, Roberto Rosselli Del Turco.

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Bibles for students of literature

Posted: Oct 14, 2010 13:10;
Last Modified: Sep 20, 2012 11:09

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Many contemporary students do not know the bible particularly well. This can be because they come from non-religious families, or families whose religious background is not Judeo-Christian. But even many students from quite religious, Christian or Jewish backgrounds find their knowledge of the bible to be less good than they might wish for literary study.

A student once gave me a great tip for those who feel you don’t know the bible well enough to recognise allusions to the major stories from the Old and New Testaments: buy a children’s bible.

Children’s bibles tend to focus on the most important and widely known stories, and some even come with notes explaining how (for example) Old Testament stories are understood by Christians as presaging events in the New Testament.

If you are an English major and don’t know your bible reasonably well, you should consider—in addition to reading a children’s bible—reading a good translation of the bible yourself as well. It is less long than you might think (especially the new Testament).

If you don’t know what to read, here are some options:

The above bibles are all Protestant. The Protest and Catholic Bibles vary to a certain extent—particularly with regard to the order and composition of the Old Testament (see http://www.twopaths.com/faq_bibles.htm). Here are some Catholic options:

All of these bibles are new translations from the original languages.This means they don’t reflect the version people read in the Middle Ages (which was Latin). But for general purposes they are good enough.

Medieval readers knew the bible primarily from the Vulgate, a Latin version translated by Jerome by the beginning of the fifth century; there were also translations into Old and Middle English from this. And there was some knowledge, especially in the case of the Psalms, of older, pre-Vulgate Latin translations.

If you want to get closer to this experience, the Douay-Rheims is a 16th Century Catholic translation of the Vulgate. Copies are available on line, including here (a Latin/English verse-by-verse translation) and here.

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The Old English Alphabet

Posted: Sep 18, 2008 17:09;
Last Modified: Jun 07, 2016 12:06

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Old English texts were copied in manuscripts by scribes. These scribes used an alphabet based on the Latin alphabet, but with some native additions and occasionally runes.

The most important of these additions were

Otherwise the Old English alphabet contained more or less the same letters as the Modern English alphabet, though as we’ll see, several looked somewhat different. The main exceptions are our letters k, v, z, w, the Norman-derived spellings wh, th, sh, and also dg (as in edge), and some differences in the sounds associated with the letters c, g, f, s, and y (For a more detailed discussion of these sounds with example sound files, see my tutorial on the Pronunciation of Old English).

Although Old and Modern English have a large number of letters in common, the forms of these letter were not always the same. Some of the differences can be seen if you compare the image below, a detail from the late tenth/early eleventh century manuscript Winchester Cathedral I folio 81r showing the text of Cædmon’s Hymn, with its transcription in a modern computer font:

Nuƿe sculon heria
heri heofon rices ƿ
metoddes mihte ⁊h
mod ge þanc ƿeorc ƿ

(Winchester Cathedral I folio 81r. Manuscript reproduced with the permission of the Dean and Chapter of Winchester/Winchester Cathedral Library. Please to not reproduce without permission). The background to this image has been simplified slightly for pedagogical purposes. The unmodified version is available here.

In addition to these letters, Anglo-Saxon scribes also very occasionally use runes, as letters in their own right and occasionally to stand for a complete word. Thus the rune ᛟ (eþel) sometimes appears instead of the word eþel ‘estate’, ‘homestead’ in Old English texts. Most often, however, the use of runes in Old English manuscripts is ornamental or self-consciously literary.

Computers and the Anglo-Saxon alphabet.

All Anglo-Saxon letters, including þ, ð, and ƿ are represented in Unicode, the modern standard for encoding characters on a computer.

Old English Character Unicode Code Point
Minuscule Majuscule Lowercase Uppercase
þ Þ U+00FE U+00DE
ð Ð U+00F0 U+00D0
ƿ Ƿ U+01BF U+01F7

A runic alphabet can be found in Unicode between U+16A0 and U+16F0.

On most modern computer systems, these characters can be accessed via a character map utility or, within a word processor, via the Insert Special Characters menu option. It is also possible to modify your keyboard to allow direct typing. See, for Linux, my article on creating custom keyboards. Commercial software allowing you to achieve similar effects is available for both Mac and Windows.

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Basic Old English Grammar

Posted: Sep 18, 2008 17:09;
Last Modified: May 23, 2012 18:05

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Old English as an Inflectional Language

Old English and Modern English can be deceptively similar from a syntactic point of view. In particular, word order frequently is the same in the two languages (though Old English is actually probably closer in some aspects of its word order to other Low German languages such as Dutch). This means that it is often possible to translate simple declarative sentences from Old English by simply looking up the meaning of each word in a dictionary.

This similarity is deceptive, however, because speakers of Modern English and speakers of Old English thought of their languages’ grammar in different ways. To speakers of Modern English, word order is by far the most important syntactic clue to a sentence’s grammar: we always try to make the subject of a sentence out of the first word or phrase and the verb out of the second, even if other features are telling us otherwise.

To speakers of Old English, on the other hand, word order was only one clue to a sentence’s grammatical sense—and even then not necessarily the most important: a speaker of Old English would pay as much or more attention to a word’s inflections (special endings—like “apostrophe s” in Modern English—that indicate a word’s grammatical function in a sentence) in deciphering a sentence as to a word’s position in the sentence.

This can be best illustrated by an example. Consider the following sentence:

me broke the bridge

Most speakers of Modern English, would understand the above sentence as meaning “I broke the bridge.” Although the “subject” me is actually what most standard varieties of English would consider to be an object form, its position at the beginning of the sentence trumps this consideration: the word comes first, so it must be the subject; the bridge, likewise, must be the object, because it follows the verb—even though its form would also suit a subject. In other words, no speaker of Modern English would allow the information provided by the sentence’s morphology (the form of the words and their endings) to overrule conflicting information from the sentence’s word order. Except in the most extreme cases—such as in the following sentence, which an informal survey suggests most speakers of Modern English have trouble understanding—speakers of Modern English always resolve conflicts between word order and morphology in word order’s favour:

The girl’s breaks the bridge

Speakers of Old English, on the other hand, seem to have privileged morphology over word order. When information from a word’s position in the sentence and its morphology conflict, morphology generally triumphs.

Here are two translations of the first example sentence into Old English:

me bræc þære bricg
me bræc seo bricg

Semantically (in terms of meaning), the words in each sentence are identical to the first Modern English example: me means me, bræc means broke, seo and þære are both forms of a word meaning the, and bricg means bridge.

Syntactically, however, only the second sentence makes any kind of sense in Old English—and it means “the bridge broke me.” If we keep me, the object form of the first person pronoun, as the first word of the sentence, the sentence can never mean “I broke the bridge” in Old English1; to an Anglo-Saxon, a subject is only a subject if it has the correct morphological form. In the first Old English sentence, all the words except the verb broke are in the object form (þære is an object form of “the” in Old English): to a speaker of Old English, it is as hard to decipher as “The girl’s breaks the bridge” is to us. In the second Old English example, seo bricg is in the subject form (seo is a subject form of “the”). To an Anglo-Saxon, that means it must be the subject, despite its odd place in the sentence (Anglo-Saxons prefer Subject-Verb-Object word order, just like we do, even if they can understand sentences that violate it).

What this means is that in learning to read Old English, we must train ourselves to privilege morphology over word order. If the endings don’t make sense, we have to train ourselves to find the sentence as being as non-sensical as “The girl’s breaks the bridge,” regardless of whether we think we could come up with a sensible sentence by just following the word order.

It also means that we will have to learn some inflectional morphology (i.e. the pattern of endings, like “apostrophe s” in Modern English, that indicate a word’s grammatical function in a sentence). Modern English has relatively little inflectional morphology: nouns can have ‘s or s’ for the possessive and indicate singular and plural; verbs can use the presence or absence of s to indicate person in the present (i.e. whether the subject is “I”, “you” or “he/she/it.” Only in the case of the personal pronouns (I/we, you/you, he, she, it/they) do we have a more complete set of endings that allow us to do things like distinguish among subjects and objects (a more thorough discussion of basic Modern English morphology can be found in my tutorial Grammar Essentials I: Inflections/Inflectional Morphology):

First person pronoun
Number Function Form
Singular Subject I
Object/Indirect Object me
Possessive my
Plural Subject we
Object/Indirect Object us
Possessive our
Second person pronoun
Number Function Form
Singular Subject you
Object/Indirect Object you
Possessive your
Plural Subject you
Object/Indirect Object you
Possessive your
Third person pronoun
Number Function Form
Singular Subject he she it
Object/Indirect Object him her it
Possessive his her its
Plural Subject they
Object/Indirect Object them
Possessive their

In Old English, similar patterns of inflections are found on other types of words as well: articles (more properly in this case known as demonstrative pronouns), like this, that, and the; nouns; and adjectives. In the same way we can distinguish between subject and object forms of a pronoun by form (even if we sometimes ignore this information), so too Anglo-Saxons can distinguish between subject, object, possessive, and even indirect object forms of their pronouns, nouns, and adjectives (you can brush-up on your knowledge of Modern English word classes with my tutorial Grammar Essentials 2: Parts of Speech/Word Classes).

