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Abstract

Bliss & Frantzen’s (1976) paper against the previously assumed textual integrity of Resignation has been a watershed in research upon the poem. Nearly all subsequent studies and editions have followed their theory, the sole dissenting view being expressed by Klinck (1987, 1992). The present paper offers fresh evidence for the textual unity of the poem. First examined are codicological issues, whether the state of the manuscript suggests that a folio might be missing. Next analysed are the spellings of Resignation and its phonology, here the paper discusses peculiarities which both differentiate Resignation from its manuscript context and connect the two hypothetical parts of the text. Then the paper looks at the assumed cut-off point at l.69 to see if it may provide any evidence for textual discontinuity. Finally the whole Resignation, seen as a coherent poem, is placed in the history of Old English literature, with special attention being paid to the traditions of devotional texts and the Old English elegies.

Abstract

The author upholds Anna Wierzbicka’s opinion that unless strict scientific definitions of performatives are reached, no successful classification of these verbs can be made. The article compares definitions of the verb elect and four performative verbs (appoint, declare, excommunicate and pronounce) as presented in four English dictionaries, as well as in the form of Wierzbicka’s explicatives and the author’s formulations reached by means of the collocational method. This method seeks to gain a realistic insight into the semantic structure of lexemes because most metalinguistic elements are drawn from facts offered by the language itself. The definitions of the performative verbs, like of any other verb, can be marshalled by combining and incorporating semantic definitions of the collocating grammar words and constructions. The latter task is done by extracting the common content of the grammar words and constructions in the relevant meanings as appearing in collocations of their own. The same procedure is carried out for the noun collocates occurring in the subject and object slots of the verbs in question. The performative force within this small lexical field manifests gradation, depending on the presence of a person in authority.

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Abstract

Richard Rolle’s Psalter rendition, as any of the medieval English Psalter translations, is thickly enveloped in a set of assertions, originating in the nineteenth century, whose validity has been accepted unquestioned. It is the purpose of the present paper to investigate one such claim concerning the vocabulary selection, according to which Rolle’s rendition would employ almost exclusively lexical items of native origin, except for the instances where no proper item with native etymology presents itself in a particular context and Rolle is forced to use a Latin-derived word. The assertion generates at least two problematic issues. Firstly, it identifies Rolle’s translation as most exceptional in relation to the remaining 14th-century English Psalter translations: the Wycliffite Bibles and the Middle English Glossed Prose Psalter of which the former are asserted to be overtly influenced by the Latin text they render and the latter deeply indebted both syntactically and, more importantly, lexically to a ‘French source’. Secondly, it ascribes Richard Rolle the ideas nowadays covered by the term linguistic purism. Therefore, it seems necessary to analyse the lexical layer of the text in search of evidence, or lack thereof, which sets Rolle’s translation lexically apart from other renditions and sheds some light on the issue of Rolle’s supposed linguistic purism. Such a study is conducted on the basis of the nominal layer of the first fifty Psalms of the four relevant texts analysed in relation to their common Latin source text as only the juxtaposition of all of these enables one to (dis)prove the claim cited above. To provide a wider context from which to view them, the findings will be presented in relation to an overview of the contemporary theory of translation and set against a broadly sketched linguistic map of contemporary England.

Abstract

This article addresses the question of Old English alternations with a view to identifying instances of allomorphic variation attributable to the loss of motivation and the subsequent morphologization of alternations. The focus is on the strong verb and its derivatives, in such a way that the alternations in which the strong verb partakes can be predicted on the basis of phonological principles, whereas allomorphic variation with respect to the strong verb base is unpredictable. Out of 304 derivational paradigms based on strong verbs and comprising 4,853 derivatives, 478 instances have been found of phonologically motivated vocalic alternations. The conclusion is reached that the most frequent alternations are those that have /a/ as source and those with /y/ as target, because /a/ is the point of departure of i-mutation and /y/ its point of arrival. Sixteen instances of allomorphic variation have also been found, of which /e/ ~ /eo/, /e/ ~ /ea/ and /i/ ~ /e/ are relatively frequent.

Abstract

An important source of localisable Middle English dialectological data has recently become widely accessible, thanks to the published transcription of the 1377, 1379 and 1381 poll tax re-turns by Carolyn C. Fenwick (1998, 2001, 2005). As the only collection of onomastic data from the late fourteenth century with national coverage, the name forms in the records can be analysed to further our understanding of Middle English dialect distribution and change. As with many historical records, the poll tax returns are not without damage and so do not cover the country in its entirety, but provided their investigation is carried out with suitable methodological caution, they are of considerable dialectological value. Using the poll tax data, the distributions of two dialect features particular to the West Midlands (specifically rounding of /a/ to /o/ before nasals and /u/ in unstressed positions) are presented and compared with the patterns given for the same features in Kristensson’s (1987) dialect survey of data from 1290-1350. By identifying apparent discrepancies in dialect distribution from these datasets, which represent periods of no more than 100 years apart, it seems that the spread of certain Middle English dialect features may have changed considerably over a short space of time. Other possible reasons for these distribution differences are also suggested, highlighting the difficulties in comparing dialect data from differ-ent sets of records. Through this paper a case for further dialectological study, using the poll tax returns, is made, to add to the literature on Middle English dialect distribution and to improve our knowledge of ME dialect phonologies at the end of the fourteenth century.

