A Gentle Introduction to Old English
  • Publication Date: December 20, 2010
  • ISBN: 9781551118413 / 1551118416
  • 208 pages; 6" x 9"

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A Gentle Introduction to Old English

  • Publication Date: December 20, 2010
  • ISBN: 9781551118413 / 1551118416
  • 208 pages; 6" x 9"

This book can be purchased on its own or in a discounted package with our Old English Reader. If you wish to order the package, please contact us at Customer Service or place the order through your bookstore using ISBN 978-1-77047-306-5.

This book is designed to ease the beginner into competent reading of Old English texts. It presents the essential points of Old English grammar and also includes a selection of short, relatively simple original language texts, glossed and annotated. Numerous practice exercises are also included throughout. A companion website includes additional interactive exercises, a fuller grammar, and further original language texts.


“If the magister in Ælfric’s Colloquy shows himself more than willing to apply the rod, teachers of Old English today, one hopes, have carrots to entice modern students, as well as sticks with which to discipline them. Murray McGillivray’s Gentle Introduction to Old English brings a refreshing perspective on the traditional carrots (actual Old English readings) and sticks (paradigms to memorize) that have long characterized the teaching of Old English. McGillivray’s approach should ease modern students into the grammatical paradigms of Anglo-Saxon that have long frightened many a beginning learner of the language. And the readers who make it to the end will have also made it through the whole of Ælfric’s Colloquy, and thus, one hopes, enjoy the rewards of the reading while having endured a lesser pain from the paradigms themselves than many an earlier generation of students.” — Thomas Bredehoft, West Virginia University

“This timely and welcome textbook fields the neglected middle ground where twenty-first-century students of Old English increasingly huddle: eager, culturally savvy, but unaware of the rudiments of linguistic terminology, even if they have fluency in modern languages. This introduction is not a petting zoo of artificial, defanged texts along the lines of otherwise excellent introductions of fifty years ago, but anticipates students’ most frequently asked questions as well as organizing the syntactic and morphological fauna with which they most need to be acquainted before going on safari in the next generation of edited texts.” — Mary Blockley, University of Texas at Austin


Chapter 1: Some Grammatical Terminology You Will Need
Chapter 2: Pronunciation and Spelling of Old English
Chapter 3: Strong Nouns and an Introduction to Old English Cases
Chapter 4: Demonstratives; Nominative and Genitive Cases
Chapter 5: A Few Old English Verbs; Accusative and Dative Cases
Chapter 6: Weak Verbs: Subjunctive, Participles, Infinitives
Chapter 7: Strong Nouns and Cases
Chapter 8: Strong Verbs; Personal Pronouns
Chapter 9: Weak Nouns and Noun Oddities; Numerals
Chapter 10: Adjectives
Chapter 11: Word Order in Noun Phrases and Sentences; the Subjunctive
Chapter 12: Old English Metre, Poetic Diction, and Poetic Syntax

Prose Readings

  • Abraham and Isaac
    The Birth of Jesus
    The Story of Ohthere
    Aelfric’s Colloquy

Select Bibliography

Murray McGillivray is Professor of English at the University of Calgary.

A Gentle Introduction to Old English and Old English Reader may be packaged for discounted price of $59.95. To order this package, please contact Customer Service.

Murray McGillivray has developed companion sites to support the study of Old English—please note that this site is not hosted by Broadview Press.

Old English Reader comes with access to a
companion website featuring additional online texts, both poetry and prose, that are not included in the bound book.

A Gentle Introduction to Old English comes with access to an Old English grammar companion website featuring a wide variety of additional resources, including pronounciation samples, additional interactive exercises, and online versions of the reading texts where each word can be clicked on in turn to get the corresponding glossary entry.

For a sample from A Gentle Introduction to Old English, click here. (Opens as a PDF.)

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