ENG367Y: First term research paper (20%)

Due:             Thursday 6th January 2004, to CP in class at 10:10am


Where?          To CP in person at Wetmore Hall 125, New College, or

at the Wetmore Hall porter’s lodge (lunch 11:30-12:30, dinner 6:30-7:30).

Late penalty:After 10:10 am on January 6, -2% per day to a maximum of –28%.

The assignment will not be accepted after January 20th 2004.

For this paper you will study a selection of words related to a subject of your choice. This will be primarily a semantic study; in other words, you will look at how the words in your word group have undergone semantic change from Old English to Modern English. I’m expecting you to focus the paper once you’ve assembled your data and started to see patterns and problems.

Over the years many students have written some really memorable and original papers. An astronomy major wrote about words denoting the sky; a woman called Flora wrote about words for flowers; there have been papers on words denoting epilepsy and epileptics; the activity of sexual intercourse; women; death; pigs; the choice is yours, though I’m happy to help if you’re feeling anxious about where to start. Some topics will seem more straightforward than others: once you’re underway, it’s your job to find a way of showing off your ability to analyze definitions and quotations and to synthesize and explain broader patterns. Depending upon the topic, you may wish to make your essay the solution to a particular problem (e.g. the distinction for Chaucer between two apparent synonyms like dreme and sweven, the idea that we use the French word for the pork we eat and the Anglo-Saxon for the pig it comes from.).

The paper will be 8-10 pages long, typed, and fully documented in either MLA or traditional(footnote/endnote) style. It will use at least 5 secondary sources, and a Bibliography or Works Cited page is required. Although particular topics may require more or fewer words, as a rule of thumb you might discuss about 5 Old English words, 5 Middle English words and 5-10 Modern English words.

* A note on internet sources: You may use no more than 2 non-scholarly internet web pages, and these must be printed out and handed in with the paper. Please be careful to choose reputable internet sites (one is listed below) and to document these correctly (see handout). A necessary clarification: sorry, this is an old ‘caveat’ – the world has changed a lot in the last few years. You are welcome, indeed encouraged to use scholarly dictionaries that are now online: OED, MED, Bosworth & Toller and Clark Hall, etc., to use journal articles from online scholarly journals, and information from academic or scholarly sites, e.g. the British Library. I am more suspicious of non-scholarly web pages. If you’ve found something that you think your argument can’t live without, send me an email message with its URL and I’ll have a look at it.

Where to Begin?

1.       Make a short list of basic words in your area of interest. Look them up in a good thesaurus and find other related words (some of which may be new to you!).

2.                  Narrow your area so that you have a clearly related group of no more than 20-30 words.

3.                  Find corresponding Old English words by consulting A Thesaurus of Old English (ed. Jane Roberts and Christian Kay) which is on reserve at Short Term Loans in Robarts (PE 279.R62). The table of contents at the beginning of the first volume should lead you to the right section. This term’s paper must contain words from OE and ME. You’ll have an opportunity next term to write on more modern topics.

4.                  Once you have a set of Old English words (some that have survived and some that have not), look them up in A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (J.R. Clark Hall) and/or Bosworth-Toller and in the Middle English Dictionary (Hans Kurath et al.); call numbers are provided below. Record their definitions.

5.       Finally, look up all the words that survived into Middle English in the Oxford English Dictionary.

6.       From the information you have gathered, you can trace the semantic development of your words and begin to shape a discussion about your word group. Things you should investigate and perhaps incorporate into your argument are:

Format issues:

Research Tools

If you use the MED and OED off-campus, you can get access through the U of T library homepage.

Clark Hall and Bosworth-Toller and the MED are now online: for links to these and to other online dictionaries (and to the DOE’s Latin-Old English word wheel via its corpus) see the dictionaries page on 'HELL'.

Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England [DA 152 B58 GENR]

Medieval England: An Encyclopedia [DA 129 M54 GENR, VUPR, IMSF]

Oxford English Dictionary. 3rd ed. online. <http://www.oed.com>

Hall, J .R. Clark. A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary

[ROBA (Short-Term Loan and stacks), UNIV (Ref), VIC (Ref), TRIN (Ref), SMC (Ref) PE 279.H3]

Bosworth, J. and T.N. Toller. An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary

          [ROBA (Ref), VIC (stacks and Ref), TRIN (Ref) PE 279.B55; SMC (Ref) PE 279.B62]

Kurath, Hans, et al. Middle English Dictionary

[ROBA (Ref), VIC (Ref), TRIN (Ref) PE 679.M54; SMC (stacks) Z2012.04]

e-index - Linguistics and Language Behavior

HELL          http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~cpercy/hell/

Some ideas for subjects (many of these will need to be narrowed down into focussed topics):



mental health

death, burial

parts of the body


sky, heavens

dirt, filth, squalor

trust, faith, confidence




province/country, territory




legal language


kinship terms



monsters/the monstrous

farm animals


time reckoning



religious worship

pagan religions

weights & measures

nation, people

women and wives


servants and followers

counsel and advice

foreignness and foreigners

verse and poetry

...and many more...


Academic integrity.

“It shall be an offence for a student knowingly ... to represent as one’s own any idea or expression of an idea or work of another ...”  “Wherever in the Code an offence is described as depending on ‘knowing’, the offence shall likewise be deemed to have been committed if the person ought reasonably to have known.”  (Faculty of Arts and Science 2004-2005 Calendar, p. 431).ASK me if you are in any doubt about when and how to acknowledge any kind of ‘outside assistance’.