Learning these forms is a major goal of any Old English course. As you progress with our translations you will become increasingly familiar with the different forms for the various parts of speech. To begin with, however, we can start by learning the endings on the demonstrative and personal pronouns. These both (in the case of the personal pronouns) are the most similar to what we already know as speakers of Modern English, and, fortunately, show endings that we will see over and over again with other forms.

A note about terminology

In the above discussion, I have used the terms “subject,” “object,” “indirect object” when speaking of both word order and morphology. In actual fact this is not really accurate: subject, object, indirect object, and possessive are really syntactic functions (words that describe what a word does in the sentence) rather than morphological categories (some of which can perform more than one function). From now on, we will be using the more tradition inflectional terminology to describe cases:

Syntactic Function Morphological Form
Subject Nominative
Object Accusative
Possession Genitive
Indirect/Prepositional Object Dative

Each morphological form can perform more than one function—in Old English you use the subject form to call people as well as indicate the subject of a sentence, for example. But as a rule of thumb, the above table shows the main equivalences.

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Notes

1 “Never” is a large claim. In actual fact, of course, writers of Old English, like writers of any other language occasionally commit solecisms and in the very late period the endings became more confused.

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The Pronunciation of Old English

Posted: Sep 18, 2008 17:09;
Last Modified: May 23, 2012 18:05

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Introduction

The sounds of Old English should not prove difficult, with a few exceptions, for speakers of Modern English. It can be hard at first to get used to some of the spelling conventions, such as the fact that all letters—including final e—are pronounced; but on the whole Old English does not have many sounds that are not the same as in Modern English, and, in most cases, indicated by the same letters (you can read a brief tutorial on Old English script here).

This is particularly true of the short vowels and the consonants, most of which are thought to have been largely the same as their Modern English equivalents. The lax e /ɛ/ in Modern English edge, for example, is probably not all that different from the short e [ɛ] the word’s Old English ancestor, ecg [1]. Likewise the d [d] in Old English dysiġ (‘foolish’), was pronounced much the same as the same letter in dizzy, the Modern English descendant of dysiġ.

There are two major exceptions to this. The first involves the Old English long vowels, which underwent great changes in the transition from late Middle to early Modern English (roughly the period between Chaucer and Shakespeare). The second is the existence of a few vowel and consonant sounds that are rare or no longer exist in Modern English or that fail to reflect distinctions we now consider important. These include the sounds associated with the letter *, some of the sounds associated with *c, *, and *h, and the fact that the sounds we now associate with s and z and with f and v do not seem to have been seen as distinct meaningful sounds (phonemes) in Anglo-Saxon England.

The following sections discuss each of the major groups of sounds in turn. In each case you are given some examples of the sound in Old and Modern English and a sound clip illustrating the sound in and Old English context. At the end of each section there is an exercise, suitable for downloading to an Digital Audio Player (such as an iPod or similar), that allows you to practice the sounds out loud while comparing yourself to a reference sample.

Consonants

With a very few exceptions, the Old English consonant system is essentially identical that of Old English. Hence the sound spelled by the Old English letter b was pronounced more or less as is that spelled by our modern b: Old English bār, Modern English boar (i.e. wild pig).

Even when Anglo-Saxons used different characters or spellings, the actual sounds were mostly the same:

Old English also distinguished between long and short consonants. This distinction, which is found in Modern Italian, has no equivalent in Modern English. When pronouncing a long consonant, which were usually written as double consonants, try to hold the consonant longer than you would for a regular (i.e. short) consonant.

Consonant IPA Value1 Old English Example Comments
b b bār, ‘boar’  
c k cyning, ‘king’ Often spelled with a k in Middle and Modern English
ʧ ċīese The dot above the letter for this sound is a modern convention not found in the manuscripts.
cg ʤ ecg, ‘edge’  
d d dysiġ, ‘foolish’  
f f wīf, ‘woman’  
v wīfum, ‘to/by/for/with the women’  
g g gār, ‘spear’  
ɣ būgan, ‘to bow’ These sounds are commonly spelled with a w in modern English.
j ġeard, ‘enclosure, yard’ The dot above the letter for this sound is a modern convention not found in the manuscripts.
h h hlūde, ‘loud’ Initially
x cniht Medially and finally; often spelled gh in Middle and Modern English
l l lār, ‘teaching, lore’ &#:x00A0;
m m miċel, ‘great, big; Yorkshire: mickle’  
n n nȳd, ‘necessity’  
ŋ sang When in combination with g, say the sound as in modern English -ing words, but then also add the g.
p p pleoh, ‘danger, risk’  
r r rōf, ‘strong’ Rolled.
s s seġl, ‘sail’  
z cēosan, ‘to choose’  
sc ʃ æsc, ‘ash’  
sk ascian, ‘to ask’ Many (but not all) words with sk in Modern English are of Norse original while those with sh are from Old English; cf. shirt (from Old English) and skirt (same word, but from Norse)
t t til, ‘good’  
þ or ð θ þær (or ðær), ‘there’  
ð cweðan (or cweþan), ‘to say’  

Vowels

Old English made a quantitative and probably qualitative distinction between long and short vowels. This means that vowels were distinguished by how long they were held as much or more than by differences in how they sound. The vowel in Old English god (Modern English God) was certainly shorter and probably had a different sound (though not as dramatically different a sound as its Modern English descendent has) than gōd (Modern English good); the Old English words āc (Modern English oak) and ac (‘but, and’) differed primarily in length.

In Modern English, we no longer recognise length as a meaningful distinction between vowels. Instead we recognise differences in tenseness and quality. What are often called “short” vowels in Old English are really lax; so-called “long vowels” are actually tense. Fortunately, however, Modern English short vowels correspond quite closely to Old English short vowels; and while Modern English tense vowels sound quite different from Old English long vowels, our set of tense vowels matches the Old English set of long vowels.

Old English did have one set of vowels, at least in the earlier periods, which we no longer have: front rounded vowels, long and short, written as y. This is similar to an umlauted u in German, or the u in French tu. To form it, begin by saying (and holding) a long or short i. While you are saying the i, round your lips as if you were saying a u. When your lips are rounded, you’ll have the sound. Listen to the reference examples to practice—but even if you can’t do it in the end, take heart; by the end of the Anglo-Saxon period, the sounds were more or less indistinguishable from the corresponding form of i.

Long vowels

Because length is not a quality we hear naturally any more as native speakers of English, it is the quality of the long vowels that probably is most striking to our ears. In addition to being longer than their Modern English descendants, Old English long vowels also tend to have the values associated with them in continental languages like French, Dutch, German, or Italian, rather than their Modern English sounds:

Old English Vowel IPA Symbol1 Mnemonic Old English Example
ȳ French ruse cȳþþ ‘kith, friends’
ī beat wīte, ‘punishment’
ē bait ēþel, ‘homeland, territory’
ā ɑː  aunt (non-Canadian pronunciation) [2] stān, ‘stone’
ǣ æː bat bæde, ‘bade, i.e. asked, commanded’
ō boat gōd, ‘good’
ū boot brūcan, ‘to enjoy’

Listen to the Long vowels and example words

Short Vowels

As noted above the short vowels correspond very closely, with the exception of y, to our Modern English lax vowels:

Old English Vowel IPA Symbol1 Mnemonic Old English Example
y y French tu cynn ‘kin, family’
i ɪ bit scip, ‘ship’
e ɛ bet ecg, ‘ecg, sword’
a ɑ father pað, ‘path’
æ æ bad cræft, ‘skill or trade’
o ɔ bought god, ‘God’
u ʊ book sunu, ‘son’

Listen to the short vowels and example words

Diphthongs

Old English had three main sets of long and short diphthongs: ea/ēa, eo/ēo, and ie/īe:

Old English Diphthong IPA Symbol1 Equivalent to Old English Example
ea æa æ+a  
ēa æːa ǣ+a  
eo ɛɔ e+o  
ēo eːɔ ē+o  
ie ɪɛ i+e  
īe iːɛ ī+e  

The Old English diphthongs were strongly falling. That is to say they gave a much stronger prominence to the first part of the glide than the second. By the late Old English period, all were probably equivalent to long and short æ, e, and i, respectively.

Exercise

The following podcast contains an exercise that will let you practice your Old English consonants, long and short vowels, and diphthongs.

You complete the exercise as follows:

  1. Listen to the Old English sound, example word, and Modern English translation
  2. In the pause that follows this, trying saying the Old English sound and example word yourself
  3. Listen again as the sound, Old English word, and Modern English translation is repeated
  4. Then try the Old English sound and word again, correcting any problems.
  5. If you are still having difficulty, repeat the exercise for the sound and word, before moving on to the next.

Listen to an exercise involving long vowels

Listen to an exercise involving short vowels


Notes

1 Symbols in square or slanted brackets (e.g. /ɛ/ or [ɛ]) are notations for the relevant sound in IPA. Not all students will understand this system, so I have also provided spelling pronunciations based on North American English. If you would like to hear the sounds associated with the IPA symbols, a good site to visit is the following: http://www.phonetics.ucla.edu/course/chapter1/chapter1.html (thanks to Lee Ann Schneider for the link).

2 In Canadian English aunt (i.e. the sister of your father or mother) sounds the same as (is a homophone of) ant (i.e. the creepy crawly thing). Old English ā sounds like the first sound in aunt when spoken by people who can hear the difference between aunts and ants.

