Aspects of Old English Poetic Syntax: Where Clauses Begin
University of Illinois Press, 2001 - 248 pages
In Aspects of Old English Poetic Syntax, Mary Blockley uses modern linguistics to tackle the thorny problem of how to interpret a written language that relied neither on punctuation nor on capitalization to mark clause boundaries and subordination.
Distinguished by a remarkable combination of erudition and lucidity, Aspects of Old English Poetic Syntax provides new insight into the rules that govern syntactic relationships and indicates how these rules differ for prose and verse. Blockley considers the functions of four of the most common and most syntactically important words in Old English, as well as such features of clauses as verb-initial order, negative contraction, and unexpressed but understood subjects. Picking up where Bruce Mitchell's classic Old English Syntax left off, Blockley shows how such common words and structures mark the relationships between phrases and clauses.
Blockley also considers how the poetic tradition compensated for the loss in written texts of the syntactic functions served by intonation and inflection. Arguing that verse relied instead on a prescriptively regulated, unambiguous syntax, she suggests principles that promise more complex and subtle interpretations of familiar texts such as Beowulf as well as a wealth of other Old English writings.
Questions in Prose and Verse
Phrasal Coordination and Apposition
ClauseInitial Adverbs and the Ambiguous
ClauseInitial Verbs and the Continuity of Reference
Uncontracted Negation as a Cue to Sentence Structure
Perfecting the Old English Past
adverb alliteration ambiguous Andrew Anglo-Saxon antecedent appears apposition beginning Beowulf chapter clausal clause-initial common complete conjoined conjunction contain context continue contracted coordinating coordinating conjunction coreference dependent difference discussed edition editors elements enumeration enumerative example expressed finite verb frequently function grammatical half-line headed immediately followed important independent indicate instances interpretation interrogative introduce juxtaposition kinds lack language Latin laws least less main clause manuscript mark meaning Meters metrical Mitchell Modern English negative notes noun noun clause occur Old English parallel particle passage past pattern perfect phrasal phrase poem poet poetic poetry position possible preceding present principal problem pronoun prose punctuation question referent remains require rule seems seen sentence shows simple statement stress structure subordinate clause subsequent syntactic Syntax taken tion translation uncontracted understood unexpressed subject usually verb-initial clauses verse þæt