Hans Sauer,

Birgit Schwan


Binomials in general and English binomials in particular are a frequent, complex and important linguistic as well as stylistic phenomenon.1 Compared to other linguistic phenomena, however, they are a relatively under-researched field. Therefore our aim is to provide a concise survey of English binomials, sketching their structure, function, history and the current state of scholarship, and pointing out possibilities for further research.2
In Part I we provide a preliminary definition of binomials (2.), explain the concept of multinomials (3.), discuss the functions of binomials (4.), give a brief review of research (5.), followed by a quick survey of binomials in the history of English (6.), and an example of a dense use of binomials, i.e. where several binomials are used in sequence (7.). Subsequently we discuss some formal features of binomials (8.), especially their basic structure and various variations of it (8.1.), their word classes (8.2.), the conjunctions used (8.3.), additional embellishment and strengthening, especially alliteration and rhyme (8.4.), and other morphological aspects, especially word-formation (8.5.). The second part of this article will be published in the next issue of the journal.

Słowa kluczowe: binomials, word-pairs, morphology, etymology, semantics, formulae

Benson (2008) = Chaucer.
Caxton = Mager W. (ed.). 2016. The Middle English Text of Caxton’s Ovid. Books II–III. [= Middle English Texts 53]. Heidelberg.
Chaucer = Benson L.D. (general ed.). 2008. The Riverside Chaucer. [3rd edition, reprinted with a new foreword by Ch. Cannon]. Oxford.
Hecht (2007) see Old English Dialogues of Gregory.
Lotus Sutra = Reeves (2008), Watson (1993).
Milton = Milton J. 2004. The English Poems. [On the cover: The English Poems of John Milton; with introduction and notes by Laurence Lerner]. Ware, Hertfordshire.
Old English Dialogues of Gregory = Hecht H. (ed.). 1900–1907. Bischof Wærferths von Worcester Übersetzung der Dialoge Gregors des Grossen. [vol. 1–2]. [= Bibliothek der angelsächsischen Prosa 5]. Leipzig, Hamburg. [Reprinted in one volume: Darmstadt, 1965. The edition was published in 1900, and the introduction in 1907; in the 1965 reprint the introduction follows the edition].
On Famous Women = Cowen J. (ed.). 2015. The Middle English Translation of Boccaccio’s De Mulieribus Claris. [= Middle English Texts 51]. Heidelberg.
Pecock = Hitchcock E.V. (ed.). 1921. The Donet by Reginald Peacock. [= Early English Text Society, Original Series 156; several reprints]. Oxford.
Reeves G. 2008. The Lotus Sutra: A Contemporary Translation of a Buddhist Classic. Boston (MA).
The Historye of the Patriarks = Taguchi M. (ed.). 2010. The Historye of the Patriarks. [= Middle English Texts 42]. Heidelberg.
The Wise Book of Philosophy and Astronomy = Griffin C. (ed.). 2013. The Middle English Wise Book of Philosophy and Astronomy. [= Middle English Texts 47]. Heidelberg.
Watson B. 1993. The Lotus Sutra. [Translations from the Asian Classics]. New York.
Studies and handbooks
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Gläser R. 1986. Phraseologie der englischen Sprache. Tübingen.
Grimm J. 1816. Von der Poesie im Recht. – Zeitschrift für geschichtliche Rechtswissenschaft 2: 25–99. [Reprinted in his Kleinere Schriften, vol. 6, Berlin 1882: 152–191].
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Kopaczyk J. (forthcoming). Acts and Statutes: A Comparative Study of Binomials in the 21st-century UK and Scottish Legislation.
Kopaczyk J. 2013. The legal language of Scottish burghs: Standardization and lexical bundles (1380–1560). Oxford.
Kopaczyk J., Sauer H. (eds., forthcoming). Binomials in the history of English. Cambridge.
Koskenniemi I. 1968. Repetitive word pairs in Old and Middle English prose. [= Annales Universitatis Turkuensis, Ser. B, 107]. Turku.
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Leisi E. 1947. Die tautologischen Wortpaare in Caxtons Eneydos: Zur synchronischen Bedeutungs- und Ursachenforschung. Cambridge (MA).
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Malkiel Y. 1959. Studies in irreversible binomials. – Lingua 8: 113–160.
Markus M. 2005. Bed & board: The role of alliteration in twin formulas of Middle English prose. – Folia Linguistica Historica 26: 71–93.
McArthur T. 1992. The Oxford Companion to the English Language. Oxford.
Mollin S. 2014. The (ir)reversibility of English binomials: Corpus, constraints, developments. Amsterdam.
Oakden J.P. 1935. Alliterative poetry in Middle English. [vol. 2: A Survey of the traditions]. Manchester.
Sauer H. 2014. Twin formulae and more in Late Middle English: The Historye of the Patriarks, Caxton’s Ovid, Pecock’s Donet. – Bilynsky M. (ed.). Studies in Middle English: Words, forms, senses, and texts. Frankfurt am Main: 25–46.
Sauer H. (forthcoming a). Flexible and formulaic: Binomials and multinomials in the Late Middle English. The Wise Book of Philosophy and Astronomy.
Sauer H. (forthcoming b). Binomials in the Middle English and Early Modern English versions of Boccaccio’s De claris mulieribus.
Sauer H. (forthcoming c). Milton’s binomials in Samson Agonistes.
Sauer H. (forthcoming d). The world in two words: Binomials in two English translations of the Lotus Sutra.
Sauer H., Mager W. 2011. Caxton’s Ovid, or the Metamorphoses transformed. – Poetica [Tokyo] 75: 125–151.
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Willert H. 1911. Die alliterierenden Formeln der englischen Sprache. Halle.

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