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STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER Kirkpatrick) have come together to give us an integrated work ofunusual scope and variety. Indeed, it comes very close to being a model ofthe original essay collection. HOWARD H. SCHLESS Columbia University DAVID BURNLEY, A Guide to Chaucer's Language. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1983. Pp. xvi, 264. $22.50. The writer ofa new guide on this subject has a choice: he can attempt a comprehenseive synthesis, or he can select a more limited number of topics, explain their basic principles, and then show how those principles can be used in the study of Chaucer. Since Burnley's intention is to encourage his readers to ask the right questions, he chooses mainly the latter course. The topics chosen are oftwo kinds; in the earlier part ofthe book he aims to equip the reader to interpret the text and in the latter part to place Chaucer's language in its broader contemporary context. The purpose of chapter 1 is to show the significance of some of the differences between Chaucerian and Modern English grammar, and it includes a useful flow chartexplaining the complex distinction betweenye and thou. In the followingtwo chapters, tense, verbal aspect, andnegation are singled out for special treatment, while chapter 4, "Textual Co­ herence," deals with standard devices oflinkage and with scribal punctua­ tion. Chapter 5, which begins part 2 ofthe book, assesses the regional and dialectal status oflate-fourteenth-century London English. Throughout Burnley correctly accepts as a fact that Chaucer wrote in regualr iambics, but, in view of the long history of controversy on this question, it would have been an advantage to have the reasons and evidence stated. It is not sufficient to point to the Hengwrt-Ellesmere scribe's usage for final -e, for that scribe's usage, though doubtless similar to Chaucer's, is clearly his own and disagrees with Chaucer's metrical practice for certain forms like hise, and -e(n) in preterite plural endings. The final prooffor iambics must surely come from the many ways in which Chaucer availed himselfofvariants to fit the meter. Examples ofthese are given in various other connections, but they are not directed at this specific 172 REVIEWS point, and more might have been made of them with the aid of further material from the work of K. Kivimaa. That all this needs emphasis is shown by two recent works in which the matter is still regarded as one that is open to debate (see R. V. Ramsey in Studies in Bibliography 35(1982):152; and]. Fisiak,A Bibliography ofWritingsfor the History of the English Language [Poznan, 1983], p. 67). There are some inaccuracies concerning grammar and dialect in the first five chapters, as follows: P. 16: The statement that the form thair "represents the Norfolk dialect ofthe Reeve" is in error: it represents thepureNorthern dialect ofAleyn, as is shown by the accompanying slyk "such," gif"if," ymel "among," wha "who," bathe "both." P. 27: The normal preterite of breke is brak in Chaucer, not broke. P. 61: Nat"not" issaidto be a more northerly form than nought,but it is primarily a Southern form, as may be seen from the antecedents naJt (Ayenbite ofInwit) and nau-;.,t (William of Shoreham). P. 124f.: The dialect boundaries are here drawn too rigidly: the form yiuen is not to be regarded as a mixture of east Midland yeuen and Southern iyiue, but was a valid south Midland variant; and in any event the commoner east Midland form was youen, used by both Gower and Hoc­ cleve because oftheir non-London origins. Similarly, to say that the choice between ryt and rideth "would have been denied to a provincial poet" is an overstatement, for this choice would be available in a wide border area stretching over the south Midlands, west as well as east. Chapter 6, on the makeup of Chaucer's vocabulary, is notable for its collection and discussion of words like hende, fetys, and cors, which Burnley, with others, thinks may have been stigmatized or demode forms used for special effect. The study of vocabulary continues in chapter 7, where it is suggested that Chaucer, by extending specialized terms to more...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 172-175
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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