Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Love, Sex, and Marriage: A Historical Thesaurus

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Love, Sex, and Marriage: A Historical Thesaurus

Article excerpt

Julie Coleman, Love, Sex, and Marriage: A Historical Thesaurus (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1999). xvii + 599 pp. ISBN 090-420-0433-9. $74.50.

Julie Coleman's inventory of the lexical domains of love, sex, and marriage from Old English to the present day presents a detailed picture of the varying assumptions, practices, and preoccupations which have figured, both diachronically and synchronically, within these related spheres of linguistic usage. Taking her data from the OED, the Thesaurus of Old English, as well as the ongoing Dictionary of Old English, and the Historical Thesaurus project based at Glasgow, together with a wide range of other sources (including an abundant array of register-specific dictionaries), Coleman has assembled almost 400 pages of text which anatomize the sense-relationships of the English lexicon within what are, as she states, `the emotional and contractual relationships most central to human society'. As in Roger's Thesaurus, material is presented within a carefully hierarchical scheme of organization, and an introductory apparatus clearly explains the principles which have been adopted. The nature of lexical and semantic relationships is treated with economical precision in the introduction, establishing the theoretical and practical foundations for Coleman's own study.

Configuring a thesaurus in ways which encompass past as well as present has considerable import in terms of literary as well as linguistic analysis. As Coleman argues, 'a writer's intentions in the choice of particular words cannot be fully determined unless it is possible to examine the synonyms from which the choice was made', yet such examination is often highly problematic and laborious in terms of older texts. …

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