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Middle English Prepositions and Adverbs with the Prefix «be-» in Prose Texts

A Study in Their Semantics, Dialectology and Frequency


Ewa Ciszek-Kiliszewska

This book offers the first comprehensive study of Middle English prepositions and adverbs combining the prefix «be-» with a preposition, an adverb or a numeral recorded in prose texts. Six best established lexemes, i.e., «before, beyond, behind, beneath, between» and «betwixt» are analysed. The investigated aspects include the semantics of the prepositions and adverbs, their dialectal and textual distribution as well as their frequency of use viewed both from a synchronic and diachronic perspective. The study draws on the linguistic data retrieved from a collection of specially selected complete prose texts from the «Innsbruck Corpus of Middle English Prose». The description of the obtained results is enhanced with numerous tables and figures.

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The present study focused on the analysis of various aspects of six specially selected Middle English compound prepositions and adverbs when used in the context considerably closest to the spoken language. The selected lexemes were bifōre(n), biyōnd(e), bihīnde(n), binēthe(n), bitwēne and bitwix(en). The areas investigated in the present study included the etymology and semantics of selected Middle English prepositions and adverbs as well as the dialectal and textual distribution and the statistics of attested tokens viewed both from a synchronic and diachronic perspective. The description of the results was demonstrated in the form of tables and figures.

Since the data were expected to illustrate the most natural/neutral contexts closest to the spoken language, prose texts have been selected to serve this purpose best. Therefore, in the semantic examination only the meanings recorded in the Middle English prose were considered. Those meanings which might have been motivated by such poetic devices as rhyme, rhythm or alliteration were excluded from the investigation. The same strategy was applied to the analysis of the quantitative aspects of selected Middle English prepositions and adverbs.

Regarding the main methodology used for the investigation in the present study, it was corpus linguistics. Thus, bearing in mind the aim of the study, the corpus selected was Innsbruck Corpus of Middle English Prose (version 2.4.) (Markus 2010), which differs from many other historical English corpora in its being a collection of complete texts,...

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