Theodcwidas: Compound Words, Language, and Social Context in Early English Literature

Doctoral Dissertation


This dissertation explores the ways that Old and early Middle English texts use compound words within their linguistic and social contexts, combining a detailed study of linguistic and rhetorical phenomena with an informed approach to culture and language based on Mikhail Bakhtin’s dialogic theories of language. A wide array of texts comprises the source base for this investigation, including Cynewulf’s Juliana and Elene, the Old English Boethius translations, the Old English homilies of Archbishop Wulfstan, and the two versions of LaÌ_‘amon’s Brut. These texts are chosen in order to explore the characteristics of compound words in texts of different time periods as well as in different discourses. Ultimately, this dissertation shows that, in all the texts examined, compound words are important linguistic sites that texts manipulate in order to achieve their goals; each text has different goals, but in each case compounds feature as prominent tools. Moreover, this dissertation shows that linguistic, social, and historical contexts play major roles in understanding how texts use compounds, and all language, to create meaning. Only when viewed in light of the generic affiliations of the text, the social position of the author, or the political situation at the time of the text’s composition do the implications of the compounds in a text become fully clear.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-12112007-150321

Author Jonathan Davis-Secord
Advisor Katherine OBrien OKeeffe
Contributor Thomas Hall, Committee Member
Contributor Katherine OBrien OKeeffe, Committee Co-Chair
Contributor Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, Committee Member
Contributor Michael Lapidge, Committee Co-Chair
Contributor Brian Krostenko, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Medieval Studies
Degree Name Doctor of Philosophy
Defense Date
  • 2007-08-24

Submission Date 2007-12-11
  • United States of America

  • Cynewulf

  • Boethius

  • Compound words

  • Social context

  • linguistics

  • Middle English

  • Old English

  • Nominal Compounds

  • Layamon

  • Wulfstan

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

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