Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Learn Old English with the Wordhoard

Wow! This Old English class has taken on a life of its own! It's hard to get an accurate head-count, but from the various e-mails I've been getting, I think we may have more people self-studying Old English online than in the brick & mortar classroom.

I've been so overwhelmed by the unexpected excitement that I've called in some heavy-hitters to help build some static webpages -- namely Lisa Spangenberg, aka The Digital Medievalist, and Michael Drout of Wormtalk and Slugspeak and Anglo-Saxon Aloud. Ða sindon gode lareowas!*

Drout reminded me that he has a text available online, King Alfred's Grammar. Though this class is based around Baker's Introduction to Old English (since that's the one we're using in the brick & mortar class), I'll also try to sync up the lessons from King Alfred's Grammar so students will have plenty of resources available.

For today, students should have read about the history of the English language, available at Baker and Drout. Also, you were supposed to memorize Pronouns I vocabulary. In order to help you self-test, I've got the list below. The answers will be visible only if you highlight them (I hope). If you miss a few the first time, keep testing yourself until you've got it.

OE ... MnE
Ic ... I
þu ... you
he ... he
hit ... it
heo ... she
hie ... they
se ... the, that, (those)
þæt ... the, that, (those)
seo ... the, that, (those)
þa ... the, that, those
þes ... this, (these)
þis ... this, (these)
þeos ... this, (these)
þas ... this, these

You might have noticed that some of these words have these or those in parethesis. In fact, they can't really be plural if they are in parenthesis, but they're part of the same paradigm, so I left these and those in there. If you don't understand what this explanation means, you don't have to worry about it ... we'll cover it later. If you really, desperately need to know more now, look at tables 5.1 - 5.5 here, or the paradigms here, and you should be able to figure it out.

OK, so for next time, we'll be working on pronunciation and orthography (writing). Read Baker Chapter 2, and for those of you who want more, Drout on orthography and pronunciation. Drout's pronunciation section has sound files connected to it if you're still uncertain about a sound.

As for vocabulary, memorize Pronouns II, below.

wit ... we two
git ... you two
hwa ... who (also indefinite pronoun – see below)
hwæt ... what
hwa ... anyone
gehwa ... each, everyone
hwelc ... any, anyone
gehwelc ... each
hwæþer ... either, both
gehwæþer ... both

One more thing to note: several people have e-mailed me directly to ask questions or advice, and have expressed a reluctance to "clutter up" the Wordhoard with comments and questions. Feel free to comment here, and raise any questions to the entire community. If you're wondering it, someone else probably is as well. That also gives you the opportunity to have your question seen (and answered) by scholars whose command of Old English leaves mine in the dust. Whether you're taking the class brick & mortar, have formed a small group, or are just sitting by yourself at the computer screen, you're invited to bring your questions and comments to the Wordhoard.

*By the way, if I screwed up the grammar of this simple sentence, it just shows the perils of trying to translate Modern English to Old English. All our training is the other way. Even if I didn't screw it up, the fact that I had to offer a caveat should suggest how hard it is!


  1. Murray McGillvrey also has an online grammar/class, I've linked to it at the Heroic Age's links page, Anglo-Saxon links, under Language I think. I mention it not to add to Drout, whose grammar I think very good, and Baker, but because I like the way his texts work online better than Baker's.

    Heroic Age links: http://www.heroicage.org/as.php

    McGillvray's course:http://www.ucalgary.ca/UofC/eduweb/engl401/

    I might add that I'm going through the Anglo-Saxon links now, but there are still a number of good, still alive, resources under the Language and Learning Old English, including paradigms in addition to Baker's. I'd be interested in receiving others.

  2. I'm playing along as best I can before Latin eats my head this semester, but fwiw, I collected these links during my first semester of OE study, because I found myself hitting them again and again and wanted them all in one place:


    Thanks for doing this!

  3. Thanks for the links, Karma. So many people are sending requests and and links that it's a bit overwhelming, but I think by the time we're done, we'll have a kick-butt central clearinghouse of all the online resources folks will need to do OE.