Binominals in an Historical English Literary Perspective: Shakespeare, Chaucer, Beowulf

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978-80-7308-244-4 (vyhledej v knihovnách)



The fact that of the 700 instances of '* and *' structures occurring in a single play of Shakespeare's, more than half could be regarded as having binomial properties of some sort and to some degree leads us to the conclusion that English binomials are first and foremost an aesthetic device which may become frozen by frequent use and only then turns into a collocational unit (a phraseme or idiom). They come into existence as a useful means of conveying a given concept in a particularly forceful way as the occasion arises. The crucial distinctive and distinguishing feature of binomials (in conjunction with the sense relations holding between the components) is their aesthetic quality. It sets them apart and together with the semantic properties singles them out as candidates for subsequent fixation and (at least, a subset of them) for the idiom status. We can reformulate the Hamlet data as follows: being essentially an ornamental and innovative feature in language makes the binomial eminently useful in poetic and dramatic expression, which can account for the relatively large amount of binomial structures or at least binomial candidates in Shakespeare's language.
Significantly, most of the binomials, even those we placed in the established group, are not to be found in dictionaries, unless labelled as idioms. Near- and quasi-binomials are, of necessity, fuzzy groups and they shade off from current binomials and one into another rather imperceptibly. In general, even prototypical binomials appear to hover between the systemic and the textual status; obviously they form an important part of speakers' linguistic competence and consciousness (certainly the ability to form and appreciate them), but are too elusive and occasional to make it into dictionaries (despite appearing in speech on and off or off and on since Shakespeare). This, of course, is bad news for non¬native speakers and translators, who have very little to go on when trying to understand, appreciate or form binomials when using English.
It is not surprising that most of the translation equivalents of the source text binomials that we were able to check would not qualify as binomials in Czech. However, there are indications that it is the current binomials (typically literal and transparent) that are somewhat more likely to be translated by parallel two-constituent structures to achieve the same aesthetic effect.
Binomials in medieval English of both early and late date display features fully comparable to the bearings of binomials in Shakespeare's Hamlet. They represent a distinct verbal strategy based on semantic and formal cohesion. Though neither Beowulf nor Troilus and Criseyde can provide a representative sample of the use of binomials in English medieval poetry (particularly not with regard to the range of Old and Middle English poetic styles),15 they confirm that the binomial is primarily a poetic device, one that principally satisfies exigencies of the respective verse form. The poetic status of binomials par excellence is manifested primarily through their intimate association with alliteration in Old English poetry and the frequent occurrence of the second binomial component in the rhyme position in the Chaucer sample. Indirectly, the poetic status of binomials is confirmed by the rich canvass of parallel binomial formations in Old and Middle English poetry as
well as by the sporadic occurrence of binomial structures in prose texts (including the late Old English alliterative prose). Whereas in prose (particularly of the Middle English date) their function often seems to have been explanatory, binomials in Old and Middle English poetry were primarily used for stylistic variation, semantic complementarity and emphasis.