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An Anglo-Saxon Timeline

Posted: Jul 20, 2008 11:07;
Last Modified: May 23, 2012 19:05

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The following link is to an experiment in constructing a timeline of the Anglo-Saxon period: http://people.uleth.ca/~daniel.odonnell/Anglo-Saxon_Kings.xml It is very much a work in progress at the moment. The ultimate goal will be to have a synoptic oversight and index that will allow students to click on major events, persons, or cultural artefacts and then see how they fit in with other milestones.

At the moment, the chart only includes Kings. And even then still in fairly rough fashion.

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Transcription Guidelines

Posted: Nov 19, 2007 12:11;
Last Modified: May 23, 2012 19:05

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The following is a list of typographical conventions to use when transcribing medieval manuscripts in my classes.



deletion

Strikethrough indicates the physical deletion of text in a witness. Deletion may be by any method (underlining, punctum delens, erasure, overwriting, etc). You should indicate the precise method of deletion by a note at the end of your transcription. The deleted text is recorded whenever possible. If deleted text cannot be recovered, it is replaced by colons.

You indicate strikethrough in HTML as follows <strike>Text struck through</strike>


\addition/

Upward sloping brackets indicate that the enclosed text has been added above the manuscript line. If a caret was used, this is indicated with a preceding comma or caret symbol (⁁): ⁁\addition above the line/.

|addition|

Vertical brackets indicate that the enclosed text has been inserted between existing characters within the manuscript line. Insertion is distinguished from overwriting (i.e. the conversion of one character to another or the addition of a new character in the space left by a previously deleted form).

{addition}

Brackets indicate that the enclosed text has been added over some pre-existing form. This addition may involve the conversion of one letter to another (for example, the conversion of to by the addition of an ascender), or the addition of new text in the place of a previous erasure. The overwritten text is treated as a deletion.

/addition\

Downward sloping brackets indicate that the enclosed text has been added below the manuscript line.

addition| or |addition

A single vertical bar indicates that the text has been added at the beginning or end of a manuscript line. Text preceded by a single vertical bar has been added at the end of a manuscript line. Text followed by a single vertical bar has been added at the beginning of a manuscript line. Text between two vertical bars has been added “within the line” (i.e. between pre-existing letters or words).

damage

Underlining indicates that text has been damaged. When damaged text is unclear or illegible, additional symbols are used.

In HTML, you indicate text is underlined as follows: <u>Underlined text</u>.


〈unclear〉

Angle brackets indicate that the enclosed text is unclear for some physical reason (e.g. rubbing, flaking, staining, poorly executed script).

In HTML, there is a distinction between angled brackets ( and ) and the greater than and less than signs (> and <). If you use the greater and less than signs, your text will not appear as the browser will think your text is an HTML code.


[supplied] or [emended]

Square brackets indicate that the enclosed text is being supplied or emended. “Supplied text” refers to the hypothetical restoration of original readings from a specific witness that have become lost or illegible due to some physical reason. “Emended text” refers to the replacement of legible text from extant witnesses by a modern editor or transcriber.
::

Colons represent text that is completely effaced or illegible. The number of colons used corresponds roughly to the number of letters the transcriber believes are missing. Note that colons are used for text that was in the manuscript but is not physically missing due to erasure or other damage. They are not used to indicate text that has not been copied into the manuscript but appears in other versions.

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How to Study Old English (or Latin or any other dead language) for a Test or an Exam

Posted: Oct 08, 2007 19:10;
Last Modified: May 23, 2012 19:05

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Introduction

Students who study Old English need to call on skills and learning techniques that they probably have not had much opportunity to use in other university-level literature classes, especially if this literature was in their native language. They need to know and keep in the front of their minds the grammar of both Old English and Modern English; they need to do intensive work with dictionaries and glossaries; and they are working with texts that can seem quite alien to modern sensibilities.

So how should you study in Old English class? Here are some tips I’ve compiled from personal experience and asking other scholars of my generation who have studied ancient or medieval languages (e.g. Latin, Greek, Old English, Old Frisian, etc.).

There is one principle running through them all: the point of an Old English class is to learn Old English. In everything you do you should keep the Old English at the centre of your work.

1. Do not write in your text book

The first tip is to avoid writing in your text book. When you come to study for a final exam, you will find a clean text book is much more useful for self-testing than one that has all your glosses marked on the page.

2. Write out the original text (in Old English) in your note book (1 side of the page, triple or quadruple spaced)

Writing out the target language is a useful habit to get into in the early days of your language study. It gets you used to the spelling conventions and trains your eye as to standard linguistic and lexical patterns. You may even find by the end of the semester that you are beginning to recognise unusual forms (particularly morphology) as you copy them out.

Triple or quadruple space your text in order to give you plenty of space for glossing, arrows, and corrections from your seminar.

You should write out your text on one side of the page only so that you can use the back of the previous page for additional notes: writing down words you find yourself looking up constantly (I used to write out every word I looked up), explanatory notes or idiomatic translations.

3. Gloss both sense and syntax.

As we’ve mentioned in class, translating from Old to Modern English involves two distinct types of translation: lexical/semantic and syntactic. It is not enough to know what a word means, you also need to understand what its inflections and position tell you it is doing in the sentence. Get in the habit early of writing both the meaning and information about grammatical form of words in the specific context you are translating—e.g. case, gender, number, person, tense, part of speech, etc. as applicable.

When you are glossing words, be sure to reflect the Old English syntax in your gloss. If you discover that a form like scipes is genitive singular, for example, gloss it as “of a ship” or “a ship’s” not as “ship”—this will help you put the sentence together in your head by preventing you from placing the form in the wrong place in your sentence.

This approach is particularly important with personal pronouns: the dative singular third person plural personal pronoun should be glossed initially as “by/with/to/for them” and not as “they” (which would be nominative, after all).

4. Leave the words in Old English word order and use arrows or numbers to indicate the correct order for your translation.

While it is tempting, especially in the early weeks of a class, to bring a finished running translation to class, this is less useful in the end than a glossed text. If you make a mistake in a finished translation, it can be difficult to correct—you need to rewrite your translation and this can be very difficult to do quickly in class. The problem is worse if you bring only a modern English translation to class: you’ll end up having no idea what went wrong because you won’t have a glossed Old English to consult.

If you leave the text in Old English word order and use arrows or numbers to help you figure out the order you should be using in your Modern English, you’ll find in-class correction much easier. Made a mistake in word order? Just scratch out the wrong arrows and add new ones showing the correct order.

5. Study by rereading everything—Two or three times!

The best way of studying for a translation exam is by rereading everything several times.

This may seem like an impossible task—how could you possibly reread in reading week or the week before an exam texts that took the entire class an entire semester to translate the first time?

In actual fact, you’ll find the translation goes much fast the second and third and fourth times:

  1. You know a lot more than you did at the beginning of the semester
  2. Your notebook has all the dictionary work and syntactic information and arrows you need, so you don’t need to look everything up again
  3. You know what the texts are about now, and, if you’ve been attending class, should recognise the difficult passages as soon as they show up in your reading.

I recommend the following approach to rereading your material

  1. On your first pass, read the Old English from your text book (fortunately you’ve not marked it up!). Keep your notebook open beside you. Consult your notebook as often as you need, but focus on your text book: you are trying to retranslate everything, not study your previous translations.
  2. On your second pass, try to read the Old English from your text book. This time, try not to consult your notebook except when you are really stuck. If you find yourself looking up words that you know you should know, write down these words and their translations on a list that you can use to study/memorise later.
  3. On your third and fourth passes try to read the Old English from your textbook with your notebook closed. If you really need to look something up, go ahead (either in your notebook or using the gloss at the back of the book), but push yourself not to. If you are stuck, try guessing before you look things up. Guessing is also a good skill to practice before you go into the exam!

By the time you’ve completed your third or fourth pass you are as prepared as you are ever going to be: get a good night’s sleep and come to the exam with a clear head!

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Insular Script

Posted: Mar 08, 2007 12:03;
Last Modified: May 23, 2012 19:05

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Here is a basic listing of letters in an insular script. The letters are from a manuscript of the early eleventh century.

Insular character
Modern equivalent a b c d e f g h i l m
Insular character
Modern equivalent n o p r s t ð þ u ƿ y
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Grimm's Law and Verner's Law Notes

Posted: Mar 05, 2007 14:03;
Last Modified: May 23, 2012 19:05

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Grimm’s Law

Grimm’s law concerns an unconditioned sound change that affects all
Indo-European stops. In this change (examples mostly from Brinton and Arnovick),

Voiceless stops became voiceless fricatives

PIE PGmc Examples
Voiceless stops Voiceless fricatives
*p *f PIE *peisk- vs. OE fisc ‘fish’
*t PIE *tenu ‘to stretch’ vs. PDE thin
*k *x or *h (word-initial) PIE *krewə ‘raw meat/blood’ vs. OE hrēaw ‘raw’
*kw *xw or *hw (word-initial) PIE *kwod ‘what’ vs. OE hwæt ‘what’

Voiced stops became voiceless stops

PIE PGmc Examples
Voiced stops Voiceless stops
*b *p PIE *kan(n)abi- ‘cannabis’ vs. PDE hemp
*d *t PIE *dekm vs. PDE ten
*g *k PIE *grənom vs. PDE corn
*gw *kw PIE *gwei- vs. OE cwicu ‘alive’

Voiced aspirated stops became voiced fricatives and then voiced stops.

