Baker, Peter S. Introduction to Old English. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2007.

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Certainly the best text for anyone studying Old English (but particularly beginners) is Peter S. Baker’s Introduction to Old English. This is a thorough overview of not only the basics, but also the nitty gritty of Old English grammar, syntax, and pronunciation. It’s written clearly enough to be understood by even the most novice of linguistic students, and fully covers all they whys and hows of the language. Each chapter begins with a ‘Quick Start’ text that tells you what the following chapter will be about, and ends with an overview of what you’ve just read. The best part is most certainly the “Minitexts” throughout the book that link the reader to Old English Aerobics, an online version of the text with exercises students can do along with the chapters.

Chapter 1 deals mostly with the history of Old English and the Anglo Saxons, providing a good background for the coming chapters. Most of the pronunciation help can be found in Chapter 2. The anthology in the second half of the book contains many of the most popular Old English texts, along with introductions and detailed footnotes for each one that tell you when it was written, by who, and why.
An effective way to use this text would be to start with Chapter 2, to familiarize yourself with the language and how it is spoken. Then turn to a text such as The Wanderer and try reading through it a few times. After that, you’ll be more prepared for Chapters 3-12.

 



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