Printer Friendly

Introduction to Early Modern English.

This is the English version of Professor Gorlach's Einfuhrung ins Fruhneu-englische, published first in 1978 and giving a systematic description of English from 1500 to 1700. Though there is some rewriting and updating, the basic form of the German work is followed closely, with chapters and sections numbered and titled the same; though sub-sections disappear from the list of contents they remain, with their numbers and titles, in the body of the study; no attempt is made to replace references to standard German works at the head of sections by the nearest English equivalents. One of the great achievements of the original was that, within 352 pages, by skilful choice of specimen texts and meticulous cross-referencing, the author was able to give at least as good a selection of literary material as the SPE Tract The Critique of Pure English or Miss Tucker's English Examined, and to direct his reader's attention to the manner as well as the matter of its expression. With 100 extra pages he can now add sixteen extra texts (understandably, he shrinks from referencing them all fully in the body of the work), use a larger type-face (and use it throughout, not leaving his specimens as typewritten pages photographically reproduced), and also give a little more space, as on p. 118, to the diagrams that in the German often seem cramped. Only one element seems to be reduced; the 139 questions that in the German follow the sub-sections to which they are relevant appear now, cut to 59, at the end of chapters. Though it is not easy to see how in a British university context full and systematic use could be made of these questions, they are directed most pointedly at the areas the undergraduate needs to consider.

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
COPYRIGHT 1994 Oxford University Press
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Hargreaves, Henry
Publication:The Review of English Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 1994
Previous Article:Censoring Johnson in France: Johnson and Suard on Voltaire: a new document.
Next Article:Lunatic Lovers of Language: Imaginary Languages and Their Inventors.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters