Line Length in Old English Poetry: A Chronological and Stylistic Criterion

  • Leonard NeidorfEmail author
  • Yi Zhao
  • Jie Yu


This article presents the first systematic, quantitative assessment of line length in Old English poetry. Its aim is to determine whether line length can be used as a reliable criterion in studies pertaining to relative chronology and authorship attribution. Our findings indicate that line length is a rather complicated criterion, which is affected not only by language change, but also by subject matter and other non-linguistic variables. Nevertheless, we conclude that critical application of the criterion of line length can yield substantial insights into the dating and authorship of Old English poetry.


Old English poetry Digital humanities Beowulf Menologium Cynewulf 



We thank Wang Shouren, Yang Jincai, Wang Jinghua, He Ning, Chen Bing, and all of our other colleagues at Nanjing University who have supported our Old English research group. We also thank R.D. Fulk, Megan Hartman, Rafael J. Pascual, and Geoffrey Russom for helpfully commenting on the draft of this article.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nanjing UniversityNanjingChina

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