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The Order of Words in Anglo-Saxon Prose

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 February 2021


(a) Few subjects connected with Anglo-Saxon prose have been so persistently slighted as that of the position of words and clauses. The grammars either omit it entirely or touch upon it only in the most vague and general terms. No monographs treating the whole subject in all its periods and aspects have yet appeared, Kube's dissertation1 being the only attempt, so far as I know, to investigate the word-order of even a single monument of Anglo-Saxon literature. But this work, though valuable, is awkwardly arranged, and devotes too little proportionate space to the subject of dependent clauses, the element of Anglo-Saxon word-order which offers the greatest contrast to modern English and which is therefore the most interesting as well as the most important. Kube's results are further vitiated by his having selected a monument written at long intervals apart and therefore incapable, if treated as a single synchronous work, of exhibiting any successive changes in word-order, or the word-order of any fixed date.

Research Article
PMLA , Volume 8 , Issue 2 , 1893 , pp. 210 - 244
Copyright © Modern Language Association of America, 1893

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Note 1 page 210 Die Wortstellung in der Sachsenchronik, (Parker MS.), Jena, 1886

Note 2 page 210 “Die Stellung von Subject und Prädicatsverbum im Hêliand,” Quellen und Forschungen, xli.

Note 3 page 210 The Order of Words in the Ancient Languages compared with the Modern (translated from the French by Super, 1887).

Note 1 page 211 “Die Wortstellung im altfranzösischen direkten Fragesatze,” Herrig's Archiv, lxxi; cf., also, Thurneysen's “Stellung des Verbums im Altfran-zösischen,” Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie, xvi.

Note 2 page 211 See Goodell's “Order of Words in Greek,” Trans. Am. Phil. Association, xxi, 1890.

Note 3 page 211 Cf., however, Ries, p. 2, for authorities on Die Voranstellung des Wichtigen.

Note 1 page 213 Sweet. Introduction to Cura Pastoralis (E. E. T. Soc).

Note 2 page 213 Ueber das Verhältnis von König Aelfreds. Uebersetzung der Cura Pastoralis zum Original. Greifswald, 1889.

Note 1 page 214 Page 40 of Introd. to Cura Pastoralis.

Note 2 page 214 Cf. Schilling's. dissertation: König Ælfred's. Angelsächsische Bearbeitung der Weltgeschichte des Orosius (Halle, 1886), p. 9.

Note 1 page 215 Ælfric, however, is almost entirely free from the examples of forced order so frequently occurring in the Anglo-Saxon Gospels. Cf. the following, taken from the Notes to Bright's Gospel of St. Luke in Anglo-Saxon, pp. 109,110:

Luke i,27 (Clementine Vulgate): Ad virginem desponsatam viro, cui nomen erat Ioseph, de domo David, et nomen virginis Maria.

Anglo-Saxon Gospel: tō beweddudre fæmnan ānum were, bæs nama wæs Iōsēp, of Dāuīdes hūse; and bære fæmnan nama wæs Marīa.

Ælfric, Hom. i, 194: tō ām mædene e wæs Marīa gehāten and hēo āsprang of Dāuīdes cynne, æs māran cyninges, and hēo wæs beweddod ām rihtwīsan lōsēpe. See also Notes iii, 4, 5; xi, 11, 12.

Note 2 page 215 The “paving letters” in the Rule of St. Benet (E. E. T. Soc. No. 90) would throw invaluable light on this subject if we had the original instead of a much mutilated copy. It is at present, however, impossible to rearrange the Latin words in the original alphabetical order of the “ paving letters.”

Note 1 page 216 This can hardly be claimed for Ries's, substitution of “ irregulär-gerade Folge” for “Inversion,” p. 2, though in other respects, the term is a happy one.

Note 2 page 216 Arabic figure, in erery case show that the Orosius. is referred to. Roman and Arabic, for volume and page, indicate the Homilies.

Note 1 page 218 Earle notes a survival of this order in the legal diction of Modern English (English Prose, p. 87).

Note 1 page 219 Here “him” is governed by “to Fultume” rather than by “com.” Most sentences of this sort observe the following order: he a com him to fultume. see below.

Note 1 page 220 For examples, see p. 218 (1).

Note 2 page 220 The preference for this interposed position, both in the Orosius and the Homilies, is not shown so decidedly by these intensive forms, “ him selfum ” and “ hiene selfne,” as by the simple forma Cf. exceptions under both heads.

Note 1 page 222 Æfter æm e “ is, of course, an entirely different construction, and intro-deces only dependent clauses.

Note 1 page 224 Ang.Sax.Gram. (translated by Thorpe, 1830), Fourth Part, pp. 118,119.

Note 2 page 224 Grundzüge der deutschen Syntax, 207.

Note 1 page 226 Various explanations of Transposition have been offered, but the question is still unsettled. Cf. Wunderlich, Der deutsche Satzbau, 91 seq; Wacker-nagel, Indogermanische Forschungen i, 333 seq; Erdmann, Grundzüge der deutschen Syntax, 216, 3.

Note 2 page 226 Wissenschaftliche Grammatik der englischen Sprache, i, 27.

Meiklejohn gives the same view (English Language, Part iii, cap. iii, 11).

Note 1 page 230 The following line (No. 7827, Harl. MS., Cant. Tales) is cited by Prof Child in his Observations on the Lang of Chaucer and Gower, “Peculiar Order:”

“Of all this thing, which that I of have sayd. So rare a survival, however, does not at at all disprove my statement.

Note 1 page 233 March (Gram, of the Ang.-Sax. Lang.) has based hie discussion of Arrangement (p. 214) chiefly on this portion of the Orosius and Alfred's prefaces.