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A Book of Middle English.

John A. Burrow and Thorlac Turville-Petre, (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1992). xii + 303 pp. ISBN 0-631-16097-3. 12.95[pounds]. Designed and laid out as a companion to Mitchell and Robinson's Guide to Old English, this book is a wide-ranging and reliable introduction to Middle English. Part I discusses the nature of the period, limiting in scope to the phonology, vocabulary and grammar necessary for proper understanding and appreciation of the texts that follow in Part II. Three final chapters, on metre, editorial practice and further reading, are concise and helpful. Part II offers a judicious selection of texts arranged in chronological order, published complete or in self-contained extracts, and wisely confined to the period of c. 1150-1400. The texts are accompanied by substantial introductory headnotes, full explanatory notes and a full and user-friendly glossary. Their historical range is sufficient to show some development of style and genre. A special section is devoted to a list recording all significant departures from the manuscripts used in the volume. The book is particularly good at capturing the evolution of linguistic forms over the three centuries and will serve as a dependable guide through the dangers of Middle English spelling and linguistic diversity. Readable and sympathetic to students (it never loses sight of Modern English), it will be appreciated by teachers as a precious tool for seminar work.
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Author:Cermak, Jan
Publication:Medium Aevum
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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