Module Catalogue 2018/19

SEL3341 : Old English: Texts and Translations

  • Offered for Year: 2018/19
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Adam Mearns
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Code Title
SEL1027Introduction to the Structure of Language 1: Syntax and Phonology
Pre Requisite Comment

For incoming exchange students: basic introductory courses in grammar and phonetics/phonology; some experience in the history of the English language would also be useful.

Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



This module gives you the chance to gain a basic competence in reading and translating Old English, and an understanding of its grammar. Lectures introduce the main features of Old English, while seminars are based on careful reading of texts; we also use some online materials. The reading is from an interesting range of graded texts, which give insights into aspects of Anglo-Saxon life (from shepherds to kings) as well as language. Most are prose, but there are also extracts from the greatest poetry, including Beowulf, where we compare the original with different approaches to translating it.

Outline Of Syllabus

The topics of the lectures are: Old English in Time and Space; Old English Orthography and Phonology; OE Morphology (inflections and case); Old English Syntax (clause elements and word order); Spelling Variation and Sound Changes in Old English; Nouns, Adjectives and Verbs in Old English; Old English Vocabulary (semantics, word formation and loans); Old English Poetic Style and Diction; Approaches to Translating Old English.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

• Knowledge of the core vocabulary of Old English prose, of its basic patterns of syntax, word formation and nominal and verbal inflections.
• Knowledge of the main linguistic and stylistic features of Old English poetry.
• Basic knowledge of the sound-changes of Old English essential to developing skill in reading.
• Knowledge of a range of representative Anglo-Saxon texts and of the context in which they were produced.
• Insight into problems of translation from Old English, and the various possible approaches to translation.

Intended Skill Outcomes

• Basic translation skills, such that students will be able to translate a straightforward passage of Old English prose with the occasional help of a glossary or dictionary. This involves skills in deduction, extrapolation from paradigm to example, and in forming and checking hypotheses.
• The ability to evaluate different translations of the same text.
• Skills in grammatical analysis as applied to Old English.
• Experience in using hypertext versions of Old English texts.

Graduate Skills Framework

Graduate Skills Framework Applicable: Yes
  • Cognitive/Intellectual Skills
    • Critical Thinking : Present
    • Active Learning : Present
    • Literacy : Present
    • Information Literacy
      • Source Materials : Assessed
      • Synthesise And Present Materials : Assessed
  • Self Management
    • Self Awareness And Reflection : Present
    • Planning and Organisation
      • Goal Setting And Action Planning : Assessed
      • Decision Making : Present
    • Personal Enterprise
      • Initiative : Present
      • Problem Solving : Present
  • Interaction
    • Communication
      • Oral : Present
      • Interpersonal : Present
      • Written Other : Assessed
    • Team Working
      • Collaboration : Present
      • Peer Assessment Review : Present

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture241:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion150:0050:00N/A
Guided Independent StudySkills practice134:0034:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study180:0080:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures introduce major features of Old English language and its context, i.e impart essential knowledge, while seminars apply this to particular texts in smaller groups. Seminars are thus an opportunity for guided reading of texts and for the examination of the processes and skills involved in understanding them. The texts are graded, moving from purpose-made phrases and sentences, to prose passages chosen for their intrinsic interest and suitability for beginning students, and finally to short samples of poetry, including extracts from Beowulf. Hypertext materials are used to facilitate independent study. Non-assessed written work in the course of the module takes the form of translation from Old English and grammatical analysis.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1201A80N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M20translation and grammatical analysis
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The mid-term written exercise involves the translation and grammatical analysis of a short passage of Old English. The analysis requires identification of morphological features and syntactic structures, together with brief comments on selected phonological features. This promotes and tests learning of essential aspects of Old English grammar. In doing so, it also serves as useful preparation for the examination.

The examination consists of:
(1) A compulsory unseen translation which tests basic linguistic knowledge and translation skills. Words which students cannot be expected to know or guess are glossed.
(2) Translation of a passage from one of the texts studied in the module, with brief comments on the approach that has been taken in dealing with some of the linguistic features of the original text. This – and especially the revision that is necessary for it – consolidates and tests knowledge of the language in action in particular kinds of writing.
(3) Critique of alternative translations of an Old English passage. This encourages a more nuanced approach to texts and translations, taking account of literary considerations as well as accuracy.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2018/19 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2018/19 entry will be published here in early-April 2018. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.