Introduction to Early Modern English.
For Dr Gorlach states unequivocally in his Preface that the book is intended to be a manual for undergraduate teaching. Any undergraduate using it must be prepared to meet without compromise not only technical terms more or less self-explanatory (spelling pronunciation, purism, generalization, and specialization of meaning) but also standard terms of linguistics, to comprehend the difference between graph, grapheme, and allograph (with graphology in the same chapter to puzzle him), to pick up what a lexeme is, what a sememe (neither is in the Index of Topics) and what a phonaestheme. The paragraph on p. 143 which introduces the last term is perhaps indicative of the thoroughness Dr Gorlach expects of his reader; in twelve lines he illustrates, without defining, this new term, gives three texts within the volume to look up, and two references to an important but difficult independent study.
This then will not be an easy book for the undergraduate to tackle; he will find it slow going, a book to study rather than to read. Indeed, in the seventy pages of Chapter 7, Vocabulary, there are only a dozen that offer continuous reading, unbroken by tables, diagrams, specimens that take time to digest, or the lists that undergraduates reputedly seize on; even within the dozen, text-references are numerous. But taken at the appropriate speed, the book will give a solid linguistic foundation and indispensable first-hand experience of the minutiae of early modern English and, less fully, of early modern Scots too. Right in the middle of Dr Gorlach's period occurred the Union of the Crowns (1603); his discussion of the status of Scots on each side of it is diplomatic and sensible, his inclusion of some little-known Scots texts alongside Douglas and Lyndsay and the parallel passages from Basilikon Doron are particularly well chosen to support his conclusion, and though his summaries of Scots orthography and morphology are, he admits, only sketchy, the general plan and execution of the whole work should carry the student through any minor difficulties and give him a better view of the relationship of English and Scots than any other available book.
The copy of the German version before me is, alas, falling to pieces; in ten or fifteen years time I foresee dozens of the English one surviving similarly battered, dog-eared, and liberally scrawled on; it is that sort of book.
University of Aberdeen HENRY HARGREAVES
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|Publication:||The Review of English Studies|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||May 1, 1994|
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