Dictionary of Old English Fascicle E.
The sixth fascicle of the Dictionary of Old English covers the letter E and will shortly be followed by F, bringing those parts of the Dictionary currently in the public domain at last into full alphabetical order - though, as is pointed out in the Preface to Readers, the initial decision made by the late Angus Cameron to start with the letter d had the 'happy result' that the vowels ae, a, and e were treated in sequence. And 'although we cannot claim that we have solved the problem of spellings which cross the letters of the alphabet', observe the editors, 'we can with hindsight see the distinct advantage we have had in handling these three vowels one after the other'.
The policies and practices which have shaped the DOE letter E remain those devised for the letter D. However, the passage of time and the accumulation of experience have enabled the editors both to take advantage of the publication of new editions of five base texts and to devise a new system for treating verbs the component elements for which are calqued on Latin. Instead of formations of this type being given the full status of headwords, they have been treated as quasi-compounds, identified by a swung dash. To understand the reason for this new departure, the reader has only to turn to the entries eft and efne, the former of which has over one hundred sub-entries, the vast majority from Northumbrian glosses rendering the Latin prefix re-, and the latter forty-eight, all 'in verbal quasi-compounds, mainly Northumbrian, usually element-by-element glosses of Latin verbs in con-, where efne may be taken as either adverb or prefix'. To quote the preface once more, 'Our intent has been to avoid the proliferation of compounds while at the same time suggesting the quasi-compound nature of these interesting words and providing as full a list of them as the evidence allows'. Something of the scale of the task which confronted the editors may be guessed at from the fact that the completed fascicle consists of no fewer than 1643 pages of fiche and some 1,450 headwords. (The first fascicle, D contained 951 pages of fiche and 897 headwords.) As usual, there are many good things to be found by the browser and a mine of information for the scholar. So, for instance, under the headword earclaensiend, ('ear-cleaner', the little finger, 1 occ.), we are not only told that the gloss auricularis earclaesnend is 'prob. from ISID. Etym. 11.1.71 quintus auricularis [vocatus], pro eo quod eo aurem scalpimus', but we are directed also to two other entries giving names for the little finger and relating to glosses for Latin auricularis, viz. ear-scrypel, 'ear-scraper' (2 occ., once glossing applare and 'prob. in sense "spoon-shaped implement for cleaning the ear"') and ear-finger, 'ear finger' (3 occ.), a term still found in dialect in modern times. Under ea 'river' we find not only sub-headings reporting figurative senses, as tha feower ean for the four rivers of Paradise, a metaphor for the four Evangelists, but also entries giving genitival phrases for bottom, mouth and bank of a river, prepositional phrases (with, for example, aefter and andlang) and examples of the most common adjectives associated with the word.
The scrupulous recording of all variant spellings means that the reader can follow up with ease and with confidence details of lexical items whose forms are scattered through the riches of the Toronto Concordance. The ninety occurrences of eafora, for instance, are distributed there in no fewer than sixteen different places. Annotations accompanying the report of the number of occurrences draw attention to peculiar features of distribution. So, for instance, of the six recorded instances of the interjection ea, five (spelt ea and eaw) are found in King Alfred's translation of Boethius, always in collocation with eala. The sixth, in a psalter gloss, is not associated with eala. It is spelt eow and in view of the links in Old English between the graphs eu(w) and eo the reader might perhaps be tempted to consider here the influence of the Latin word which it renders, viz. heu. (Other Psalter glosses, we are told, have forms of wa and hig(la) at this point.) Eala itself is found some 1250 times in Old English. Helpfully the illustrative usages with which we are provided under this headword have been selected so as to include examples from Alfredian texts, including Bo, without accompanying ea(w).
Other interesting distribution patterns are revealed by the entries eag-duru, ealdfaeder, and ealdefaeder. The word eag-duru occurs four times, all in Martyrology 4 and 5, though once with the MS variant ehthyrl. Eagthyrel is apparently the more usual form in Old English for 'window' and survives into Middle English. However, since even this word is recorded only thirty-two times, any generalization is highly dangerous. So too with ealdfaeder and ealdefaeder, the former found in contexts where the meanings 'forefather, ancestor' and (in the plural) 'spiritual ancestors' are appropriate, the latter referring to a grandfather or (male) ancestor. However, since ealdfaeder is recorded only ten times and ealdefaeder twelve, and manuscript as well as contextual evidence provided by the editors indicates an element of interchangeability, we cannot rule out the possibility that the Anglo-Saxons might sometimes have used ealdfaeder to refer to a grandfather. Put another way, is it possible that the two words both referred to non-specific male ancestors and that context alone narrowed the field to the immediate ancestor of a parent? However, what the DOE is so invaluably producing is the evidence, and on the basis of that evidence ealdfaeder and ealdefaeder are two separate items found in slightly different contexts. Indeed, one of the most important lessons that DOE teaches us is that we really are very ignorant about the extent of Old English vocabulary and the frequency of occurrence of individual words. We as users have to take heed of the statistics and the detailed analysis of the evidence which the DOE so usefully provides and to be scrupulously careful in any conclusions that we may be tempted to draw and speculations that we may wish to make. Furthermore, even the most superficial glance at the evidence produced by fascicle E reveals that the potential for further research based on the DOE is enormous. Once again the Toronto team deserves the warmest thanks and the congratulations of all of us with an interest in the Anglo-Saxons and their language and has shown itself more than worthy of the international encouragement that it has received and will most certainly go on receiving.
JANET BATELY King's College London
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|Publication:||Notes and Queries|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Mar 1, 1998|
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