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An Introduction to Old English

Richard Hogg
Edited by Rhona Alcorn

Edition: 2

Hardback i (Printed to Order)
eBook (ePub) i
eBook (PDF) i

A student's introduction to the first centuries in the history of the English language

The first edition of ‘An Introduction to Old English’ was written by Richard Hogg. The second edition has been revised by Rhona Alcorn.

Combining a wide variety of short texts with a coherent and up-to-date assessment of the forms of language which remain as the foundation of English today, this introduction offers a unique study of Old English in context. It is designed for students unfamiliar with the earliest stages of the English language and provides a basis for further study of the history of the language to the present day.

All the basic elements of Old English are covered, including nouns, adjectives, verbs, syntax, word order, vocabulary and sound values. Wherever possible comparisons are drawn between Old English and the present-day language, but also with other related languages such as Dutch, German and French. There are also chapters introducing Old English poetry and dialect variation, as well as a chapter looking at what happened to the language after the Norman Conquest.

Key Features

  • Up-to-date account of the linguistics of the Old English period with particular stress on syntax and vocabulary
  • Integrates accounts of the language with selected texts graded to improve accessibility for the beginner
  • Strong emphasis on the relation between Old English and present-day English together with relevant features in related languages
  • Contains exercises, a glossary of key terms and an Old English glossary

About the Author

Richard Hogg was formerly Smith Professor of English Language and Medieval Literature at the University of Manchester.

Rhona Alcorn is a Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh and CEO of Scots Language Dictionaries Ltd. She is also Deputy Director of the Angus McIntosh Centre for Historical Linguistics. She was the first receipient of the Richard M. Hogg Prize, awarded annually by the International Society for the Linguistics of English since 2008.


The revised edition of this fine textbook retains all the excellent features of the original. Hogg's voice can still be heard on every page, speaking directly to the reader and guiding him or her expertly through the intricacies of the earliest stages of our language.
- Carole Hough, University of Glasgow

The new edition represents some of Richard Hogg’s last work, and usefully updates earlier editions by incorporating recent research on OE dialect variation, and the historical and social context in which OE functioned. It remains a comprehensive introduction to OE, suitable for undergraduate students who have mastered basic phonological, morphological, and syntactic concepts. It is more comprehensive than traditional grammars of OE, covering issues of variation in OE (chapter 9), and OE’s relationship to later periods of English (chapter 10), as well as providing an accessible and logically structured outline of the grammar of the language. It is also far more accessible than traditional OE grammars. The text has a very student-friendly, direct, and explanatory style throughout, and successfully avoids being either too erudite or too patronizing. Instead, it makes OE interesting by setting it in its historical and linguistic context, and includes well-designed exercises, which can be used both for independent as well as class-directed study.

- The Year's Work in English Studies

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