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Words and Expressions of Emotion in Medieval English

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Michiko Ogura

This monograph is a study of words and expressions of emotion found in Old and Middle English texts. Lexical variety, rivalry among synonyms, both native and non-native, and their successive replacement are discussed illustrated with a large number of examples. «Impersonal» and reflexive constructions, which give peculiar features to medieval texts, are examined, focusing on basic verbs of emotion. Words found in the Seven Deadly Sins and the contrasting use of the genitive and the of-phrase in God’s love and the love of God are treated as typical medieval themes. Appendices are added to illustrate the variant forms of these words and expressions in the versions of the Gospels and the Psalter, together with formulaic expressions of emotion in Old English poetry.

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1. Introduction

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Words of emotion may change historically. The lexical change is caused by (1) the rivalry between native words, (2) the replacement of a native word by a loan word, (3) the change of the prosodic principles, and (4) the alteration in the choice of words for translation. (3) and (4) may occur in combination with (1) and/or (2), especially after the transitional period (c1050-1200). Anger and angry were borrowed from Old Norse in the middle of the rivalry between such synonyms as anda, æbylgð, gram(a), irre (from Latin ira, and later ire from Old French, which reinforced the use of the word), teona, weamod, wod, wrað, etc. Verbs in the sense ‘to be angry’ were æbylgan, (ge)belgan, (ge)hathiertan, (ge)iersian, wraðian, etc. In alliterative poems formulaic expressions like hat æt heortan and compounds like bolgenmod were used according to their style. It is the emotion of sorrow that shows a less obvious lexical change than words of other kinds of emotion. This is partly because Old English texts contain many descriptions on elegiac themes; war broke out, many died, thanes departed from their lord, men were exiled and women cried, etc. It is rather interesting to see that some such strong emotions as anger, fear, doubt and grief were closely connected to each other. OE teona, for instance, showed various shades of strong emotion like anger, grief and hostility. Anda could mean both anger and envy. ME dreden was partly synonymous with the loan verb douten....

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