A Programmed Course in Old English available for free (book+recordings)

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guyome
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A Programmed Course in Old English available for free (book+recordings)

Postby guyome » Tue Oct 06, 2020 10:44 am

The book and the audio files have been digitized by the publisher and are available for download at https://eprints.keele.ac.uk/6606/.

A few years ago I dabbled in Old English and Old Icelandic and was a bit suprised to see that most textbooks for these languages, even very recent ones, are basically just a compilation of charts followed by some readings.

A New Introduction to Old Norse (2008), for instance, offers more explanations than Gordon's 1927 An Introduction to Old Norse, but it is still little else than charts and glossed readings. The Old English textbooks I've seen being recommended (Baker, Hogg, Hough & Corbett,...), despite having been published in the 2000s, all follow this pattern. It is as if authors were afraid of writing textbooks that actually teach you the language.
There are some lesson-based textbooks (Hasenfratz & Jambeck for OE, Valfells & Cathey or Byock for OI) but, in my opinion, these are still grammar/charts-heavy textbooks with no real attention being paid to making things easier for the learner (mainly, too much vocab/grammar to learn in each lesson and not enough practice). Teach Yourself OE exists but it uses only extracts from authentic texts and consequently you don't get a lot of practice.

A Programmed Course in Old English (1969) adopts a rather different approach. Each one of the 13 lessons is based on a made-up text, which allows for grammar to be introduced in a gentler way. Each lesson can be further broken down in 5 sections, each one consisting of around 10 sentences plus glosses for less-transparent words on the left page and explanations on the right page (see below). Lessons 1-10 also feature various exercises as a sixth section (around 30/40 sentences in all).
Each sentence is recorded with a pause afterwards for repetition. Answers to the erxercises are given in the recordings.

I've only worked through lesson 1 so far but I quite like the book. Some explanations could have been more detailed but the amount of repetition really helps. Of course, it remains to be seen how well it will deal with teaching the material in the long run (only a few case endings are introduced in lesson 1), but I think the easy readings, constant repetition, and recordings can be a valuable addition no matter what.

I'm actually in half a mind to try and finish the book now.

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Re: A Programmed Course in Old English available for free (book+recordings)

Postby lavengro » Tue Oct 06, 2020 8:06 pm

Awesome guyome, thanks for posting!

In addition to the materials you list, you may already be familiar with a text that a few of us took a run at in a challenge organized by IronMike - Atherton's, Complete Old English which I thought was really good and which was accompanied by audio:
https://forum.language-learners.org/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=11685&hilit=old+english+atherton
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Re: A Programmed Course in Old English available for free (book+recordings)

Postby guyome » Wed Oct 07, 2020 7:48 am

Glad you like it, lavengro!

I saw the Complete Old English challenge but was a bit late to the party!
Atherton was the book I used some years ago when I first dabbled in OE. I remember that I liked the easy-going, concrete explanations and the cultural background it provided but would have liked something more structured and with more exercises. Did you find enough time to finish working through the book?

I've actually started studying lesson 2 of A Programmed Course. Adding OE to my schedule may not be the greatest idea though :D
I don't know if someone is studying OE right now but maybe I'll start something like an OE thread, or at least post my impressions about the book here.
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Re: A Programmed Course in Old English available for free (book+recordings)

Postby księżycowy » Wed Oct 07, 2020 4:27 pm

Cool find!

I'll have to look a little more closely at it, but at first glance I'm not sure I like it as a primary textbook. Either way, I'll gladly add this to my growing OE library!
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Re: A Programmed Course in Old English available for free (book+recordings)

Postby lavengro » Wed Oct 07, 2020 4:50 pm

guyome wrote: Did you find enough time to finish working through the book?

I did not wind up finishing the Atherton text, yet, despite really enjoying it. It is firmly on my list of things to do. Right below another task on my list: "Stop adding things to my list of things to do." I am fully subscribed right now with other things, but I hope to return to this someday.

guyome wrote:
I don't know if someone is studying OE right now but maybe I'll start something like an OE thread, or at least post my impressions about the book here.

I think either approach would be of benefit for the community. There are certainty members who take up Old English from time to time who I expect would find that of interest.
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Re: A Programmed Course in Old English available for free (book+recordings)

Postby guyome » Wed Oct 07, 2020 7:13 pm

księżycowy wrote:(...) but at first glance I'm not sure I like it as a primary textbook. (...)
Yes, there are some things it leaves unexplained. For instance, it kind of assumes the reader won't be thrown off by cases and the like (although repetition is supposed to take care of that, I guess). A student who is already acquainted with a language using cases, or a student who can take these kind of things in stride, would probably be ok though.
lavengro wrote: It is firmly on my list of things to do. Right below another task on my list: "Stop adding things to my list of things to do."
That's a plight I can sympathise with :D
lavengro wrote:I think either approach would be of benefit for the community. There are certainty members who take up Old English from time to time who I expect would find that of interest.
I'll try and post some reading notes then, provided I manage to stick to working through the book!
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Re: A Programmed Course in Old English available for free (book+recordings)

Postby guyome » Thu Oct 08, 2020 5:18 pm

Here are some reading notes from my run through Raw's Programmed Course in Old English. Maybe they will be of some use to others.
So far, it doesn't seem to me that the book is too technical. It uses some grammatical terminology (genitive, dative, etc) but not in an overwhelming way. Usually, I'd say there are enough examples and repetition to make things clear, whether you understand the labels or not. Still, the explanations are sometimes a bit "bare bones" (maybe because things will be taken up again later?) and things are sometimes left unexplained.

