Have you ever wanted to learn Old English? (OE)

Post » Fri Jan 27, 2017 3:08 am

Throughout the last year, I have been trying to learn Old English, with gradual success.

Firstly, as my mind is not that of a linguistic nature, and my experience in learning another language being learning German between the ages of 12 - 15 (to an A1 / A2 level, I think), this presented a challenge.

Secondly, as OE is a ''dead'' language, and native speakers have been dead for just under 1000 years, this also presented itself as a problem.

Finally, the languages resources - while good for the method of teaching of reading the texts (both biblical and epic poetry such as Beowulf, Dream of the Rod, &c), resources lacked in the presumption that you are learning as a university student, with a teacher, and proper guidance, and not learning it for the reasons that one would learn - say - German, Icelandic, or Dutch - as a living language.

My situation was quite different - I was learning as a person with no serious history of linguistics, wanting to learn a dead language in an unconventional way, and without the aid of a teacher (the nearest universities doing OE courses being overseas/in other countries [E.G - Texas / Virginia in the US, and Aberdeen in Scotland, with Universities in England (Oxbridge) providing ASNC studies [Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic Studies], but needing grades way above my capabilities).

But still, I was determined. I brought 3 Old English Grammar Books;

  1. https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Old-English-Linguistic-Introduction-Introductions/0521685699

  2. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Introduction-Old-English-Richard-Hogg/dp/0195219481/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1485164061&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=richard+hoggs+old+3english (First Edition)

  3. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Guide-Old-English-Bruce-Mitchell/dp/0631166572/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1485164140&sr=1-2-fkmr0&keywords=bruce+mitchell+a+guide+to+old+english+second+edition (Second Edition)*

* Could not find link to second edition, so thus the link sends one to the Fifth Edition

Furthermore, I found a varying amount of resources via the Internet Archive*:

  1. https://archive.org/details/anglosaxonprimer00sweerich (Third Edition)

  2. https://archive.org/details/ananglosaxonrea00magoog (Third Edition)

  3. https://archive.org/details/firststepsinang00sweegoog

  4. https://ia801503.us.archive.org/13/items/in.ernet.dli.2015.122963/2015.122963.An-Old-English-Grammer.pdf

*However, these grammars, being older, need a greater amount of Linguistic and grammatical knowledge to ''unpick'' and understand, if you will.

However, I found hope in the most unlikely of places - Youtube!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLnwScGuOxVlaN5aV9in9ag/ A Channel dedicated to learning to learning Old English like a living language; with content that is stimulating and easy-to-take in yet challenging for all levels, from the absolute beginner to the trained linguist. Includes videos on https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLX2L8KuRbPMDe4TGnX8Fa7EjV1-jvhtyV, https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLX2L8KuRbPMA7ay3Y-mgUmBtdXFWzN2KP, https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLX2L8KuRbPMCp1LGy9KgXOsqxp5OuA-Y4, https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLX2L8KuRbPMBCTWZN04PMhS8SgvNQ_wj5, https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLX2L8KuRbPMDqcB-jTTx2FHrBRzzGCgpr, https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLX2L8KuRbPMC_URvIsL1aJNvQWD-xA2Mo, https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLX2L8KuRbPMD713Nsy0_gwKtlJnfYJY-V and ihttps://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLX2L8KuRbPMBCOuJe2apm7V3V2_0UEDb8!

So, a year has passed, and I may not be making massive progress, but it is progress still.

Have you ever thought of learning OE?

Maybe you have, and did it in University?

Tell your story!

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Joe Alvarado
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Post » Fri Jan 27, 2017 1:31 am

I saw a picture once that had a phrase in modern English, and repeated it for Shakespearean English and old English, showing how much it has changed. But i would love to se you write some phrases of old English (with modern translation).

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Post » Thu Jan 26, 2017 7:25 pm

I can write very basic phrases;


"Eala" "Hey (informal hello)"

"Min nama is Luke." "My name is Luke"

"Ic eom Seofontiene geara" "I am 17 years old"

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Harry Hearing
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Post » Fri Jan 27, 2017 3:23 am

You can definitely see the Germanic routes of English in those sentences.

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Jennifer Rose
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Post » Fri Jan 27, 2017 4:36 am


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Post » Fri Jan 27, 2017 11:46 am

We used Hogg's "An Introduction To Old English" at University.

I found a copy of Sweet's "Anglo-Saxon Reader" and my Professor said it was a scholarly work.

Hogg's text contains a valuable Old English to Modern English appendix that translates pretty much everything that appears in the book, which contains almost all of the stuff that is studied nowadays anyways, "Caedmon's Hymn", "Beowulf", "Cynewulf and Cyneheard", "The Battle of Maldon", "Bede's Introduction to the Book Of Genesis" and "Riddles" for example.

Using these works you can get pretty good at being able to understand what's being said but you are ultimately using other people's existing translations to do this.

To take things further you have to achieve a command of your modern English language. You have to become a bit of a grammar freak, because if you do not understand the difference between the generative and the dative for example you're not really in a position to recognise this in the texts, question it or even apply it.

So fun hobby, but until you have mastered Modern English then you will not be able to fully appreciate Old English.