PIE PGmc Examples
Voiced aspirated stops Voiced fricatives Voiceless Fricatives
*bh *b PIE *bhrāter vs. OE broþer
*dh *d PIE * əndhero- vs. OE under
*gh *g or *h (word-initial) PIE *wegh vs. OE weg ‘road, way’
*gwh w *g or *w PIE *gwher ‘to heat’ vs. OE warm

Verner’s law

The first group mentioned above (voiceless stops) underwent an additional change in certain contexts due to the change from variable accent in Indo-European to fixed initial accent in Germanic. When these sounds appeared in a voiced environment (i.e. not initially or finally or next to other voiceless consonants) and were not immediately proceeded by the Indo-European stress, they went on to become a voiced stop. Under the same conditions, Indo-European */s/ became Germanic */r/.

PIE PGmc Examples
Voiceless stops Voiced fricatives Voiced stops
*p *b PIE *septm vs. Gothic síbun ‘seven’
*t *d PIE *pətēr vs. OE fæder ‘father’ (medial sound: d rather than t)
*k *g PIE *dukā vs. OE togian ‘tow’
*s *z *r PIE *ghaiso ‘stick’ vs. OE gār ‘spear’

A mnemonic

A useful way of remembering these sound changes (taught to me by Philip Rusche of UNLV) is to diagram each row of the above tables as a triangle:

To find the result of Grimm’s law, go one step clockwise around the triangle. Thus using the first triangle, we can see that PIE *bh became Gmc *b, PIE *b became Gmc *p, and PIE *p became Gmc *f. Verner’s law only affects the consonants at the top of the triangle. To see what they became after the effect of Verner’s law, go two steps clockwise around the triangle: so PIE *p became Gmc *b when it was subject to Verner’s law.

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The Ghost in the Machine: Revisiting an Old Model for the Dynamic Generation of Digital Editions

Posted: Dec 16, 2006 00:12;
Last Modified: May 23, 2012 20:05

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First Published: HumanIT 8.1 (2005): 51-71. http://www.hb.se/bhs/ith/1-8/dpo.pdf

“The Electronic Cædmon’s Hymn Editorial Method” (1998)

In 1998, a few months into the preparation of my electronic edition of the Old English poem Cædmon’s Hymn (O’Donnell forthcoming), I published a brief prospectus on the “editorial method” I intended to follow in my future work (O’Donnell 1998). Less a true editorial method than a proposed workflow and list of specifications, the prospectus called for the development of an interactive edition-processor by which “users will […] be able to generate mediated (‘critical’) texts on the fly by choosing the editorial approach which best suits their individual research
or study needs” (O’Donnell 1998, ¶ 1).

The heart of the prospectus was a diagram of the “Editorial Process Schema” I intended to follow (figure 1). The edition was to be based on TEI (P2) SGML-encoded diplomatic transcriptions of all twenty-one known witnesses to the poem. Its output was to consist of dynamically generated “HTML/XML” display texts that would allow users access to different views of the underlying textual data depending on their specific interests: e.g. editions containing reconstructions of archetypal texts, student texts based on witnesses showing the simplest vocabulary and grammar, “best text” editions of individual witnesses or recensions, etc. The production of these display texts was to be handled by a series of SGML “filters” or “virtual editions” that would be populated by the
unspecified processor used to format and display the final output. [Begin p. 51]

Figure 1. Editorial Process Schema (O’Donnell 1998)

Goals

The initial impetus for this approach was practical. Although it is quite short, Cædmon’s Hymn has a relatively complex textual history for an Anglo-Saxon poem. Even in print, it has always been edited as a multitext. The standard print edition (Dobbie 1942) reproduces two editorial versions of the poem without commenting on their relative priority. Few other studies have managed to be even this decisive. Dobbie’s text was the last (before my forthcoming edition) to attempt to produce critical texts based on the entire manuscript tradition. Most editions before and
since have concentrated on individual recensions or groups of witnesses[1[. Anticipating great difficulty in proof-reading an electronic edition that might have several editorial texts and multiple textual apparatus2. I was at this early stage keenly interested in reducing the opportunity for typographical error. A workflow that would allow me to generate a number of [Begin p. 52] different critical texts from a single set of diplomatic transcriptions without retyping was for this reason an early desideratum.

This convenience, however, was not to come at the expense of editorial content: a second important goal of my prospectus was to find an explicit home for the editor in what Murray McGillivray recently had described as a “post-critical” world (McGillivray 1994; see also Ross 1996; McGann 1997). In medieval English textual studies in 1998, indeed, this post-critical world seemed to be fast approaching: the first volume of the Canterbury Tales Project, with its revolutionary approach to electronic collation and stemmatics and a lightly-edited guide text, had been published two years earlier (Robinson 1996). Forthcoming publications from the Piers Plowman Electronic Archive (Adams et al. 2000) and Electronic Beowulf (Kiernan 1999) projects, similarly, promised a much heavier emphasis on the manuscript archive (and less interest in the critical text) than their more traditional predecessors. My initial work with the Cædmon’s Hymn manuscripts (e.g. O’Donnell
1996a; O’Donnell 1996b), however, had convinced me that there was a significant need in the case of this text for both user access to the witness archive and editorial guidance in the interpretation of this primary evidence – or, as Mats Dahlström later would point out, that the two approaches had complementary strengths and weaknesses:

The single editor’s authoritative control in the printed SE [Scholarly Edition], manifested in e.g. the versional prerogative, isn’t necessarily of a tyrannical nature. Conversely, the much spoken-of hypermedia database exhibiting all versions of a work, enabling the user to choose freely between them and to construct his or her “own” version or edition, presupposes a most highly competent user, and puts a rather heavy burden on him or her. Rather, this kind of ultra-eclectic archive can result in the user feeling disoriented and even lost in hyperspace. Where printed SE:s tend to bury rival versions deep down in the variant apparatuses, the document architecture of extreme hypertext SE:s, consequential to the very nature of digitally realised hypertext, threatens to bury the user deep among the mass of potential virtuality. (Dahlström 2000, 17) [Begin p. 53]

Keen as I was to spare myself some unnecessary typing, I did not want this saving to come at the expense of providing access to the “insights and competent judgement” (Dahlström 2000, 17) I hoped to acquire in several years’ close contact with the manuscript evidence. What I needed, in other words, was a system in which the computer would generate, but a human edit, the final display texts presented to the reader.

Theory

In order to accomplish these goals, the prospectus proposed splitting the editorial process into distinct phases: a transcription phase, in which human scholars recorded information about the text as it appeared in the primary sources (the “Witness Archive”); an editorial (“Filtering”) phase, in which a human editor designed a template by which a display text was to be produced from the available textual evidence (“Virtual Editions”); a processing phase, in which a computer applied these filters to the Witness Archive; and a presentation phase, in which the resultant output was presented to the reader. The first and second stages were to be the domains of the human editor; the third and fourth that of the computer. An important element of this approach was the assumption that the human editor, even in traditional print sources, functioned largely as a rules-based interpreter of textual data – or as I (in retrospect unfortunately) phrased it, could be “reduced to a set of programming instructions”3 – in much the same way as a database report extracts and format specific information from the underlying data table of a database:

bq..In my view, the editor of a critical edition is understood as being functionally equivalent to a filter separating the final reader from the uninterpreted data contained in the raw witnesses. Depending on the nature of the instructions this processor is given, different types of manipulation will occur in producing the final critical edition. An editor interested in producing a student edition of the poem, for example, can be understood to be manipulating the data according to the instructions “choose the easiest (most sensible) readings and ignore those which raise advanced textual problems”; an editor interested in producing the “original” text can be seen as a processor performing the instruction “choose readings from the earliest manuscript(s) when these are available [Begin p. 54] and sensible; emend or normalise readings as required”; and an editor interested in producing an edition of a specific dialectal version of a text is working to the instruction “choose readings from manuscripts belong to dialect x; when these are not available, reconstruct or emend readings from other manuscripts, ensuring that they conform to the spelling rules of the dialect”. (O’Donnell 1998, ¶¶ 4 f.)

Advantages

From a theoretical perspective, the main advantage of this approach was that it provided an explicit location for the encoding of editorial knowledge – as distinct from textual information about primary sources, or formatting information about the final display. By separating the markup used to describe a text’s editorial form from that used to describe its physical manifestation in the witnesses, or its final appearance to the end user, this method made it easier in principle both to describe phenomena at a given level in intrinsically appropriate terms and to modify, reuse, or revise information at each level without necessarily having to alter other aspects of the edition design – in much the same way as the development of structural markup languages themselves had freed text encoders from worrying unduly about final display. Scholars working on a diplomatic transcription of a manuscript in this model would be able to describe its contents without having to ensure that their markup followed the same semantic conventions (or even DTD) as that used at the editorial or display levels.

