A Prow in Foam: The Old English Bahuvrihi Compound as a Poetic Device


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While the rhetorical figure of variation has been characterized as ‘the very soul of Old English poetic style’, modern scholarship has convincingly demonstrated that compounding as a specific word-formation and naming process can be figuratively located in the heart of Old English poetic diction. The so-called bahuvrihis represent a distinct type among Old English compounds and are, despite their regular occurrence in Old English prose, productive and structurally diversified primarily in the poetic register. What follows is an attempt to explore the nature of the bahuvrihi compound as a poetic device, using for evidence the text of Beowulf (Beo) and Andreas (And).


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