You are not currently logged in.

Login through your institution for access.


Log in through your institution.


Joinings: Compound Words in Old English Literature

Copyright Date: 2016
Pages: 272
Stable URL:
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The first comprehensive study of the use of compound words in Old English poetry, homilies, and philosophy,Joiningsexplores the effect of compounds on style, pace, clarity, and genre in Anglo-Saxon vernacular literature.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2525-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History
    × Close Overlay

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Abbreviations (pp. xi-2)
  5. 1 Connecting Grammar, Style, and Culture (pp. 3-36)

    Ælfric prefaces his treatise on grammar and rhetoric with the following explanation of its motivation: “ stæfcræft is seo cæg, ðe ðæra boca andgit unlicð” [grammar is the key that unlocks the meaning of those books].¹ This seemingly obvious statement actually expresses a complicated, fundamental paradigm for Anglo-Saxon linguistic art that hides several important assumptions and itself serves as a key to understanding Old English literature. Ælfric does not simply claim that grammar reveals the meaning of a sentence by organizing its syntax. Rather,stæfcræftconstrues Latingrammatica, which connotes a vastly larger set of meanings and relationships than the...

  6. 2 Compounds as Translation Tools (pp. 37-70)

    Given the inherent difficulty of conveying the full range of meanings and implications of a word in a different language, it is no wonder that Anglo-Saxon glossators frequently employed several words and even full sentences to gloss a single Latin lemma.¹ Recreating the depth and variability of possible meanings expressed by a source word is often an impossible task to achieve with a single word in the target language; in other words, there is no “one-to-one” correspondence between any two languages.² Compound words, with the semantic complexity that they offer, seem well suited to provide translations that are both compact...

  7. 3 Compound Interest (pp. 71-108)

    While participating in important ways in translating from Latin to Old English, compounds, as the previous chapter demonstrates, were not most useful for directly construing specific words and phrases from a source. Rather, compounds acted most commonly to realign the translations by introducing formal and semantic elements appropriate for an Anglo-Saxon cultural context. This work that compounds do in Cynewulf’s translations and the Old EnglishBoethiustexts clearly depends less on the flexibility of the semantic complexity offered by compound structures than on the rhetorical impact of those structures. In fact, the most important and fundamental feature of compound words...

  8. 4 Compound Discourses in the Old English Boethius and Juliana (pp. 109-139)

    In the opening scenes of Cynewulf’s poem celebrating her martyrdom, Juliana spurns Heliseus’s advances and refuses to tolerate amægræden[relationship] with him.¹Mægræden, which construes coniugium from the source, is an uncommon word, but more importantly it is a word normally found in prose, not poetry; in fact,Julianais the only poetic occurrence formægræden.² Indeed, although her speeches incorporate some poetic vocabulary, she employs a disproportionate amount of common, prose words – particularly prose compounds – when compared to the rest of the poem. Rather than producing a heroic proclamation of faith, Juliana presents one that is prosaic not...

  9. 5 Controlling Pace in Prose: Wulfstan’s Old English Homilies (pp. 140-166)

    Wulfstan’s style, in both his homiletic and his non-homiletic works, shows great concern for the details of language, employing, for example, specific rhythms, sets of vocabulary, and frequent aural punning.² His homilies are replete with verbal ornamentation that reveals attention to the sound and shape of words in addition to the overall message, and compounding constitutes a major tool for creating the aural play characteristic of Wulfstan’s writing.³ While compounds that occur individually in Wulfstan’s homilies are discussed above (in chapter 3), the majority of the compounds in his homilies occur in clusters, grouped together as rhetorical units. These clustered...

  10. 6 Controlling Pace in Poetry: Beowulf (pp. 167-191)

    After becoming the sole king of the Geats, Beowulf rules in peace for fifty years, about which time the poem tells us effectively nothing. In the course of only eleven lines, the poem moves quickly from the rewards that Beowulf receives upon his return to Geatland, through the deaths of Hygelac and Heardred and Beowulf’s fifty years of peaceful rule, and on to the first appearance of the dragon. Those fifty years themselves occupy only two half-lines: “he geheold tela /fiftig wintra” [he ruled well for fifty winters].¹ Earlier in the poem, in a barely less compressed manner, the twelve...

  11. 7 Conclusion: Ubi Est Ælfric? (pp. 192-198)

    This book began with Ælfric and comments from his bilingual grammar of Latin, but he has been absent – perhaps notably – since then. His absence has not resulted from exclusion but rather necessity: Ælfric simply uses few compound words. Given his awareness of the unique linguistic nature of compounds demonstrated in theGrammar, Ælfric’s homilies might seem particularly well positioned to provide evidence of the centrality of compound words in Old English literature and theories of verbal art. The avoidance of compounds becomes all the more remarkable in light of the recognition of the poetic – or at least alliterative and rhythmical...

  12. Bibliography (pp. 199-234)
  13. Index (pp. 235-246)
  14. Back Matter (pp. 247-248)