Abstract

The maxim Wyrd oft nereð // unfӕgne eorl, / þonne his ellen deah “Fate often spares an undoomed man when his courage avails” (Beowulf 572b-573) has been likened to “Fortune favors the brave,” with little attention to the word unfӕgne, which is often translated “undoomed”. This comparison between proverbs emphasizes personal agency and suggests a contrast between the proverb in 572b-573 and the maxim Gӕð a wyrd swa hio scel “Goes always fate as it must” (Beowulf 455b), which depicts an inexorable wyrd. This paper presents the history of this view and argues that linguistic analysis and further attention to Germanic cognates of (un)fӕge reveal a proverb that harmonizes with 455b. (Un)fӕge and its cognates have meanings related to being brave or cowardly, blessed or accursed, and doomed or undoomed. A similar Old Norse proverb also speaks to the significance of the status of unfӕge men. Furthermore, the prenominal position of unfӕgne is argued to represent a characterizing property of the man. The word unfӕgne is essential to the meaning of this proverb as it indicates not the simple absence of being doomed but the presence of a more complex quality. This interpretive point is significant in that it provides more information about the portrayal of wyrd in Beowulf by clarifying a well-known proverb in the text; it also has implications for future translations of these verses.

Abstract

This article is part of a body of research into the conventions which govern the composition of Gothic texts. Gothic fiction resorts to formulas or formula-like constructions, but whereas in writers such as Ann Radcliffe this practice is apt to be masked by stylistic devices, it enjoys a more naked display in the–in our modern eyes–less ‘canonical’ Gothics, and it is in these that we may profitably begin an analysis. The novel selected was Peter Teuthold’s The Necromancer (1794)–a very free translation of K. F. Kahlert’s Der Geisterbanner (1792) and one of the seven Gothic novels mentioned in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.

There is currently no literature on the topic of formulaic language in Gothic prose fiction. The article resorts to a modified understanding of the term ‘collocation’ as used in lexicography and corpus linguistics to identify the significant co-occurrence of two or more words in proximity. It also draws on insights from the Theory of Oral-Formulaic Composition, in particular as concerns the use of the term ‘formula’ in traditional epic poetry, though again some modifications are required by the nature of Teuthold’s text. The article differentiates between formula as a set of words which appear in invariant or near-invariant collocation more than once, and a formulaic pattern, a rather more complex, open system of collocations involving lexical and other fields. The article isolates a formulaic pattern—that gravitating around the node-word ‘horror’, a key word for the entire Gothic genre –, defines its component elements and structure within the book, and analyses its thematic importance. Key to this analysis are the concepts of overpatterning, ritualization, equivalence and visibility.

Abstract

For medieval audiences women occupied a specific, designated cultural area which, while they could freely form it according to their will and nature, was in fact imaginary and immaterial. Women in social, legal, and religious contexts were mostly counted among the receptive, inactive, and non-ruling groups. On both levels, there was a group of features universally defining all women: the strong, virtuous and independent model Aquinas lamented was replaced in real life by the sinful, carnal and weak stereotype, and the erotic, emotional, mysterious, and often wild type present predominantly in literature. Indeed, women were a source of scientific, theological, and cultural fascination because of their uncanny and complex nature, producing both fear and desire of the source and nature of the unattainable and inaccessible femininity. In social contexts, however, the enchantress seems to lose that veil of allure and, instead, is forced to re-define her identity by suppressing, denying, or losing her supernatural features. With the example of Saint Agnes from the South English Legendary Life of Saint Agnes, and Melior from Partonope of Blois (ca. 1450), the article will explore how medieval texts dealt with the complex and unruly female supernatural, and how its neutralization and subduing fitted into the moral, scientific, and cultural norms of medieval society.

Abstract

A close reading of three selected passages of the Middle English alliterative romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight provides a detailed picture of fictional and fairy-tale manifestations of courtly and polite behaviour in Middle English, a period that imported many new terms of courtesy and politeness from French. In the three passages Sir Gawain is visited in his bedchamber by the lady of the house, who tries to seduce him and thus puts him in a severe dilemma of having to be courteous to the lady and at the same time loyal to his host and to the code of chivalry. The analysis shows how Sir Gawain and the lady of the house engage in a discursive struggle of the true implications of courteous behaviour. It also shows how the two characters use nominal and pronominal terms of address to negotiate their respective positions of power, dominance and submission towards each other. And, finally, an analysis of requests reveals how the lady carefully selects appropriate strategies to reflect the severity of the imposition of her requests and her momentary standing in their discursive struggle.