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Review of Altsächsisches Handwörterbuch / A Concise Old Saxon Dictionary
AUTHOR: Heinrich Tiefenbach TITLE: Altsächsisches Handwörterbuch / A Concise Old Saxon Dictionary PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton YEAR: 2010
Tonya Kim Dewey, Department of Linguistic, Literary and Aesthetic Studies, University of Bergen, Norway
SUMMARY This dictionary provides dual-language (German and English) glosses for the vocabulary of the entire attested Old Saxon corpus. Unlike previous dictionaries of Old Saxon (e.g., Sehrt 1925, curiously absent from Tiefenbach's bibliography), the author includes vocabulary from the Old Saxon glosses of Latin texts and various legal documents, as well as from Old High German and Old English texts that are in some way related to Old Saxon, either in that they show features of both dialects (e.g., the Hildebrandslied for Old High German) or in that there is evidence of textual transmission between the two dialects (e.g., the Old English Genesis). This means that a wider range of vocabulary is included than in previous dictionaries, since the complete corpus of Old Saxon is considered.
The lexicon itself (pp. 1-484) makes up the majority of the volume. In addition to glosses in both German and English, each entry includes a list of attestations for the lexical item in question. The introductory material includes an introduction (pp. vii-ix), a list of abbreviations (pp. xi-xii), a list of texts (pp. xiii-xli), and a selected bibliography (pp. xlii-xlv), all of which are provided in both German and English. Additionally, lists of personal names (pp. 485-490) and place names (pp. 490-497) are included, along with the attestations of all these proper nouns. Finally, the volume concludes with a rhyming index (pp. 499-547, including personal names and place names) and a Latin-to-Old Saxon index (pp. 549-599).
EVALUATION This volume is a much-needed update of and addition to Sehrt (1925) and Holthausen (1954), until now really the only dictionaries of Old Saxon. Since the glosses are provided in both German and English, the volume is accessible to a wider audience than either Sehrt or Holthausen, both of which only provide glosses in German. The inclusion of Old High German and Old English vocabulary also makes the volume of interest to comparative Germanicists.
There are also several organizational features that make the volume extremely useful. First, while the primary entries for prefixed verbs are according to their stems, each prefix also has an entry with a list of stems with which it can occur. Second, if variant spellings (which are quite common in the Old Saxon corpus) are not alphabetically contiguous, each variant spelling has a cross-listing with the primary spelling. Both these features make the dictionary very well suited to beginning students of Old Saxon, who may not be quite sure what the lexical headword is. Finally, the lists of attestations for each lexical item means that the volume functions as a concordance as well as a dictionary. The reader is thus able to use the dictionary to determine the distributional properties and frequencies of various lexemes (including by text type), which makes the volume convenient for corpus-based studies of Old Saxon.
The drawbacks to the volume are very few. The primary failing, in my view, is that the lack of punctuation in the abbreviations (e.g., '3 singular indicative preterite' is abbreviated '3sipt' rather than '3s.i.pt.') can make the morphological information provided with the attestations difficult for the reader to parse. However, this is a rather minor point.
A further, even more minor, point is that the English glosses provided are on occasion odd, for example 'spinsterhood' for Old Saxon ''magathhêd'', which really has a meaning closer to 'maidenhood' or 'virginity'. There are very few (approximately twenty-five) cases in which this happens; in all these examples, it seems the author is not sensitive to the connotations of the English gloss provided, since the German and Old Saxon connotations are consistent with each other, but inconsistent with the English.
A final quibble with the volume is that while the author lists the dual pronouns separately from the plural pronouns, neither the German nor the English glosses make the difference between dual and plural clear. While the abbreviation ''du'' for ''dual'' is listed in the abbreviations (p. xi), it does not appear in the entries for any of the 1st or 2nd person dual personal or possessive pronouns. Since the retention of the dual in Old Saxon is one of the features that sets it apart from the closely related Old High German, this omission seems strange.
The useful features of this Old Saxon dictionary far outweigh the drawbacks and omissions. This is an impressive work, and should be in the library of anyone interested in comparative Germanic or the medieval languages of Western Europe. Finally, it is good to see the Old Saxon language, often neglected by Germanicists, receiving the attention it deserves.
Sehrt, Edward H. 1925. Vollständiges Wörterbuch zum Heliand und zur altsächsischen Genesis. Göttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Tonya Kim Dewey works primarily in the historical syntax of Germanic,
including prosodic factors in linearization of word order, and argument
structure and case assignment. She recently published a new English
translation of the Old Saxon Heliand.