Each lesson can be divided in 5 sublessons consisting of sentences/glosses on the left page and explanations on the right page. The right page organises and sometimes slightly expands the knowledge gained first by studying the sentences on the left page.

Lesson 1.1 (p.1-2)
- he wæs swiðe spedig man, "he was a very wealthy man". No "a" in the OE sentence
- mid is given as "among". Maybe also "with" (cf. German/Yiddish mit)?
- fugeleras is glossed as "fuglere = bird-catcher, fowler". Is the extra e in the plural form a regular sound change between singular and plural, a variant, or just a typo?
- smæl, glossed as "narrow". I guess it gave us "small"
- on suðeweardum þæm lande is glossed as "to the south (lit. 'in that southwards land')". So, I guess suðeweardum is an adjective?
- toemnes þæm lande suðeweardum. Does this sentence illustrates free placement of the adjective, i.e. would toemnes suðeweardum þæm lande be as valid?

- section 1 mentions that se is masculine and þæt neuter but says nothing else about OE having genders
- the course seems big on tackling sentences as patterns and giving the student a feel for what to expect after reading a few words in a sentence. I like this approach because it's been my experience that becoming a proficient reader is in no small part a matter of intuiting beforehand what may come next. Dead languages textbooks are so focussed on declensions and morphology (i.e. word-level analysis) that I've seen people tackling sentences word by word without ever being able to develop a feel for what could/should happen next when such and such word/structure appears
- section 2 mentions that nouns followings prepositions may have an -e ending for singular and -um for plural. It may have a good place to make it clear why suðeweardum despite having the -um ending is not plural. Seems "-um=plural only" is only valid for nouns and that adjectives can have -um in the singular.


Lesson 1.2 (p.3-4)
- on þæm lande norðeweardum appears, which seems to confirms free placement of adjective is a possibility
- in on feawum stowum, feawum is glossed as fea. The ending -um has been introduced before but not -wum. Is it just a case of inserting a -w- between a radical ending in a vowel and -um for euphonic reasons? Or a typo? Or...
- fiscaðe glossed as "fiscoð = fishing". Not a typo, shows that variation between a and o existed. I've seen and and ond before for instance
- eal glossed as eall, probably a declension thing rather than a typo
- be þære sæ is glossed as "the sea (dat.)". Since we've been introduced to þæm lande (neuter) and þæm cyninge (probably masculine) after prepositions, I guess þære sæ is the feminine form

- section 1 mentions that in "A was B" sentences, both A and B are in the same case. I have seen a lot of people being confused by this in Latin so I feel a slightly lengthier explanation might have been useful (something like mentioning "I am he")
- "The dative case is used for the indirect object" is probably not very useful if the reader is not familiar with grammatical terminology but the explanations that follow and the many, many examples should be enough to figure things out.
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Re: A Programmed Course in Old English available for free (book+recordings)

Postby guyome » Fri Oct 09, 2020 9:02 am

I'm on lesson 2.3 of the book but I'm going back to earlier sections to type some reading notes.

Lesson 1.3 (p.5-6)
- æt sumum cirre, gloss is "cierr = occasion". Does cierr becomes cirre when dative or is just a spelling variant? In other words, would æt sumum cierre also be valid?
- æt sumum cirre. Sumum seems to confirm that the -um ending is also sg. for adjectives, even if it is only pl. for nouns
- be norðan þæm westenne. While the meaning is clear, a gloss for norðan may have been useful since we haven't met the dative ending -an yet (will be covered, but for nouns only, in lesson 1.4)
- norðryhte, glossed as "norðrihte = due north". Not a typo, i/y variation is common
- þa widsæ "the open sea", silently introduces the feminine accusative form of the definite article
- firrest, glossed as "fierrest = furthest". Probably not a typo since it now becomes clear that the book is kind on introducing alternative spellings through the glosses. While I can see the rationale behind it, it seems like it could be somewhat troublesome to some students. The section on pronunciation at the beginning of the book does say, though, that "OE spelling is inconsistent and that inconsistencies" have been retained in the text
- he meahte gesiglan "he could sail". Meahte glossed as "could", I guess it's where Modern English "(he) might" comes from
- on þæm oþrum þrim dagum, gloss gives "oþer = second, other", which makes the students expect the form oþer-um not oþrum. The loss of the vowel in the environment is not really surprising but it may have been useful to comment upon it. Also, is it systematic or would oþerum be possible?

