Reviewed by Stephen Laker, Kyushu University
A grammar of Old English is the most comprehensive work on Old English phonology and morphology to date. Following Richard Hogg’s untimely death in 2007, R. D. Fulk has done a superb job of writing the remaining chapters of the second volume (i.e. half of Ch. 5 and all of Ch. 6) and subsequently updating, revising, and referencing it with admirable speed and efficiency.
Volume 1, which deals with phonology, was originally published in 1992 and has been reissued to coincide with the publication of the concluding volume on morphology. It has already shown its worth over the years, with its detailed analyses and employment of modern linguistic theory. The contents of the reprint are the same, so they do not require a detailed review here. Its structure and layout are excellent, but the publisher must take some criticism. In particular, the large number of typographical errors in the first volume ought to have been corrected in the reprint. As a makeshift solution, Fulk provides a list of these on his website (http://php.indiana.edu/~fulk/GOE1_corrigenda1.pdf). A subject index for Volume 1 and references for the second volume would also have been welcome additions. In contrast, the second volume includes an index and refers back to the first, but in an odd decision the publisher refers to it as ‘Hogg 1992b’, as if it were an unrelated journal article. The sensible idea of Hogg, followed by Fulk, was to start Volume 2 where Volume 1 left off (i.e. with Ch. 8). This would have created a two-part grammar more at one with itself (though ideally everything could have been arranged between two covers).
Volume 2 is divided into six chapters. Ch. 1, ‘Preliminaries’, provides an overview of the approaches, aims, terms, and limits of the grammar. It explains that the main focus is on inflectional morphology (i.e. compounding and other issues, such as affixation, are discussed only marginally). Ch. 2, ‘Nouns: Stem classes’, deals with the Germanic and pre-Old English origins of the later attested Old English nominal morphology. Ch. 3, ‘Nouns: Declensions’, analyzes the synchronic variation in Old English nominal declensions, with special attention to dialectal variation. Ch. 4 looks at adjectives, adverbs and numerals, a departure from other grammars that deal with these parts of speech in separate chapters. Ch. 5 covers pronouns, and Ch. 6 offers extensive treatment of verbs. Hogg’s methodology of clearly differentiating the diachronic from the synchronic dimensions is noticeable throughout. Other grammars do not provide nearly as much reconstructive information. In particular, the frequent inclusion of both Proto-Germanic and later Pre-Old English reconstructions of paradigms helps one to gain a clearer understanding of the origins of the variation found in Old English dialects.
The finished grammar is a landmark achievement and shows several advancements over other widely used grammars. Most obviously, it reflects progress in research over the last half-century and provides analysis on important points in the text and notes. While its research is thoroughgoing and erudite, it has a less matter-of-fact tone than other grammars, revealing where research is still murky. For example, the origins of the ‘to be’ paradigms are not fully understood; in this instance, however, the unique situation of Old English should have been highlighted more and ideas of Celtic influence at least mentioned. Another bonus is that the grammar makes excellent use of the Dictionary of Old English Corpus, which contributes to the clearer identification and location of forms, more discussion of dialect variation and interdialectal influences, frequency statistics, and the elimination of a surprisingly large number of erroneous ghost-forms lurking in other grammars and dictionaries. Through the use of this database, one feels closer to the primary texts when reading this grammar. Finally, metrical evidence is expertly used on numerous occasions to determine properties of problematic Old English forms. To sum up, anyone with dealings in medieval English will admire and value this profound gift to Old English scholarship.