Just as importantly, the approach was, in theory at least, infinitely extensible. Because it separated transcription from editorial activity, and because it attempted to encode editorial activity as a series of filters, users were, in principle, free to ignore, adapt, add to, or replace the work of the original editor. Scholars interested in statistical or corpus work might choose to work with raw SGML data collected in the witness archive; those interested in alternative editorial interpretations might wish to provide their own filters; those wishing to output the textual data to different media or using different display formats were free to adapt or substitute a different processor. Espen S. Ore recently has discussed how well-made and suitably-detailed transcriptions of source material might be used or adapted profitably by other scholars and projects as the basis [Begin p. 55] for derivative work (Ore 2004); from a theoretical perspective the “Editorial Method” proposed for use in Cædmon’s Hymn offered an early model for how such a process might be built into an edition’s design. Indeed, the method in principle allowed editors of new works to operate in the other direction as well: by building appropriate filters, editors of original electronic editions could attempt to model the editorial decisions of their print-based predecessors, or apply techniques developed for other texts to their own material4.

Implementation (1998)

Despite its theoretical attractiveness, the implementation of this model proved, in 1998, to be technically quite difficult. The main problem was access to technology capable of the type of filtering envisioned at the Virtual Edition level. In the original model, these “editions” were supposed to be able both to extract readings from multiple source documents (the individual witness transcriptions) and to translate their markup from the diplomatic encoding used in the original transcriptions to that required by the new context – as a reading used in the main text of a critical edition, say, or a form cited in an apparatus entry, textual note, or introductory paragraph. This type of transformation was not in and of itself impossible to carry out at the time: some SGML production environments and several computer languages (e.g. DSSSL or, more generally, Perl and other scripting languages) could be used to support most of what I wanted to do; in the days before XSL, however, such solutions were either very much cutting edge, or very expensive in time and/or resources. As a single scholar without a dedicated technical staff or funding to purchase commercial operating systems, I was unable to take full advantage of the relatively few transformation options then available.

The solution I hit upon instead involved dividing the transformation task into two distinct steps (extraction and translation) and adding an extra processing level between the witness and virtual edition levels in my original schema: [Begin p. 56]

Figure 2. Implemented Schema

Instead of acting as the locus of the transformation, the editorial filters in this revised model provided a context for text that had been previously extracted from the witness archive and transformed for use in such circumstances. The text these filters called upon was stored in a textual database as part of the project’s entity extension file (project.ent, see Sperberg-McQueen and Burnard 2004, § 3.3), and hence resident in the project DTD. The database itself was built by extracting marked-up readings from the original witness transcription files (using grep) and converting them (using macros and similar scripts) to entities that could be called by name anywhere in the project. Transformations involving a change in markup syntax or semantics (e.g. from a diplomatic-linguistic definition of a word in witness transcriptions to a syntactic and morphological definition in the edition files) also generally were performed in this DTD extension file. [Begin p. 57]

First two lines of a TEI SGML transcription of Cædmon’s Hymn witness T1:

〈l id=“t1.1” n=“1“〉
 〈seg type=“MSWord” id=“t1.1a.1“〉Nu〈space extent=“0“〉〈/seg〉
 〈seg type=“MSWord” id=“t1.1a.2“〉〈damage type=“stain” degree=“moderate“〉sculon〈/damage〉〈space〉〈/seg〉
 〈note id=“t1.1a.3.n” type=“transcription” target=“t1.1a.2 t1.1a.4 t1.1b.1 t1.2b.3 t1.3a.1 t1.4a.1 t1.4a.2 t1.4b.1 t1.6a.1 t1.6a.2 t1.7b.1 t1.7b.2 t1.9b.2“〉&copyOft1.1a.2;…&copyOft1.9b.2;] Large stain obscures some text down inside (right) margin of p. 195 in facsimile. Most text is readable, however.〈/note〉
 〈seg type=“MSWord” id=“t1.1a.3“〉〈damage type=“stain” degree=“moderate“〉herigean〈/damage〉〈space〉〈/seg〉
 〈caesura〉
 〈seg type=“MSWord” id=“t1.1b.1“〉〈damage type=“stain” degree=“light“〉he〈/damage〉ofon〈lb〉rices〈space〉〈/seg〉
 〈seg type=“MSWord” id=“t1.1b.2“〉&wynn;eard〈space〉〈/seg〉
〈/l〉
〈l id=“t1.2” n=“2“〉
 〈seg type=“MSWord” id=“t1.2a.1“〉meotodes〈space〉〈/seg〉
 〈seg type=“MSWord” id=“t1.2a.2“〉me〈corr sic=“u” cert=“50%“〉〈del rend=“overwriting“〉u〈/del〉〈add rend=“overwriting” place=“intralinear“〉a〈/add〉〈/corr〉hte〈space〉〈/seg〉
 〈note type=“transcription” id=“t1.2a.2.n” target=“t1.2a.2” resp=dpod〉&copyOft1.2a.2;] Corrected from 〈foreign〉meuhte〈/foreign〉?〈/note〉
 〈caesura〉
 〈seg type=“MSWord” id=“t1.2b.1“〉&tyronianNota;〈space extent=“0“〉〈/seg〉
 〈seg type=“MSWord” id=“t1.2b.2“〉his〈space〉〈/seg〉
 〈seg type=“MSWord” id=“t1.2b.3“〉〈damage type=“stain” degree=“severe“〉〈unclear reason=“stain in facsimile” cert=“90%“〉mod〈/unclear〉〈/damage〉〈damage type=“stain” degree=“moderate“〉geþanc〈/damage〉〈space〉〈/seg〉
 〈note type=“transcription” id=“t1.2b.3.n” target=“t1.2b.3“〉&copyOft1.2b.3;] 〈c〉mod〈/c〉 obscured by stain in facsimile.〈/note〉
〈/l〉

Same text after conversion to entity format (Information from the original l, w, caesura, and note elements are stored separately).

〈!ENTITY t1.1a.1 ‘Nu〈space type=“wordBoundary” extent=“0“〉‘〉
〈!ENTITY t1.1a.2 ‘sc〈damage type=“stain” rend=“beginning“〉ulon〈/damage〉〈space type=“wordBoundary” extent=“1“〉‘〉

[Begin p. 58]

〈!ENTITY t1.1a.3 ‘〈damage type=“stain” rend=“middle“〉herıgean〈/damage〉〈space type=“wordBoundary” extent=“1“〉‘〉
〈!ENTITY t1.1b.1 ‘〈damage type=“stain” rend=“end“〉heo〈/damage〉fon〈lb〉rıces〈space
type=“wordBoundary” extent=“1“〉‘〉
〈!ENTITY t1.1b.2 ‘&mswynn;eard〈space type=“wordBoundary” extent=“1“〉‘〉
〈!ENTITY t1.2a.1 ‘meotodes〈space type=“wordBoundary” extent=“1“〉‘〉
〈!ENTITY t1.2a.2 ‘me〈damage type=“stain” rend=“complete“〉a〈/damage〉hte〈space type=“wordBoundary” extent=“1“〉‘〉
〈!ENTITY t1.2b.1 ‘〈abbr type=“scribal” expan=“ond/and/end“〉&tyronianNota;〈/abbr〉〈expan type=“scribal“〉ond〈/expan〉〈space type=“wordBoundary” extent=“0“〉‘〉
〈!ENTITY t1.2b.2 ‘hıs〈space type=“wordBoundary” extent=“1“〉‘〉
〈!ENTITY t1.2b.3 ‘〈damage type=“stain” rend=“beginning“〉〈unclear rend=“complete“〉mod〈/unclear〉geþanc〈/damage〉〈space type=“wordBoundary” extent=“1“〉‘〉

Same text after conversion to editorial format for use in editions.

〈!ENTITY ex.1a.1 ‘Nu‘〉
〈!ENTITY ex.1a.2 ‘sculon‘〉
〈!ENTITY ex.1a.3 ‘herigean‘〉
〈!ENTITY ex.1b.1 ‘heofonrices‘〉
〈!ENTITY ex.1b.2 ‘&edwynn;eard‘〉
〈!ENTITY ex.2a.1 ‘meotodes‘〉
〈!ENTITY ex.2a.2 ‘meahte‘〉
〈!ENTITY ex.2b.1 ‘ond‘〉
〈!ENTITY ex.2b.2 ‘his‘〉
〈!ENTITY ex.2b.3 ‘modgeþanc‘〉

Citation from the text of T1 (bold) in an introductory chapter (simplified for demonstration purposes).

