Every medievalist needs Wordcraft by Stephen Pollington. Old English grammars only have OE to MnE glossaries, but most students don’t learn simply by doing translations. We review notes, we write practice sentences, and we have moments of “Wait, how do I say ‘table’ again? Oh, I can’t look that up because my grammar only does OE to MnE.”
Wordcraft is designed for the student who wants to improve his linguistic skill by generating original sentences as well as translating originals. Wordcraft is not a comprehensive list of every word that appears in the OE language, so in the introduction, Pollington outlines his criteria for omitting words—he omitted personal names, many place names, and what he calls “obviously poetic words” since students easily pick these up when reading works like Beowulf. Words included are primarily early West Saxon with notes on spelling variations if one wishes to work with word that aren’t from this dialect (though he includes some other important words not found in this dialect). Likewise, the book does not note dialectical or historical divisions, which is only a problem if one is trying to produce poetry that sounds like it comes from a specific region and decade. If one needs this book, one probably isn’t trying to write with such distinct accuracy.
The first part of Wordcraft is a dictionary. The second half is a thesaurus divided by concepts in order to help the student writer find words that translate according to context as well as literal meaning. Most dictionary entries include a code to find the appropriate concept in the thesaurus. Wordcraft is not a grammar book. Apart from some notes on pronunciation, Pollington gives little grammar information. However, he recommends three grammar books, among them Mitchell and Robinson’s A Guide to Old English.
Table of Contents
- Dictionary – Word Hoard
- Thesaurus – Word Lists
- Index of Word Lists & Codes