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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

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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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16 Reviving a Past Language Stage: Modern Takes on Old English

1 Introduction

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Abstract: This paper provides a survey of compositions in and translations into Old English in the Present-Day English period. It distinguishes different forms, characterises them, and attributes them into six categories, with the intention of establishing fixed terms for future academic studies.

Despite Old English being a dead language, recent years have seen a remarkable amount of its actual use. It is occasionally found in movies (e.g. Beowulf 2007) and TV series (e.g. Vikings 2013–), there are translations of popular children’s books (e.g. Kemmler 2010a; 2010b), and there is even an Old English version of Wikipedia (Englisc Wikipædia).1 In fact, the number of websites dealing with Old English is impossible to count, and besides many scholarly resources there are also several pages aimed at non-academics. Despite the enormous amount of evidence for Old English in the modern world there are surprisingly few academic studies dealing with this phenomenon. Moreover, these focus mostly on one particular aspect or resource, such as modern Old English on the internet (Neuland and Schleburg 2014), its use in university courses (Traxel 2016), or its occurrence in TV series, such as Merlin (2008–2012; Radman 2014). A more general survey is therefore required.

There is a whole range of modern translations and compositions that are based on Old English. So far there has not been a uniform terminology concerning the various forms that the respective linguistic representations may take. The term “New Old English” is found in the...

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