Also with Old English you are able to see it's Saxon roots (not routes - those are highways) because the land was being settled by Saxons.

A worthwhile read regarding this would be Geoffrey of Monmouth's "History Of The Kings Of Britain".

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Lil Miss
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Post » Thu Jan 26, 2017 9:02 pm

Gen = possessive; Dat = abstract objects, origin, indirect object?

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kiss my weasel
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Post » Fri Jan 27, 2017 6:02 am

I think "Elizabethan" is old enough for me (ummm... Shakespeare/King James Bible/etc.. ). I've yet to read the Canterbury Tales... and have trouble even reading Bibles printed in the 1700s (where the "s" is an "f").

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Ludivine Poussineau
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Post » Fri Jan 27, 2017 12:01 am

You should give ME (Middle English) a try!

Check out the first stanza of "Sir Gaiwan and the Green Knight"!

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Post » Thu Jan 26, 2017 7:33 pm

If memory serves Hogg gives you a breakdown of these terms and more early on in the book.

Please don't think I'm accusing you of not having a command of the English Language.

I'm simply pointing out that in general you won't have a full command of Old English as a language without having full command of Modern English.

If you can spot a dangling participle without Googling it you should be fairly close.

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Star Dunkels Macmillan
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Post » Fri Jan 27, 2017 7:26 am

I can tell you what a present and preterite participle is, but not a dangling one;

do you throw it out the window? :wavey:

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Marine Arrègle
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Post » Fri Jan 27, 2017 2:16 am

I'm sure I'd enjoy the content of the story at least.

One thing I am very interested in is History... and how common people lived. Not the nobility. I've got a few books on my wishlist for Medieval England specifically, but haven't gotten around to it.

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Rachell Katherine
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Post » Thu Jan 26, 2017 10:10 pm

Old English has masculine, feminine and neutral words.

By the time MIddle English came around (1400's) we had dropped all that.

Old English sounds like German, but Middle English sounds like... well, English and while it might seem strange to read it's often easier to understand if you speak it aloud.

Chaucer's Canterbury Tales begin with "Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote / The droghte of March hath perced to the roote" which is essentially "When that April with it's showers soothed the drought of March and pierced to the root".

Interestingly in Middle English we pronounced every letter in a word. There were no silent letters, which is why Chaucer's "Knight's Tale" is actually pronounced "Keh-nigget's Tayl".

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WYatt REed
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Post » Fri Jan 27, 2017 5:38 am


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Saul C
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Post » Fri Jan 27, 2017 10:34 am

I'm gonna be doing some heavy reading once I get this Skyrim playthrough out of my system.

Interestingly, it seems only now that people want to revive more gender and gender neutral English. Not sure you can just "will" it through social engineering though. The damage is done. :P

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Yama Pi
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Post » Thu Jan 26, 2017 11:56 pm


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megan gleeson
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Post » Fri Jan 27, 2017 8:21 am

How are you pronouncing "geara"? Voicelessly like the "ch" in "loch"?

I never really thought of Elizabethan English as being particularly difficult. It reads fairly identically to what we use today, albeit with rather ideosyncratic spelling and the occasional archaic word. Shakespeare and Milton seemed pretty modern to me.

As for middle English, only ever really looked at Wycliffe's bible translation. It seemed pretty fun, and I at least had the benefit of already knowing what he was actually saying.

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lacy lake
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Post » Fri Jan 27, 2017 1:07 am

You pronounce the "g" in "geara" with a modern day "y" like you find in the word "year".

Milton, like Shakespeare becomes easier to read and understand the more you expose yourself to it.

That being said if it wasn't for the "synopses" prefacing each chapter of Milton's "Paradise Lost" I might have found myself pretty lost myself if I let my mind wander.

You could joke that Shakespeare had a gift.

He could take something simple like "Oh look, the sun's rising" and turn that sentence into an entire paragraph! :P

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Sunny Under
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Post » Fri Jan 27, 2017 11:45 am

Yeah, definitely. Kind of my point really. I just can't wrap my head around anything older.. and yeah, I've looked at Wycliffe. It's weirder than Chaucer. I think Tyndale is said to be the first "modernizer".

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Kerri Lee
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Post » Thu Jan 26, 2017 10:54 pm

You - good sir - seem to be skilled indeed.

Perhaps you would like to join my OE sub-reddit?

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Gemma Flanagan
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Post » Fri Jan 27, 2017 8:09 am

I actually learned a rough understanding of it in high school. My literature teacher made it part of his lesson so we could read Beowulf in its original language. It was actually really fun and it became like cracking a code for many of us. Best year in literature I ever had!
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RObert loVes MOmmy
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Post » Thu Jan 26, 2017 8:19 pm


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Post » Fri Jan 27, 2017 7:53 am

I actually bought "the inferno" or dantes inferno i wanted to read it for some time. but when it came i realised it was like in....well kinda like the bible so its going to take me a while to read through..thats if I can understand whats being written.
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trisha punch
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Post » Fri Jan 27, 2017 6:59 am

I need to learn modern English first.

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Gemma Flanagan
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Post » Fri Jan 27, 2017 12:15 am

Ah ain't got no idear wut you be tawkin' bout. Xcuus me while I take caher of the south foty. :D

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Dan Wright
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