Edited by Bettelou Los and Pieter de Haan
[Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 243] 2017
► pp. 187–212
Beowulf and Old English metre
Relics of a pre-V2 state?
This chapter builds on various suggestions in the literature that the syntax of the Old English poem Beowulf is constrained by its metre, an inheritance from Common Germanic. The differences are particularly evident in the position of the finite verb. An inventory of how clauses map into the aâ€“ and bâ€“verses of the poem revealed that the metre favours clause-final verbs over verbs in first or second position, which might suggest that the metre of Germanic epic poetry predates the emergence of verb movement. With finite verbs mapping onto the non-alliterating fourth stressed position, the metre allowed the poet to choose his verbs freely. As verbs encode the key actions that drive the narrative, this greatly facilitated composition.
- 2.Dating Beowulf
- 3.What poetic prominence can tell us about the grammar of verse
- 3.2The metre and the poet
- 4.Metre and verbs
- 4.1Finite verb positions and aâ€“ and b-verses
- 4.2Constructing patterns
- 4.3Verb-final word order
- 4.4V1 word order
- 4.5 V2 word order
- 4.6The Beowulf metre and the position of the verb