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Review of  Middle English Word Studies: A Word and Author Index


Reviewer: Joachim Grzega
Book Title: Middle English Word Studies: A Word and Author Index
Book Author: Jane Roberts Louise Sylvester
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer Ltd
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Lexicography
Subject Language(s): English, Middle
Book Announcement: 12.1034

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Review:

Sylvester, Louise, and Jane Roberts (2000) Middle English
Word Studies: A Word and Author Index, Cambridge (UK),
Brewer, hardback, x, 322 pp., ISBN 0-85991-606-5,
price $55.00.

Reviewed by Joachim Grzega, University of Eichstatt,
Germany

The book's publication was announced in LINGUIST List
11.2476 (15 Nov 2000) with a brief overview of the
contents. This volume is a valuable completion to Angus
Cameron, Allison Kingsmill and Ashley Candell's Old English
Word Studies, Toronto 1983. The term "Middle English"
is meant to cover the period from 1100 to 1500. The index
consists in three basic parts: an annotated bibliography that
lists works (including reviews) in alphabetical order by
author's name (7-209), an Index of Words (213-278), and
an Index of Authors with Associated Words (281-317).
In addition, there is an appendix with proposed emendations
(321-322) and an introduction (1-4) explaining the scope of
the book and how to use it. Some additions to the
presentation in LINGUIST List 11.2476 shall be given here:
The annotated works--mainly journal articles and essays--
are basically taken from the years 1950 through 1990 and
commendably also include works where a word-study is not
central, but only a by-product. Examinations of personal
names and place-names are generally omitted, unless they
are important for the analysis of common nouns.

In their annotations Sylvester and Roberts on the one hand
describe the question(s) a contribution is pursuing, on the
other they also concisely summarize the main results. The
book not only offers a compilation of etymological,
editorial and lexicographic word-studies, but also various
word-studies of morphological, morphosyntactical and
stylistic interest. This positive aspect, however, is also a
negative one at the same time, because the inclusion of
such articles has not been carried out consistently.
As a matter of fact, it is generally a bit unfortunate that the
book is not a complete bibliography, since, for instance,
the majority of relevant monographies have been neglected
(consciously). As word-studies are often the topic of
dissertations, which are not always easily accessible,
inclusion of such data would have been helpful. Besides,
non-English contributions have been excluded to a large
extent. On the whole, however, these points of criticism
do not, and cannot, deny the extreme value of
Sylvester and Roberts's compilation, which has without
any doubt required an enormous effort of searching,
finding, reading, summarizing and editing.

I am Assistant Professor for English and Comparative
Linguistics at the University of Eichstatt, Germany, and
the general editor of the internet journal Onomasiology
Online (http://www.onomasiology.de). I am interested
and have been working in historical linguistics (especially
historical lexicology), variational linguistics, and applied
linguistics.Currently, I am preparing a book on historical
onomasiology (processes and motives of onmasiological
change) with special reference to English. (See also
http://www.grzega.de).


 
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