Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

MacLeish, Andrew||Burtness, Paul S.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of English


Alliteration; Arthurian romances; English language--Middle English; 1100-1500


Alliteration, the repetition of initial sounds in words, is a rhetorical device used by speakers and writers. Between 450 and 1100, however, it was a structural part of Anglo-Saxon poetry. After the Norman Conquest and the subsequent disruption of the English literary tradition, alliterative poetry survived mainly in the minstrel tradition in northern and western England. Then in the fourteenth century, there was a return to the native literary tradition, and the "Alliterative Revival" asserted itself. Through classification of subject-verb clusters, this paper attempts to show the effect alliteration had on the word order in Sir Gawain. Because inflections were being lost and word order was becoming more stable, the student of the language is interested to learn what effect the Old English alliterative tradition had on the Middle English poetic line. By means of percentual figures, comparisons are made with other studies of Middle English word order. Examples of various sentence patterns are given to illustrate word order: S-V (Common Order) Ladies lazed V-S (Inverted Order) Der tournayed tulkes O-S-V (Transposed Order) much mirthe he mas O-Aux-S-Adv-V (Inverted-Transposed Order) at may ze wel trawe The conclusion of this paper is that alliteration did not force the language into unusual word-order patterns. Through alliterative formulae and a rich vocabulary, the poet was able to retain word order close to the word order of Middle English prose and nonalliterative poetry.


Includes bibliographical references.


v, 62 pages




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