Middle English Preposition Twēn(E)

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Abstract

The present paper focuses on the Middle English preposition twēn(e) ‘between, among, in between’. The aim of the study is to review the acknowledged etymology of twēn(e) as well as to provide its semantics, dialect distribution, complete textual distribution (record of texts employing twēn(e)), and absolute token frequency. Moreover, all texts including the preposition twēn(e) are subject to an analysis of the whole variety of prepositions meaning ‘between’ and their token frequency in order to establish the proportions of the use of twēn(e) and other discussed prepositions, especially the better established preposition betwēn(e) in texts employing twēn(e). The study is based on such extensive electronic databases as the Middle English Dictionary online, the Oxford English Dictionary online and the Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse as well as on a number of complete Middle English texts. The study of the corpus demonstrates the presence of twēn(e) and other prepositions meaning ‘between’ also in texts not listed by the Middle English Dictionary online or the Oxford English Dictionary online under appropriate entries, and thus helps to provide a more complete record of texts and authors utilizing twēn(e) and the extent of use of twēn(e) as compared to other prepositions meaning ‘between’. Moreover, the study demonstrates that also the other discussed prepositions are often not recorded in particular texts by the MED online or the OED online. In more general terms, the paper points out the need for the use of complete texts for the study of historical prepositions.

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