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Aspects of Medieval English Language and Literature

Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference of the Society of Historical English Language and Linguistics


Edited By Michiko Ogura and Hans Sauer

This volume is a collection of papers read at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds in 2017, in two sessions organized by the Institute of English Studies at the University of London and four sessions organized by the Society of Historical English Language and Linguistics. Contributions consist of poetry, prose, interlinear glosses, syntax, semantics, lexicology, and medievalism. The contributors employ a wealth of different approaches. The general theme of the IMC 2017 was ‘otherness’, and some papers fit this theme very well. Even when two researchers deal with a similar topic and arrive at different conclusions, the editors do not try to harmonize them but present them as they are for further discussion.

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1 The composition of ‘auxiliary + main verb’ constructions in Old English poetry

1 Introduction


Hironori Suzuki

1 The composition of ‘auxiliary + main verb’ constructions in Old English poetry

Abstract: This paper posits that alliteration and the scope of each half-line boundary are important factors in determining the orders of modal auxiliaries (M) and non-finite verbs (V) in OE poetry. The survey encompasses ten OE poems, with this study primarily investigating the verse and prose versions of Boethius’s De Consolatione Philosophiae and Genesis B and its Old Saxon original.

The focus of this study is to analyze what factors primarily influence the composition of constructions with multiple predicates, especially the modal auxiliaries and main verbs of subordinate clauses in Old English poetry. Although the principles of Old English prose syntax are, on the whole, well established, few studies have focused on verse syntax. There seem to be two main reasons for this. Firstly, Old English poetry is generally considered to have been composed in loose syntax. Secondly, traditionally, metrists have debated keenly the intricacies of the metrical system, especially regarding the patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables of the half-line. Thus, Sievers (1893) observed five main rhythmical types of verse, and Bliss (1967) enlarged the list to fifteen types. Russom (1987) rejected Sievers’s assignment of subtypes within his five types, instead listing twenty-five verse patterns. Momma (1997) argued for a much stricter prosodical syntax, challenging the famous syntactic laws of Kuhn (1933). However, even under Momma’s rules, there still seems to be much freedom, even apparent randomness, in...

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