Thursday, August 25, 2005

What I did on my summer 'vacation'

No blogging recently because I have spent just about every available moment on the revision of my Old English grammar book, King Alfred's Grammar. I needed it to be done in time for the beginning of the semester because I am again using it as the sole textbook in my OE class. I'm glad I started the revision when I did because every possible thing that could go wrong or delay the project has, and up until Tuesday my back was really against the wall: it would be difficult to start the semester without the textbook.

But it's finally done. Thanks to Bruce Gilchrist's collaboration, the book is much better than the previous version. It now has a decent number of sample translation sentences for every chapter, it's got "reading practice" paragraphs (all of them about King Alfred) to go along with each chapter. It's got an appendix on sound changes (which Bruce wrote), a glossary of grammar terms (as well as the pre-existing glossary of Old English), and now all the long vowels in OE are marked with macrons (Bruce did that particular hellish job).

The electronic version is identical to the paper copy except in terms of macrons and the sound changes chapter, which will eventually be there, but not until I figure out why the stupid Word-generated html is causing Dreamweaver to crash when it tries to fix it.

The idea behind the grammar is that it is a completely stripped down, simplified OE grammar that gets students translating as soon as humanly possible. KAG does not assume that students know Latin, and it also doesn't assume that they know any formal Modern English grammar. I think my students understand inflected languages and cases far better than I did when I started OE (although I had a background in Russian, at least), because KAG takes time to explain parts of speech, word functions and cases. The entire thing runs 150 pages (so only 75 when printed double-sided) and students can reasonably get through the entire grammar in seven weeks and then move on to translating Old English. I myself go right from the sample sentences to Pope's Seven Old English Poems, and my students don't seem to have any problems, but I know other people like to spend some time on prose first, in which case combining King Alfred's Grammar with Richard Marsden's excellent Cambridge Old English Reader might be a good choice.

One press is looking into publishing KAG and another seems to be interested, so we'll see how that goes. My aim is for someone to publish it as a small, inexpensive, simple and straightforward book, the way Sweet's primer was in its time. We'll see.

Next week I should be able to unveil the new, much better, version of King Alfred, the learning-assistant program that goes along with the grammar.

9 comments:

King Alfred said...

That's great! I can't wait to see the final product.

Frank said...

Congrats, Herr Doktor! I can't say we haven't missed you dreadfully, but I'm sure it was all worth it!

Diane said...

This sounds like a book I need. Please tell me that it'll be possible to get a copy without going back to college. :)

michelle said...

Looking forward to the new and improved version being available. Sounds like a very useful text.

anna said...
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