How the Anglo-Saxons expressed their emotions with the help of interjections

Author: Sauer, Hans
Source document: Brno studies in English. 2009, vol. 35, iss. 2, pp. [167]-183
  • ISSN
    0524-6881 (print)
    1805-0867 (online)
License: Not specified license
The emphasis here is on two Old English texts, namely Ælfric's Grammar and the Old English Soliloquies, presumably translated by King Alfred. The Grammar offers a kind of theoretical discussion, whereas the Soliloquies show the use of interjections in a dialogue. In accordance with the tradition Ælfric has a chapter on the word-class of interjections, where he states, for example, that interjections express emotions and (translated into modern terminology) that they are phonetically and morphologically irregular. This is only partly true, however: Interjections also have several other functions: they can serve as attention getters, as greeting forms, as response forms, etc. Formally, primary and secondary interjections can be distinguished as well as morphologically simple and morphologically complex interjections. Etymologically, some were inherited from Indo-European or Germanic, whereas others (especially the complex ones) were newly formed in Old English. Altogether Ælfric mentions ca. ten Old English interjections; some occur in several variants and form interjection families. Several Old English interjections are only attested in Ælfric's Grammar, although they must have been common, e.g. afæstla and haha / hehe. The Soliloquies are a theological-philosophical dialogue. Especially one of the partners (the author) often gets very emotional and accordingly frequently uses interjections and interjectional phrases such as gea la gea "yes oh yes" and in particular nese la nese "no oh no".
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