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

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English 3450a: Old English (Fall 2023)

Posted: May 20, 2020 18:05;
Last Modified: Jan 02, 2024 13:01




Contact information

My email is

If you wish to set an appointment for an in-person or online (Zoom) meeting, you can also use my Student Meeting Times Booking page.

My office hours are still TBA.

About this course

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

The Calendar describes the course in this way:

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

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

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

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

Although it will not be the main focus of the course, students will complement their study of the Old English language with some study of its speakers and the culture in which it was used. We will discuss the range of Old English literature, learn about early Medieval culture and history, investigate the place of the inhabitants of Early Medieval England among their European contemporaries, and read some Old English literature in translation along side our readings in the original language.

Learning goals

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




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

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

Note: You can add these assignment dates to your calendar by subscribing to this calendar.


[1] Each category under this heading is of equal weight (i.e. the pronunciation exercise is worth the same as the poster and presentation which is worth the same as attendance and participation). I reserve the right to add or subtract participation exercises and categories during the year (e.g. adding a quiz or homework category if class effort flags). Grading is Appropriate/Inappropriate/Fail. “Appropriate” means a good faith effort (i.e. a genuine attempt to perform the exercise, even if unsuccessful, rather than an attempt to game the system or otherwise operate in bad faith or take advantage of the exercise). Appropriate work will be given a score of 100%, subject to any provisions below (e.g. attendance and participation).

[2] Attendence will be taken in breakout sections. Students may pass on translations up to five times in the course of the semester. After that, they will not be counted as present whenever they “pass” on a translation (subject to instructor discretion and barring medical, family, and other exigencies). If you are having trouble keeping up with the translations at any time in the year, please let us know as soon as possible: we have tips and techniques you can try to make things more efficient.

[3] All exercises under this category are of equal weight. Grading is Appropriate/Inappropriate/Fail. “Appropriate” means a good faith effort (i.e. a genuine attempt to perform the exercise, even if unsuccessful, rather than an attempt to game the system or otherwise operate in bad faith or take advantage of the exercise). Appropriate work will be given a score of 100% as well as an advisory letter grade indicating what we think it would have earned if this had been a summative assignment. The letter grade has no impact on your final grade in the course and is meant only for your information.

If your work is exceptionally high quality it may be eligible also for Badges. Students may submit one piece of “Inappropriate” work for regrading, provided they accompany this with a letter explaining what changes have been made to the resubmission. Students who resubmit work for grading will receive a 2.5% penalty on their final grade.

[4] Up to three blogs published in any one week may be counted for credit (though you are welcome to publish more than three). If you publish more than one blog, then the first one counts for 1 point and the second and third 1/2 point each (i.e. a maximum of 2 points in any one week). For the purposes of calculating grades, the week ends at the end of our Friday class (i.e. anything published after 13:00 on Friday belongs to the following week’s blog(s). You first blog in a week must be published by midnight Monday to count as “on-time.” After midnight on Monday, each blog published in a week will count for 1/2 point. Please look at the about blogs page to see my (liberal and easy-going) policies on what is required and acceptable in blogs

[5] Creative/alternative work will be accepted for the final written assignment only with prior permission of the instructor. Proposals for creative/alternative work will be considered the week before Reading Week. If you are considering a creative or alternative project for your final written assignment, please ensure you prepare a proposal and book an appointment to discuss it with Professor O’Donnell.

[6] The final exam will be available throughout the exam period.

[7] 9% of the grade is reserved for “Badges.” Badges are earned for exceptional work and may be applied to any assignment, summative or formative. There are two types of badges: “Distinction” (equivalent to 1.5% on your final grade) and “Great Distinction” (equivalent to 3%). The value of a badge does not depend on the value of the underlying work (i.e. the badges are worth the same whether they are on a poster or an essay). Students may receive up to the maximum of 10% in badges. Please note that these are not “bonus marks”: the badges represent a reserved portion of the final grade that is awarded for excellence.

[8] Students may request permission to resubmit one piece of “inappropriate” formative work in the course of the semester, at a cost of -2.5% on their final grade in the class. Work receiving a “Fail” may not be made up.


The following policies will be followed in all my classes unless otherwise announced. You are expected to be familiar with the policies reproduced here and in the more general section on my website. These additional web pages are to be considered part of this syllabus for the purposes of this course. Failure to conform to any of these policies may result in your grade being lowered.

Since the role of GenerativeAI is a topic of particular interest this year, I am providing a direct link to my policy on the use of generative AI tools such as chatbots in my courses

Grade scale

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

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

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

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

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

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

Submitting Work

Tests, Exams, and Quizzes

Tests and Exams will be written in the University’s testing labs on Moodle. Quizzes may be presented on Moodle.

