Gower Bibliography

Adjectival Inflexion Relics and Speech Rhythm in Late Middle and Early Modern English

Minkova, Donka. "Adjectival Inflexion Relics and Speech Rhythm in Late Middle and Early Modern English." In Papers from the 5th International Conference on English Historical Linguistics, Cambridge, 6-9 April 1987. Ed. Adamson, Sylvia. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 1990, pp. 313-338.


A passage from CA provides one of three samples of non-Chaucerian English of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries that Minkova uses to verify the consistency of the classic rule on preservation of final -e on monosyllabic adjectives in weak position that was formulated based on Chaucer. The other two texts are "The Bodley Version of Mandeville's Travels," ed. M.C. Seymour, and "Songs and Carols from a Manuscript in the British Museum of the Fifteenth Century," ed. Thomas Wright (British Library MS Sloane 2593), evidently in their entirety. The degree of conformity to the "rule" is about the same as has been reported for Chaucer, some 90% of possible instances or better. Minkova goes on to suggest that prosody rather than grammar provides the best explanation for the preservation of the final -e: citing the "Principle of Rhythmic Alternation," Minkova points out that the final unstressed syllable serves to separate two stressed syllables not only in the case of monosyllabic adjectives after an article but also in some of the other less easily categorizable instances in which it is found, e.g. in prepositional phrases such as Gower's "for pure dredde." The suggestion is interesting and plausible, but an argument based on prosody surely requires a comparison of the survival in verse and in prose. Minkova also makes no reference to the quality of our surviving texts; some of the studies of Chaucer that are cited are based on editions that were themselves regularized for meter, and the danger of a circular argument sneaks in here in the discussion of Gower: meter is used to verify the survival of -e in the passages that are listed, but then these passages are used to document the importance of the meter. There is, finally, a bit of confusion over the contents of CA. "My sample is taken from the Tale of Ulysses and Telegonus and The Tale of Nectanabus (the entire Liber Sextus of Confessio Amantis . . .)," Minkova states, evidently knowing the poem only from the extracts contained in Peck's edition. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 12.1]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Language and Word Studies
Style, Rhetoric, and Versification

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