〈p id=“CH6.420” n=“6.42“〉Old English 〈mentioned lang=“ANG“〉swe〈/mentioned〉, 〈mentioned
lang=“ANG“〉swæ〈/mentioned〉, 〈mentioned lang=“ANG“〉swa〈/mentioned〉 appears as 〈mentioned
rend=“postcorrection” lang=“ANG“〉&t1.3b.1;〈/mentioned〉 (&carmsx; 〈mentioned rend=“postcorrection”
lang=“ANG“〉&ar.3b.1;〈/mentioned〉) in all West-Saxon witnesses of the poem on its sole occurrence in 3b. The expected West-Saxon development is 〈mentioned lang=“ANG“〉swæ〈/mentioned〉, found in early West-Saxon. As in most dialects, however, 〈mentioned lang=“ANG“〉swa〈/mentioned〉 develops
irregularly in the later period. 〈mentioned [Begin p. 59] lang=“ANG“〉Swa〈/mentioned〉 is the usual late West-Saxon reflex (see &hogg1992;, § 3.25, n. 3).〈/p〉

Citation from the text of T1 (bold) in a textual apparatus (simplified for demonstration purposes)

〈app id=“EX.1A.1.APP” n=“1” from=“EX.1A.1“〉
 〈lem id=“EX.1A.1.LEM” n=“1a“〉&ex.1a.1;〈/lem〉
 〈rdggrp〉
  〈rdggrp〉
   〈rdggrp〉
    〈rdg id=“T1.1A.1.RDG” wit=“T1“〉&t1.1a.1;〈/rdg〉〈wit〉〈xptr doc=“t1”
from=“T1.1A.1” n=“T1” rend=“eorthan“〉〈/wit〉
    〈rdg id=“O.1A.1.RDG” wit=“O (Pre-Correction)“〉〈seg rend=“precorrection“〉&o.1a.1;〈/seg〉〈/rdg〉〈wit〉〈xptr doc=“o” from=“O.1A.1” n=“O (Pre-Correction)”
rend=“eorthan“〉〈/wit〉
   〈/rdggrp〉
  〈/rdggrp〉
  〈rdggrp〉
   〈rdggrp〉
    〈rdg id=“N.1A.1.RDG” wit=“N“〉&n.1a.1;〈/rdg〉〈wit〉〈xptr doc=“n” from=“N.1A.1” n=“N” rend=“eorthan“〉〈/wit〉
   〈/rdggrp〉
  〈/rdggrp〉
 〈/rdggrp〉
 〈rdggrp〉
  〈rdggrp〉
   〈rdggrp〉
    〈rdg id=“B1.1A.1.RDG” wit=“B1“〉&b1.1a.1;&b1.1a.2;〈/rdg〉〈wit〉〈xptr doc=“b1” from=“B1.1A.1” n=“B1” rend=“eorthan“〉〈/wit〉
    〈rdg id=“TO.1A.1.RDG” wit=“To“〉&to.1a.1;&to.1a.2;〈/rdg〉〈wit〉〈xptr doc=“to” from=“TO.1A.1” n=“To” rend=“eorthan“〉〈/wit〉
    〈rdg sameas=“O.1A.1.RDG” wit=“O (Post-Correction)“〉〈seg
rend=“postcorrection“〉&o.1a.1;&o.1a.2;〈/seg〉〈/rdg〉〈wit〉〈xptr doc=“o” from=“O.1A.1” n=“O (Post-Correction)” rend=“eorthan“〉〈/wit〉
    〈rdg id=“CA.1A.1.RDG” wit=“Ca“〉&ca.1a.1;&ca.1a.2;〈/rdg〉〈wit〉〈xptr doc=“ca” from=“CA.1A.1” n=“Ca” rend=“eorthan“〉〈/wit〉
   〈/rdggrp〉
  〈/rdggrp〉
 〈/rdggrp〉
〈/app〉

[Begin p. 60]

Implementation (2005)

The solutions I developed in 1998 to the problem of SGML transformation are no longer of intrinsic interest to Humanities Computing specialists except, perhaps, from a historical perspective. With the publication of the first XSL draft in November 1999, and, especially, the subsequent rapid integration of XSL and XML into commercial and academic digital practice, editors soon had far more powerful languages and tools available to accomplish the same ends.

Where my solutions are valuable, however, is as proof-of-concept. By dividing the editorial process into distinct phases, I was able to achieve, albeit imperfectly, both my original goals: no Old English text from the primary witnesses was input more than once in my edition and I did to a certain extent find in the “Virtual Editions” an appropriate and explicit locus for the encoding of editorial information.

With the use of XSLT, however, it is possible to improve upon this approach in both practice and theory. In practical terms, XSLT functions and instructions such as document() and xsl:result-document eliminate the need for a pre-compiled textual database: scholars using XSLT today can work, as I originally had hoped to, directly with the original witness transcriptions, extracting readings, processing them, and outputing them to different display texts using a single language and processor – and indeed perhaps even a single set of stylesheets.

In theoretical terms, moreover, the adoption of XSLT helps clarify an ambiguity in my original proposal. Because, in 1998, I saw the process of generating an edition largely as a question of translation from diplomatic to editorial encoding, my original model distinguished between the first two levels on largely semantic grounds. The Witness Archive was the level that was used to store primary readings from the poem’s manuscripts; the filter or Virtual Edition level was used to store everything else, from transformations necessary to translate witness readings into
editorial forms to secondary textual content such as introductory chapters, glossary entries, and bibliography.

In XSLT terms, however, there is no significant reason for maintaining such a distinction: to the stylesheet, both types of content are simply raw material for the transformation. What this raw material is, where it came from, or who its author is, are irrelevant to the stylesheet’s task of
[Begin p. 61] organisation, adaptation, interpretation, and re-presentation. While poor quality or poorly constructed data will affect the ultimate quality of its output, data composition and encoding remain, in the XSLT world, distinct operations from transformation.

This is significant because it helps us refine our theoretical model of the editorial process and further isolate the place where editorial intelligence is encoded in a digital edition. For organisation, adaptation, interpretation, and re-presentation are the defining tasks of the scholarly editor as much as they are that of the XSLT stylesheet. Change the way a standard set of textual data is interpreted, organised, adapted, or presented, and you change the nature of the final “edition”. Editions of literary works are usually based on very similar sets of primary data – there is only one Beowulf manuscript, after all, and even better attested works usually have a relatively small set of textually significant witnesses, editions, or recensions. What differences arise between modern editions of literary texts tend for the most part to hinge on the reinterpretation of existing evidence, rather than any real change in the available data5. In traditional editions, the evidence for this observation can be obscured by the fact that the “editor” also usually is responsible for much of the secondary textual content. That the observation is true, however, is demonstrated by emerging forms of digital editions in which the editorial function is largely distinct from that of content creation: multigenerational and derivative editions such as those discussed by Ore (2004), as well as interactive models such as that proposed by the Virtual Humanities Lab (e.g. Armstrong & Zafrin 2005), or examples in which users reinterpret data in already existing corpora or databases (e.g. Green 2005).

Taken together, this suggests that my 1998 model was correct in its division of the editorial process into distinct tasks, but imprecise in its understanding of the editorial function. [Begin p. 62]

Figure 3. Revised Schema

In the revised version, the original “Witness Archive” is now reconceived of more generally as a collection of textual data used in the edition, regardless of source or type. This data is then organised, interpreted, adapted, and prepared for presentation using stylesheets (and perhaps other organisational tools) provided by an “editor” – regardless of whether this “editor” is the person responsible for assembling and/or authoring the original content, an invited collaborator, or even an end user. As in the original model, this reorganisation is then presented using
an appropriate display media.

Conclusion

Technical advances of the last eight years have greatly improved our ability to extract and manipulate textual data – and our ability to build editions in ways simply impossible in print. The model for the editorial [Begin p. 63] process proposed in O’Donnell (1998) represented an early attempt to understand how the new technology might affect the way editors work, and, more importantly, how this technology might be harnessed more efficiently. With suitable modifications to reflect our field’s growing sophistication, the model appears to have stood the test of time, and proven itself easily adapted to include approaches developed since its original publication. From my perspective, however, a real sign of strength is that it continues to satisfy my original two goals: it suggests a method for avoiding reinputting primary source documents, and it provides a description of the locus of editorial activity; in an increasingly collaborative and interactive scholarly world, it appears that the ghost in the machine may reside in the stylesheet.

Daniel Paul O’Donnell is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. He is also director of the Digital Medievalist Project 〈http://www.digitalmedievalist.org/〉 and editor of Cædmon’s Hymn: A Multimedia Study, Edition, and Archive (D.S. Brewer, forthcoming 2005). His research interests include Old English poetry, Textual and Editorial Studies, Humanities Computing, and the History of the Book. E-mail: daniel.odonnell@uleth.ca Web page: http://people.uleth.ca/~daniel.odonnell/ [Begin p. 64]

Notes

1 A bibliography of studies and editions of Cædmon’s Hymn can be found in O’Donnell (forthcoming).

2 In the event, the final text of O’Donnell (forthcoming) has eight critical editions, all of which have several apparatus, and “semi-normalised” editions of all twenty-one witnesses.

3 This choice was unfortunate, as it seems that it led to my model being understood far more radically than I intended (e.g. in Dahlström 2000, 17, cited above). A perhaps better formulation would be that editors (print and digital) function in a manner analogous to (and perhaps reproducable in) progamming instructions.

4 In practice, of course, this type of modelling would work best in the case of simple, linguistically oriented exemplars. It becomes increasingly difficult – though still theoretically possible – with more complex or highly eclectic editorial approaches. A rule-based replica of Kane and Donaldson (1988), for example, is possible probably only in theory.

5 While this obviously does not apply in those few cases in which editions are made after the discovery of significant new textual evidence, such discoveries are few and far between. Most editorial differences are the result of a reinterpretation of essentially similar sets of textual data.

[Begin p. 65]

References

[Begin p. 66]

[Begin p. 67]

Appendix: O’Donnell (1998)

The following is a reprint of O’Donnell (1998). It has been reformatted for publication, but is otherwise unchanged from the original text with the exception of closing brackets that were missing from some of the code examples in the original and that have been added here. The Editorial Schema diagram has been redrawn without any deliberate substantive alteration. The original low resolution version can be found at 〈http://people.uleth.ca/~daniel.odonnell/research/caedmon-job.html〉.

The Electronic Cædmon’s Hymn: Editorial Method

Daniel Paul O’Donnell

The Electronic Cædmon’s Hymn will be an archive based, virtual critical edition. This means users will:

The following is a rough schema describing how the edition will work:

[Begin p. 68]

Figure 1.