Essays and Reports

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


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

Class schedule

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

Week Date Topic Classwork Background Reading
1 Thur. 7/9 Welcome and Linguistic and Historical Background
  • Syllabus and assessment
Fri. 8/9 Spelling and Pronunciation
  • 1.a Practice Sentences
Sun 10/9 Please complete your profile on Moodle (with picture and statement of interests) by midnight tonight.
2 Blogs begin this week
Tues. 12/9  
  • 1.b Practice Sentences
  • § 6-9: Stress, Vowels, Diphthongs, Consonants
Thurs. 14/9  
  • 1.b Practice Sentences
  • § 6-9: Stress, Vowels, Diphthongs, Consonants
Fri. 15/9 No class (CAFA Council)
3 Tues. 19/9 Grammar Whole Class Tutorial: Old and Modern English Grammar
Thurs. 21/9  
  • 1.c Practice Sentences
Fri. 22/9 Whole Class Tutorial: Grammar Practice I
Sun. 24/9 What I did not know about Early Medieval England
4 Tues. 26/9 Whole Class Tutorial: Grammar Practice II
Thurs. 28/9 Nouns: The Major Declensions
1) Strong Nouns
  • 3. Ælfric’s Colloquy. 1-11
  • Cheatsheet: Nouns Row;
  • § 33: Masculine Strong Nouns; § 34 Strong Neuter Nouns; § 37 Strong Feminine Nouns
Fri 29/9 Observation of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (no classes)
5 Pronunciation on Flipgrid
Tues. 3/10  
  • 3. Ælfric’s Colloquy. 12-21
Thurs. 5/10 2) Weak Nouns
  • 3. Ælfric’s Colloquy 22-45
Fri. 6/10  
  • 3. Ælfric’s Colloquy. 45-91
  • Cheatsheet: Nouns Row;
  • § 25: Weak Nouns
6 Grammatical Terminology (Moodle) Oct. 2-8
Tues. 10/10  
  • 3. Ælfric’s Colloquy. 92-130
Thurs. 12/10  
  • 3. Ælfric’s Colloquy, 130-150
Fri. 13/10  
  • 3. Ælfric’s Colloquy, 150-178
7 Tues. 17/10  
  • 3. Ælfric’s Colloquy. 178-end
Thurs. 19/10 Verbs: The Major Declensions
1) Weak Verbs
  • 4. Ælfric’s Life of Edmund, 126 (beginning)-149 (translation)
  • Cheatsheet: Verbs Row;
  • §§ 87-88, 114: Introduction to OE Verbs; §§ 124-125: Weak verb lufian
Fri. 20/10 2) Strong Verbs
  • 4. Ælfric’s Life of Edmund, 150-180
  • Cheatsheet: Verbs Row;
  • §§ 110-113: Strong Verb singan
Sun. 22/10 Unessay due
8 Pronunciation on Flipgrid
Tues. 24/10 3) Irregular verbs
  • 4. Ælfric’s Life of Edward, 180-212
  • Cheatsheet: Verbs Row;
  • §§ 126, 127, A.3b: habban, bēon, wēorðian
Thurs. 26/10  
  • 4. Ælfric’s Life of Edward, 212-250
Fri. 27/10 Adjectives: Declension and Syntax
  • 4. Ælfric’s Life of Edward, 250-292
  • Cheatsheet: Adjectives column;
  • §§ 66-67 Strong adjectives (learn gōd not til)
9 Tues. 31/10  
  • 4. Ælfric’s Life of Edward, 292-331 (end)
Thurs. 2/11  
  • 9. Bede’s Account of the Poet Cædmon, 1-35
Fri. 3/11 Introduction to Anglo-Saxon Metre
  • 9. Bede’s Account of the Poet Cædmon, 35-44 (Cædmon’s Hymn)
10 Essential cases and verb forms (Nov. 6-15)
Tues. 7/11  
  • 9. Bede’s Account of the Poet Cædmon, 45-86
Thurs. 9/11  
  • 9. Bede’s Account of the Poet Cædmon, 87-126 (end)
Fri. 10/11 Catchup and review
Reading Week 13-17 Nov (no classes)
11 Tues. 21/11  
  • 14. The Dream of the Rood, 1-20a
Thurs. 23/11  
  • 14. The Dream of the Rood, 40-60a
Fri. 24/11 CAUT Council No Classes
12 Nouns and Verbs Test (Nov. 27-Dec. 3)
Tues. 28/11  
  • 14. The Dream of the Rood, 60b-80a
Thurs. 30/11  
  • 14. The Dream of the Rood, 60b-80a
Fri. 1/12  
  • 14. The Dream of the Rood, 101b-121
13 Tues. 5/12  
  • 14. The Dream of the Rood, 122-156 (end)
Wed. 7/12 Catchup and review
Fri. 8/12 Poster session
Sun. 10/12 Independent Research Project Due.
  11/12-19/12 Final Exam Period




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