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The Syntax of Medieval Occitan.

A mine of lovingly accumulated data, this monumental tome is a major study in an area which has been almost entirely neglected. The breadth and range of this book mean that no serious reader of Occitan can afford to ignore it, but it is extremely frustrating to use. Professor Jensen's aim was to provide a comprehensive Occitan syntax, |a useful tool for students and scholars in the field of troubadour language and literature'. This is thus clearly a reference book, yet it is almost impossible to access information in it quickly. There are eleven broad chapters with titles like |The noun', |The adjective', |The numeral', and so on; although a few subdivisions are used in the body of the chapters, there is no index of these or of other grammatical terms. The index (necessarily incomplete) lists words from the very numerous and often illuminating examples Jensen gives throughout, but this is not helpful since this is a book not on lexicology, but on syntax. Surely a syntax is consulted primarily for an explanation or analysis of structures, collocations and word-order. To locate an analysis of unusual structures in this book you have to be lucky enough to know (or, more likely, to intuit) key words from the examples Jensen gives; on the other hand, the index entry for the preposition de refers the reader to over sixty paragraphs, but with no guidance whatsoever as to where the problem in which he/she is interested might be dealt with. Frequently the only way to locate what you are looking for is to read through long and dense chapters (for instance, the chapter on verbs is over 100 pages long). This can be extremely time-consuming, particularly when the discussion of a problem falls into two of Jensen's categories, as is the case, for example, with reflexive verbs, some aspects of which are discussed in the chapter on pronouns and others in the chapter on verbs. Sometimes the organization of discussion on a local level is simply baffling, and the structuring of a book on syntax almost exclusively around parts of speech leaves a lot to be desired. Jensen devotes a good deal of attention to detail, but very little to some of the fundamental problems of svntax: for example, he dismisses in one sentence the way in which style might affect the position of the adjective, with no examples. The chapters on |The clause' and |Word order and miscellanea' are disappointingly short, whilst morphology receives little attention. There are some notable gaps in Jensen's bibliography: for instance, he gives examples from Girart de Roussillon, but does not use the best edition; nor does he refer to the considerable body of work on the text's language. This reviewer is not a professional philologist, but a literary scholar who looks to philology for guidance and information on a number of issues. As a member of one constituency of the intended public of this book, I shall no doubt consult it frequently, since it offers so much information in an area where there are virtually no alternative publications, but the prospect of endlessly looking for needles in this haystack hardly fills me with glee.
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Author:Gaunt, Simon B.
Publication:Medium Aevum
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1992
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