This schema reflects my developing view of the editing process. The terms (Witness Level, Processor Level, etc.) are defined further below.

In my view, the editor of a critical edition is understood as being functionally equivalent to a filter separating the final reader from the uninterpreted data contained in the raw witnesses. Depending on the nature of the instructions this processor is given, different types of manipulation will occur in producing the final critical edition. An editor interested in producing a student edition of the poem, for example, can be understood to be manipulating the data according to the instructions choose the easiest (most sensible) readings and ignore those which raise advanced textual problems; an editor interested in producing the ‘original’ text can be seen as a processor performing the instruction choose readings from the earliest manuscript(s) when these are available and sensible; emend or normalise readings as required; and an editor interested in producing an edition of a specific dialectal version of a text is working to the instruct[Begin p. 69]tion choose readings from manuscripts belong to dialect x; when these are not available, reconstruct or emend readings from other manuscripts, ensuring that they conform to the spelling rules of the dialect. If editors can be reduced to a set of programming instructions, then it ought to be possible, in an electronic edition, to automate the manipulations necessary to produce various kinds of critical texts. In the above schema, I have attempted to do so. Instead of producing a final interpretation of ‘the text’, I instead divide the editorial process into a series of discrete steps:

Because the critical edition is not seen as an actual text but rather as a simple view of the raw data, different textual approaches are understood as being complementary rather than competing. It is possible to have multiple ‘views’ coexisting within a single edition. Readers will be expected to choose the view most appropriate to the type of work they wish to do. For research requiring a reconstruction of the hypothetical ‘author’s original’, a ‘reconstruction filter’ might be applied; a student can apply the ‘student edition filter’ and get a readable simplified text.
And the oral-formulaicist can apply the ‘single manuscript x filter’ and get a formatted edition of the readings of a single manuscript. Because different things are expected of the different levels, each layer has its own format and protocol. Because all layers are essential to the
development of the text, all would be included on the CDRom containing the edition. Users could program their own filters at the filter level, or change the processing instructions to use other layouts or formats; they could also conduct statistical experiments and the like on the raw
SGML texts in the witness archive or filter level as needed.

[Begin p. 70]

Witness Archive

The witness archive consists of facsimiles and diplomatic transcriptions of all relevant witnesses marked up in SGML (TEI) format. TEI is better for this initial stage of the mark-up because it is so verbose. Information completely unnecessary to formatting – linguistic, historical, metrical,
etc. – can be included for use search programs and manipulation by other scholars.

The following is a sample from a marked-up transcription at the witness archive level:

bq..〈l id=“ld.1” n=“1“〉
 〈w〉Nu〈/w〉
 〈w〉&wynn;e〈/w〉〈space extent=0〉
 〈w〉sceolan〈/w〉
 〈w〉herian〈/w〉
 〈w〉〈del type=“underlined“〉herian〈/del〉〈/w〉
 〈caesura〉
 〈w〉heo〈lb〉〈add hand=“editorial” cert=“90“〉f〈/add〉on〈space extent=1〉rices〈/w〉
 〈w〉&wynn;eard〈/w〉.〈space extent=0〉
〈/l〉

Virtual Editions

Virtual Editions are the filters that contain the editorial processing instructions. They are not so much texts in themselves as records of the intellectual processes by which a critical text interprets the underlying data contained in the witness archive. They are SGML (TEI) encoding
documents which provide a map of which witness readings are to be used in which critical texts. For most readings in most types of editions, these instructions will consist of empty elements using the ‘sameAs’ and ‘copyOf’ attributes to indicate which witness is to provide a specific
reading: e.g. 〈w copyOf=CaW2〉〈/w〉 where CaW2 is the identifier for the reading of a specific word from manuscript Ca. One of the advantages of this method is that eliminates one potential source of error (cutting and pasting from the diplomatic transcriptions into the critical editions); it also allows for the near instantaneous integration of new manuscript readings into the finished editions – changes in the witness transcriptions are automatically incorporated in the final texts via the filter.

[Begin p. 71]

In some cases, the elements will contain emendations or normalisation instructions: e.g. 〈w sameAs=CaW2〉þa〈w〉. The sample is from a virtual edition. It specifies that line 1 of this critical text is to be taken verbatim from manuscript ld (i.e. the text reproduced above):

〈l id=“Early.1” n=“1” copyOf=“ld.1“〉〈/l〉

Processing Level and Display Texts

The ‘Virtual Editions’ are a record of the decisions made by an editor in producing his or her text rather than a record of the text itself. Because they consists for the most part of references to specific readings in other files, the virtual editions will be next-to-unreadable to the human eye. Turning these instructions into readable, formatted text is the function of the next layer – in which the processing instructions implied by the virtual layer are applied and in which final formatting is applied. This processing is carried out using a transformation type processor – like Jade – in which the virtual text is filled in with actual readings from the
witness archive, and these readings then formatted with punctuation and capitalisation etc. as required. The final display text is HTML or XML. While this will involve a necessary loss of information – most TEI tags have nothing to do with formatting, few HTML tags have much to do with content – it is more than compensated for by the ability to include the bells and whistles which make a text useful to human readers: HTML browsers are as a rule better and more user friendly than SGML browsers. Users who need to do computer analysis of the texts can always use the TEI encoded witness transcriptions or virtual editions.

Here is my guess as to how HTML would display the same line in the final edition (a critical apparatus would normally also be attached at this layer containing variant readings from other manuscripts [built up from the manuscript archive using the ‘copyOf’ attribute rather than by
cutting and pasting]; notes would discuss the various corrections etc. ignored in the reading text of this view):

〈P〉Nu we sceolan herian heofonrices weard〈/P〉

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Old English Metre: A Brief Guide

Posted: Nov 21, 2006 21:11;
Last Modified: May 23, 2012 19:05

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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Although the Anglo-Saxons left no accounts of their metrical organisation, statistical and linguistic analysis of the poetic corpus has allowed us to come up with a good idea as to how their verse worked.

Like all early Germanic metres, Old English verse is accentual and alliterative. With very few exceptions, end rhyme does not play a structural role. And even when it is found, it never takes the place of alliteration (initial rhyme) in the earlier verse.

Stress and line division

The basic line consists of four stressed syllables and at least four lesser-stressed syllables (conventionally described as ‘unstressed’). A very strong caesura (metrical break) is found between stresses two and three. This caesura is so strong, indeed, that we tend to describe the verse in terms of half-lines: the half-line before the caesura is known as the a-verse or on-verse, the half-line after the caesura as the b-verse or off-verse.

In modern printed editions, on- and off-verses are separated graphically by a gap of three or four spaces, as in the following except from Cædmon’s Hymn (ed. O’Donnell 2005, adapted from the transcription of Tanner 10 [T1]):

Nu sculon herigean    heofonrices weard,
meotodes meahte,    ond his modgeþanc,
weorc wuldorfæder—    swa he wundra gehwæs,
ece drihten,    or onstealde!

Now we must honour the guardian of heaven,
The might of the measurer, and his thoughts,
The work of the father of glory—as he, the eternal lord,
Created the beginning of each of wonders!

In Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, poetry is written from margin to margin, as in the following facsimile (reproduction) and diplomatic transcription from the same manuscript (adapted from O’Donnell 2005)1. While Anglo-Saxon scribes did not place each line of poetry on a separate line in their manuscripts, they often did mark line boundaries and caesuras with a raised point or other punctuation. There is also considerable evidence to suggest that they were aware of metre as they copied (see O’Brien O’Keeffe 1990 and O’Donnell 1996).

Detail from Oxford, Bodleian Library, Tanner 10 showing the beginning and end of Cædmon's Hymn. Contrast and colour balance has been artificially enhanced to show detail.

[ Approx. 28 characters omitted ] Nusculon herıgean heofon|
rıces ƿeard meotodes meahte ⁊hıs 〈mod〉geþanc ƿeorc|
ƿuldor fæder sƿahe ƿundra gehƿæs ee{c}e 〈a{d}〉rih〈t〉en or on|
stealde· he ærest sceop eorðan bearnū heofonto hrofe|
halıg scyppend· þamıddangeard moncynnes ƿeard ece|
drıhten æfter teode fın{r}um foldan frea ælmıhtıg· [ Approx. 3 characters omitted ]

Alliteration

The half-lines are tied together by alliteration. The rule is that one or both of stressed syllables in the on-verse must alliterate with the first stressed syllable in the off-verse. The second stressed syllable in the off-verse must not share in the alliteration. The following lines show the standard pattern of alliteration (alliterating syllables in bold):

meotodes meahte,    ond hıs modgeþanc,

weorc wuldorfæder—    swa he wundra gehwæs,

ece drıhten    æfter teode

Consonantal Alliteration

When the alliterating syllables begin with a consonant, the sounds must be identical. Hence s alliterates only with s, b only with b, and so on. This is also true of certain consonant clusters beginning with s: stressed syllables beginning with sp only alliterate with other stressed syllables beginning with sp, stressed syllables beginning with st only alliterate with other stressed syllables beginning with st, and stressed syllables beginning with sc alliterate only with other stressed syllables beginning with sc.