- Grammar, section 2 confirms be þære sæ is feminine
- it also explains how be can be followed by accusative or dative but basically says not to worry about it since it does not matter for translation purposes. I'm not sure how valid this statement is but at least it gives the student something to go on in case he was pondering why the sentences had both on þæm lande and on þæt steorbord.

Lesson 1.4 (p.7-8)
- swa swa he meahte, no gloss. Lesson 1.3 introduced swa (feorr) swa (he meahte) "as (far) as (he could)" but not swa swa. The meaning seems to be also "as, like": þa siglde he east be lande swa swa he meahte on feower dagum gesiglan "Then he sailed east alongside (the) land as/like he could sail in four days"
- þonan, glossed as þanon
- suðryhte, glossed as suðrihte
- he ne mette nan gebun land "he did not encounter any cultivated land". Although both ne "not" and nan "none" are glossed, they could have explicitely mentioned double negation "He did not encounter no cultivated land"
- siþþan is glossed as "after". I guess it's where the word "since" comes from
- from his agnum ham "from his own home", gloss gives "agen = own". Same question as for oþer/oþrum above: is the loss of -e- systematic or is agenum a valid form?
- butan fiscerum "except fishermen". Butan was introduced earlier as buton, another example of a/o variation. I guess that's where Modern English got its "but" and that it survives in sentences like "nothing but the truth".

- section 1 is about subject pronouns he/heo/hit/hie "he/she/it/they" and nominative forms of the article/demonstrative, se/seo/þæt/ða (masc/fem/neut/pl). It might have been the right place to discuss genders but I guess the book assumes the student is familiar with the concept
- section 2 organises the knowledge gained so far about plural (nominative) endings, which seems like a good thing to do at this point. Introduces a new piece of information (neuter plural in -u)
- section 3 is about indirect objects/dative, again. There has been a lot of repetition about this so far, both in the sentences and in the grammar sections, which is why I think the book can be useful even if you're not familiar with grammatical terminology.
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Re: A Programmed Course in Old English available for free (book+recordings)

Postby guyome » Mon Oct 12, 2020 8:00 am

Lesson 1.5 (p.9-10)

- oðre hwalas. Oðre, plural form of oðer rather than a typo, I guess. Same loss of -e- than in oðrum
- se betsta hwælhuntað "the best whale-hunting". Hwælhuntað is not glossed so the student has to recall the sentence on huntoðe and on fiscaðe (1.2) and that these two words were dative, while here hwælhuntað is not, so no final -e. Also, the now familiar a/o variation
- Nice repetition on the dative with the next three sentences:
Ohthere sæde þæm cyninge þæt he wæs swiðe spedig man
Ohthere sæde Ælfrede cyninge þæt he wæs swiðe spedig man
Ohthere sæde him þæt he wæs swiðe spedig man on wildrum

- spedig man on wildrum. Lit. "he was a wealthy man in wild animals" > "His wealth consisted in wild animals". The gloss "wild(d)eor = wild animal" also showcases another case of vowel loss in certain contexts, as seen before in agen/agnum and oþer/oþre/oþrum
- Ða deor hie hatað hranas. Hatað is glossed "they call" which leads to the translation "They [=the Finns/people in general?] call these animals reindeers". But based on German/Yiddish verb heißen/heysn, I wonder if the gloss could be "are called" > "These animals, they are called reindeers"
- syx is glossed ad siex, another example of spelling variation between i/ie/y
- dyre is glossed as diere, ditto
- Mid þæm hie foð þa wildan hranas, "With them [=the decoy reindeers], they [=the Finns] capture the wild reindeers". Wildan as a masculine plural accusative ending is silently introduced

- Grammar, sections 1-2, are about plural verb endings and plural subjects. Explains that plural verbs have plural subjects and gives a few examples.
- section 3 is about dative (again!). It finally puts in print what the sentences hinted at: adjectives do have -um in both singular and plural datives.


Exercises (p.11-12)

Thirty-four 'fill in the blank' sentences. For each sentence, two possibilities are given, one of them only being correct:
1. Se ....... wæs swiðe spedig (cyning, cyningas)
Only words introduced so far are used, so the student gets a lot of repetition.

On the recordings, the sentence is read once with a pause for the blank, and once again with the correct answer.
It might be a bit trickier to use the audio alone for this part because you may miss where the blank is in the sentence and you don't know what are the two words you are supposed to choose from. Still, I found it great practice, and not too difficult, to do the exercise without the book.
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Re: A Programmed Course in Old English available for free (book+recordings)

Postby David1917 » Thu Oct 15, 2020 2:41 am

Many thanks for this post. I have been trying to study OE on and off for awhile but never liked any of the methods. Atherton's was fun but as you say, not very concrete. The older TYS course by Blakeley is almost *too* in-depth - lots of tables, every exception, but light on examples. Then just huge reading passages from the Bible or something. While it should be and is relatively easy to understand OE with a bit of effort and background in other Germanic languages, it would be nice to have a set of didactic bilingual texts or something (or a Natural Method) to root out false friends and so forth before trying to read the bible or Beowulf. I look forward to giving this book a try the next time I get a chance to sit down to some OE!
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