ENG6361F: Comparing Old English with Present-Day English (20%)
27 October: instructions clarified (I hope) in bold.
Due: 10th November 2004
Hand in: At the beginning of class, 4:10 pm
Late? To my 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.
Format: 1. Please use your STUDENT NUMBER ONLY and NOT YOUR NAME. You can put the student number on each page if you like.
2. Please don’t use flashy plastic folders: just paper and a paper clip.
This assignment is designed to demonstrate its writer’s 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 terminology
- Use scholarly reference books relating to the history of the English language
1. Pick one of the following passages from the Millward workbook:
· page 112: riddle 47
· page 114, text V: first five lines, up to gelicnesse.
2. Following the model on the last page of the hard copy of this assignment, ‘transliterate’ the OE text:
- If the OE word (or part of it) has a direct PDE descendant (‘reflex’), write that PDE reflex above the OE word, even if the meaning has changed. E.g. sume ‘some’.
- How to be sure? Use the ‘principles of correspondence’ (or blind intuition) to turn an OE form into a PDE one, then check the PDE headword in the OED and see if your OE form is attested. E.g. if you think that OE georn should end up as something like yern, look up yern and see if you find georn. Then exploit cross-references like ‘cf. YEARN v.’
- If the OE word (or part of it) has not survived into PDE, translate it, putting your PDE translation in brackets. E.g. heora (their), heo (she), namon (took).
3. 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 inflections)
- 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. Make sure that you cover both
- 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 following questions:
- 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
- Which of the OE words still survives in PDE? (If you’re not confident about your transliteration, remember that you can look up the PDE word in the OED and see if your OE form is one of the attested spellings!)
- Is it a ‘grammar word’ or a ‘lexical word’?
- Has the surviving word (‘reflex’) changed in meaning? How? (e.g. Has it ‘narrowed’? Has it become ‘pejorated’?)
- 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
At some point you will need to consult some historical dictionaries. How did the OE words enter the language? What did they mean? What happened to them subsequently?
You know how to use the Oxford English Dictionary now. 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’ [PE 279 H3], on short term loan (under ENG367Y).
When citing a dictionary for work in this course, please
· 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 Millward. There are also more books, many on short-term loan for ENG367Y at Robarts library (3rd floor); many of these are listed in a slightly outdated online bibliography at
What am I 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 judgment.
- 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.
- Sophistication. Learn as much as you can from this assignment.
- Clear, elegant, interesting style. This is an English department course, after all.