Two exceptions (though they may not look like exceptions to the beginning student) are stressed syllables beginning with the characters 〈c〉 and 〈g〉. For most of the historical period, these characters were used to represent two distinct sounds each: 〈c〉 was used for /ʧ/, the sound at the beginning of Modern English church (Old English cyric), and /k/, the sound at the beginning of Modern English king (Old English cyning); 〈g〉 was used for /y/, the sound at the beginning of Modern English yard (Old English geard), and /g/, the sound at the beginning of Modern English good (Old English gōd) (see Campbell 1959/1991, Chapter 1).2 Except in the latest Old English poetry, however, poets do not distinguish between these sounds in their alliteration: stressed syllables beginning with the letter 〈c〉 alliterate with other stressed syllables beginning in 〈c〉 regardless of whether the sound being represented is /ʧ/ or /k/; likewise, stressed syllables beginning with the letter 〈g〉 alliterate with other stressed syllables beginning with 〈g〉 regardless of whether the letter stands for /y/ or /g/. Thus Old English cēap ‘bargain, purchase’ (Modern English cheap) alliterates with cyn ‘race, tribe’ (Modern English kin) in Beowulf 2482:

heardan cēape;    Hæðcynne wearð

…a hard bargain; to Hæðcyn was…

More common is alliteration between /g/ and /k/ (e.g. as between begoten ‘covered’, golde (Modern English gold), and gimmas ‘jewels’ (Modern English gems) in The Dream of the Rood, 7:

begoten mid golde;    gimmas stōdon

In the tenth-century or later, poets do distinguish between these sounds in their alliteration (see Amos 1980). Thus in the late poem The Battle of Maldon, 32, the 〈g〉 in gārrǣs ‘Spear-rush’ and gafole ‘tribute’ (both of which would be pronounced /g/) alliterate with each other, but not with the 〈g〉 in forgieldan, which would be pronounced /j/ (compare Modern English yield which shares the same etymology)3:

þæt gē þisne gārrǣs    mid gafole forgielden

…that you repay this spear-rush with tribute…

Vocalic Alliteration

All vowels and diphthongs alliterate with each other (i.e. stressed syllables beginning in a can alliterate with stressed syllables beginning in æ, a, e, i, o, u, y, ea, eo, or ie). No distinction is made between short and long vowels or between vowels and dipthongs, and in practice better poets tended to avoid alliterating like vowels with like. It is for this reason perhaps better to understand ‘vocalic’ alliteration as reflecting the absence of consonantal alliteration than alliteration in its own right. Cædmon’s Hymn has three examples of vocalic alliteration:

ece drihten    or onstealde4

he ærest sceop    eorðan bearnum

ece drıhten    æfter teode

Accentual Patterns

Most half-lines in the Old English corpus belong to one or another of a limited number of accentual patterns. These patterns, which are traditionally called metrical types, are distinguished by the way in which the stressed, unstressed, and semi-stressed syllables are arranged.

Sievers types

Traditionally, there are said to be five major metrical types, organised according to a system first developed by Eduard Sievers, the late nineteenth-century German linguist who first identified them. The patterns (known as Sievers types) are named by letter, in descending order of frequency:

Type A: /×/×
Type B: ×/×/
Type C: ×//×
Type D: //\×
Type E: /\×/

(In this system of scansion, / is used to mark metrically stressed syllables, × is used to mark metrically ‘unstressed’ syllables, and \ to mark metrically ‘half-stressed’ syllables.)

Each of these types has a number of subtypes. These generally involve variation in the number of unstressed syllables or the replacement of an unstressed with a half-stressed syllable. Additional variants involve the placement of unstressed syllables before the first stress of Type A, D, and perhaps E lines (a technique known as anacrusis). A separate type of very long line—known as hypermetric and found particularly in the Dream of the Rood—is built along comparable principles. A useful beginning-level discussion of the various subtypes can be found in Pope and Fulk 2001, 129-158).

The following Modern English ‘poem’, adapted from Mitchell and Robinson 2001, p. 165, can be used to help you remember the different types:

Type A (/×/×) Anna angry
Type B (×/×/) And Bryhtnoth bold
Type C (×//×) In keen conflict
Type D (//\×) Drive Don backwards
Type E (/\×/) Each one with edge

Whether or not a syllable is metrically stressed depends on its length, word-stress and clause-stress.

Syllable Length

Syllables can be long in three different ways:

Long by nature

Syllables are long by nature when they contain a long vowel (marked with a macron in many textbooks and dictionaries). Stressed syllables that are long by nature (marked in bold) include:

Long by position

Syllables are long by position when they are followed by two or more consonants in the middle of a word or one or more consonants at the word boundary. Examples, marked in bold, include:

Resolution

Resolution is a purely metrical phenomenon where by short stressed syllables are counted as long if they are followed by an unaccented syllable that is not necessary for the metre; resolution is marked using a tie symbol: to connect the stressed and unstressed syllables. The following examples (bold) are all long because they can be “resolved” using the following (unstressed) syllable (italics):

Resolution depends on the metrical context: some sub-types allow the present of short stressed or unstressed syllables. The following example, for example, does not show resolution:

Word-stress
Primary stress

In Germanic (the ancestor of Old English and other languages like German and Dutch), primary stress fell on the first syllable of all words. In Old English, this rule is largely preserved, meaning that primary stress falls on the first syllable of all simple words and most compounds5:

unnytt, ‘useless’; giefu, ‘gift’; standan, ‘to stand’

The main exceptions (stressed syllables in bold) to this rule include

  1. The prefix ge-, which is never stressed, on any part of speech, e.g. gehwǣs, ‘of each’; gesittan, ‘to sit’; gesceaft, ‘creation’.
  2. Most ‘prefixes’ on verbs and adverbs, e.g. wiþsacan, ‘to refuse’; ætdere, ‘together’.
  3. for- and be- can be either stressed or unstressed on nouns: _forbod, ‘prohibition’ vs. forwyrd, ‘ruin’ (see Cambell 1959/1991, § 74).
Secondary stress

Secondary stress (italics) falls

Clause-Stress

Although every word in Old English has at least one stressed syllable, not all stressed syllables are equally prominent within the clause or sentence. As in Modern English, stressed syllables in nouns and adjectives tend to be more prominent than stressed syllables in pronouns or conjunctions:

Would an apple be as sweet?

On the other hand, words that usually take low sentence stress receive much heavier stress when they are out of position (compare the stress on I in the following):

I went up the mountain
Up the mountain went I

Stress and Word classes

In general terms, it is possible to classify Old English words in to three main metrical classes:

This metrical distinction reflects an underlying linguistic difference: words that are always stressed in Old English all belong to the open word-classes. Words that are rarely stressed all belong to the closed word-classes. The middle category, sometimes stressed involve categories that include words belonging to open and closed word classes.

Scansion of Cædmon’s Hymn

The following is a scansion of Cædmon’s Hymn using a modified form of the Sievers system. Letter names followed by a number (e.g. A-3 refer to common subtypes of the main five verse patterns. See Pope and Fulk 2001 for a detailed listing.

(A-3: ×××/×)Nū scylun hergan      hefaenricaes uard(E: /‿×\×/)
(A-1: /‿××/×)metudaes maecti      end his mōdgidanc(B: ××/×/)
(D-2: //(×)\×)uerc uuldụrfadur      suē hē uundra gihuaes(B-2: ××/××/)
(A-1: /×/×)ēci dryctin      ōr āstelidæ(A-1: /×/‿××)
(B-1: ×/×/)Hē āerist scōp      eordu barnum(A-1: /×/×)
(A-1: /‿××/×)heben til hrōfe      hāleg sceppend(A-1: /×/×)
(B-1: ×/×\)thā middungeard      moncynnæs uard(E: /\×/)
(A-1: /×/×)ēci dryctin      æfter tīadæ(A-1: /×/×)
(A-1: /×/×)fīrum foldu      frēa allmectig(D-1: //\×)

Other scansion systems

The Sievers system is generally considered to be descriptively adequate but theoretically deficient by contemporary metricists. As a result, considerable effort has been devoted over the last half-century or so to developing alternative accounts of the metre. The most widely accepted alternative system currently is the stress foot system, developed and described most thoroughly by Russom. Its details are beyond the scope of this short introduction.

Further reading

Excellent introductions to Old English scansion can be found in Mitchell and Robinson 2001, Appendix C, and Pope and Fulk 2001, 129-158. The original work by Sievers can be found in Sievers 1885-1887 and 1893. Most Anglo-Saxonists use a version of Sievers system developed by Bliss (1962/1993). The Stress-Foot system is developed in Russom 1987 and 1998; see also Bredehoft 2005 for some useful revisions.

Works Cited

Notes

1 For the conventions used in this transcription, see O’Donnell 2005, § ii.6.

2 Many introductory textbooks distinguish between these letters, using 〈ċ〉 to spell /ʧ/, 〈ġ〉 to spell /y/, and 〈c〉 and 〈g〉 to represent the sounds /k/ and /g/ respectively. These letters are not found in the original manuscripts, however; they are a modern development.

3 If forgielden shared in the alliteration, the line would be unmetrical, since, as we’ve seen above, the second stressed syllable in the off-verse must not share in the alliteration. While the metre of the Battle of Maldon is unusual in many respects, the poet does seem to observe this constraint.

4 onstealde does not share in the alliteration because the accent falls on steal not on.

5 A thorough and accessible discussion of Old English word stress (from which this account largely is derived) can be found in Campbell 1959/1991, Chapter II.

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