, Volume 94, Issue 2, pp 333-352
Date: 27 Nov 2009

Exploring Continuities and Discontinuities Between Ælfric’s Grammar and its Antique Sources

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This paper explores the extent to which the tenth-century English scholar Ælfric, author of a grammatical treatise known to us as Ælfric’s Grammar, differed from his sources, the late antique grammarians Donatus and Priscian, (1) in his conception of grammar, (2) in his perception of the structure of Latin, and (3) in the descriptive apparatus he used. I argue for the transmission of a conceptual framework. The facts taken into consideration are those dealt with by Donatus and Priscian, and they are analyzed with the help of the self-same concepts: Ælfric does not introduce new concepts into the description, nor does he elaborate or refine those transmitted by the grammatical tradition. I also note the transmission of a descriptive apparatus, at which level, however, discontinuity appears in the partial re-organisation of the treatise so as to gain coherence and pedagogical efficiency, in the Christianisation and Anglicisation of the exemplification, in the systematic translation of Latin items into English and in the coinage of a vernacular grammatical terminology. Yet in the most important form of discontinuity, i.e. in Ælfric’s decision not to use Latin as the medium of a Latin grammar, several elements point to a continuity, such as the technical terms being Latin loan words or functioning as glosses to Latin words.

I wish to warmly thank the anonymous reviewers whose comments and attention to detail improved the first draft of this article. I am particularly appreciative of their critical eye and helpful suggestions.