ENG367Y: Comparing Old English with Present-Day English (10%)
27th October: I've clarified (I hope) some of the instructions in BOLD face.
11 November 2004
At the beginning of class to CP
To CP’s mailbox at the Wetmore Hall Porter, New College
Porter’s hours: off for lunch 11:30-12:30, dinner 6:30-7:30
Late penalty: 2% off for each day late; not accepted after 25 November.
This assignment is designed to demonstrate your ability to
- Find specific examples of general
trends described in class and in the textbook
- Identify differences between
OE and PDE
- Identify similarities between
OE and PDE
- Use appropriate linguistic
- Use scholarly reference books
relating to the history of the English language
- For a solid review
of or intro to terms for describing (PDE) lexicon, morphology, and
syntax, see Crystal (esp chapters 9, 14, 16)
1. Pick one of the following passages from the Millward workbook:
- “Riddle No. 47” (text III, p.
- from “Alexander’s letter to
Aristotle” (text V, page 114), the first five lines (up to “in monna
2. In an essay of around 2000 words, write a description of the differences
between OE and PDE that your passage happens to illustrate. (Do not write about
any trend that is not exemplified in your passage, as you will not be given
credit for it.) In about 500 words each, cover the following sections
- Spelling and sounds, as relevant to OE spelling and/or differences between OE and PDE spelling
- Syntax (word order)
- Morphology (grammatical
- Vocabulary. Here you will
have the most opportunity to do interesting research. However, you’ll also
have to be selective: try to strike a balance between generalizations and
a few clear and sophisticated stories about a few specific words. Consider
- The structure of the
OE vocabulary (e.g. are the words in your passage Native? Compounded or
derived forms? Found only in poetry?)
- The difference between
the words in the OE passage and the PDE words that translate it (e.g. are most of
the PDE words the same in form and meaning as the OE words? Have some OE words stayed in the language but changed in meaning?
Have some been replaced by ON or French or Latin during ME? by other OE words? )
As you start to work on your assignment, it will help to consider the
- Under each of the four categories, make a list of the most distinctive features of Old English that you might hope to find in your passage. You can consult Crystal, your lecture notes, and Millward. For instance,
- Under 'Spelling': OE has some letter forms that PDE doesn't have any more. In OE the letter <g> represents different sounds than the PDE letter <g> does.
- Under 'Morphology': OE has 'grammatical gender' and PDE has 'biological gender'. OE nouns are inflected for cases like the 'dative', whereas PDE nouns that are the object of a preposition or the indirect object of a sentence have no inflections
- Under 'Syntax': OE has "SOV" word order in some contexts where PDE has SVO word order
- In your passage, determine which of the OE words still
survives into PDE (If you’re not sure, look up the PDE word in the OED
and see if your OE form is one of the attested spellings.)
- Is it a ‘grammar/function word’ or a ‘lexical word’?
- Has the surviving word
(‘reflex’) changed in meaning? How? (e.g. Has it ‘narrowed’? Has it
- Has the surviving word
changed in spelling?
- If the word has not
survived, is its most obvious replacement or equivalent
- Another word that you
can find in OE? ON? French or Latin
- Use the words that have survived from OE into PDE in order to demonstrate
- correspondences between OE and PDE spelling
- semantic continuity or semantic change
- Use the words that have been replaced since OE in order to demonstrate
- vocabulary change since OE
- Use all of the words in your passage to demonstrate (for instance)
- properties of the OE lexicon: does your passage exemplify the most common ways of expanding the language?
- OE morphology and syntax
- When illustrating OE morphology and syntax, remember to
- have a list of the sorts of things you would like to find in the passage
- e.g. grammatical gender
- e.g. inflections for gender, case, and number
- e.g. typical OE word order (SVO? SOV?)
- For a review of these terms, see Crystal, chapter 16 (2nd ed. p.221).
- in order to find some OE cases and some OE word order, pick a straightfoward looking sentence and 'parse' both the OE and its PDE translation
- find the verb
- identify its subject, and any words modifying the subject
- those should be in the 'nominative' case
- see if the verb has an object (direct or indirect)
- are those words in the accusative or dative cases?
- does the OE have SVO word order? SOV word order? VO after an initial adverbial?
- Look at the patterns in Millward and see if you can find any in your passage
Crystal chapter 9 is useful when you’re considering ‘the sources of the
lexicon’, PDE and OE. But at this point you will need to consult some
historical dictionaries. Have the words always been in English? Or were they
borrowed into OE or created in OE? What did they mean?
We will be learning how to use the Oxford English Dictionary very
soon. There are hard copies of the first and second editions around (and OE
hasn’t changed much in the last ten centuries), but U of T has finally
subscribed to the online constantly-updated third edition at http://www.oed.com/ There are also
dictionaries of Old English around; the most accessible one for you at this
point is ‘Clark-Hall’, on short term loan [PE 279 H3].
When citing a dictionary for work in this
In your bibliography, give a full reference to it (and to all other
works consulted and cited).
· In the text of your paper, cite it by ‘short title’,
‘headword,’ and sense number. E.g., OED, “worm, n.” I 5b.
For the spelling, morphology, and syntax, you may want to corroborate your
observations with authoritative descriptions in secondary sources. Start with
Crystal and Millward. There are also more books, many on short-term loan
(Robarts library, 3rd floor); many of these are listed in a slightly
outdated online bibliography at
What are we looking for?
Your response will be marked for
- Balance: make sure that each
of the 4 sections gets equal weight, even if you don’t like syntax.
- Accuracy: make sure that
every quotation from your passage accurately exemplifies a trend described
in the textbook (or some other authoritative account of OE)
- Comprehensiveness: include as
many relevant points as you can in each section
- In the vocabulary
section, you will have to be selective. This is where you show your good
- Clear, coherent organization.
You can get everything in if you
- Put similar or
identical points together. E.g., “Since OE, case distinctions in some
parts of the personal pronoun system have been leveled: [exx]”
- Arrange points in a
coherent order rather than in the order they appear in the OE passage.
- Having trouble organizing things? Use the organization in CP's overheads and handouts!-- she would be rash to criticize you for that!
- Sophistication. Learn as much
as you can from this assignment.
- Clear, elegant, interesting
Try not to be overwhelmed by all of these instructions – I’m just trying to
anticipate what you might need to know.