Academic journal article Medium Aevum

A Thesaurus of Old English

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

A Thesaurus of Old English

Article excerpt

Jane Roberts and Christian Kay, with Lynne Grundy, A Thesaurus of Old English, King's College London Medieval Studies 11 (London: King's College London Centre for Late Antique and Medieval Studies, 1995). 2 vols. xxxv + 1555 pp. ISBN 0-9522119-0-4. L55.00.

With approximately 48,000 word-entries, the Thesaurus of Old English (which is a forerunning constituent of the ongoing Historical Thesaurus of English) is an impressive piece of scholarship. It consists of two volumes: the first is the thesaurus itself, arranged according to a (not always transparently logical) conceptual organization on the model of Roget; the second is an index of Old English words, so that any item can be found under its relevant conceptual category in volume I.

The reasons for the production of such a work are manifold and vital, and as a companion to Old English lexical studies it should prove invaluable: those researching semantic and stylistic issues have long felt the need for a tool with which to clarify the full range of synonyms available during this period; students of loan-words in this and later eras will also find it a tremendous help in discovering the possible items with which new acquisitions had to compete.

It is nonetheless worthwhile noting certain caveats. The book's completeness is perhaps questionable: it draws for its data upon the best sources available at the time of its inception (Bosworth-Toller and Clark Hall), but it is well known, as the editors are the first to admit in their useful introduction, that these sources leave somewhat to be desired. More importantly, despite some commendable but limited 'tagging' of lexical items (e.g. as 'poetic', 'rare', etc. …

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