LINGUIST List 12.1034

Thu Apr 12 2001

Review: Middle English Word Studies

Editor for this issue: Terence Langendoen <>

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  • Grzega, Joachim, Review Sylvester/Roberts

    Message 1: Review Sylvester/Roberts

    Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2001 11:21:43 +0100
    From: Grzega, Joachim <>
    Subject: Review Sylvester/Roberts

    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 ( 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