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Allas and weilawei: Interjections in some of Chaucer’sCanterbury Tales (Fragment III: Wife of Bath, the Friar,the Summoner)

Group publication title:

Academic Journal of Modern Philology

Subject and Keywords:

Canterbury Tales (Fragment III)   interjections   inserts   pragmatic noise   etymology   meter   characterization of figures


Academic Journal of Modern Philology is a scientific journal oriented towards interdisciplinary studies. AJMP has been included in the register of journals published by The Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education with 70 points awarded. The journal seeks original articles on linguistics with special focus on comparative studies, anthropological linguistics, science of cognition, social communication and literary studies. Since the founding of the journal in 2012, it has been our goal to foster the development of linguistic studies through an open exchange of ideas, while maintaining the highest standards of academic publishing. Contributions are subject to a double-blind peer reviews for authenticity, ethical issues and usefulness. The reviewing procedure is supervised by the International Advisory Board. The articles are published mainly in English, German, French and Polish. Academic Journal of Modern Philology is an open access journal published annually by the Committee for Philology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Wrocław Branch and the College for Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Wrocław.


We investigate Chaucer’s use of interjections in Fragment III of the Canterbury Tales, which comprises “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale”, “The Friar’s Prologue and Tale”, and “The Summoner’s Prologue and Tale”. We discuss the problem of how to distinguish interjections from other word classes, and we distinguish primary interjections such as allas, buf, ey, fy, hayt, lo, weilawei and secondary interjections, such as hayl, look, now, peace, welcome, why. As a third group we also take corroborative phrases such as by God into consideration. We look at the frequency of the various interjections: Now, lo, nay as well as a, by God, and pardee are frequent and occur in all the tales of Fragment III; on the other hand of the frequency scale there are buf, which is a hapax legomenon, and the rarely attested hayt. We describe the interjectional spectrum used in Fragment III based on their functions. Interjections can, for example, serve as indicators of emotions (allas, weilawei), as corroboratives (by God) and expletives (a devel weye), as discourse markers (now thanne), as response forms (nay, ye, yis), as polite speech act formulae (grant mercy, no fors), etc. The paper further offers an analysis of the phonology, morphology, verse meter and stress pattern. As the Middle English vocabulary generally, the etymology of the interjections is mixed: some go back to Old English, especially weilawei, but many were borrowed from French (or ultimately from Latin), e.g., allas, ey, fy, pardee. Chaucer’s characters often use not just one, but two or three interjections in combination, e.g., Allas! and weylawey! or allas nay, nay, mainly probably for additional emphasis. We suggest that that the interjectional spectrum in Fragment III (1) expands on Biber et al’s. (1999) inserts and Culpeper & Kytö’s (2010) pragmatic noise; (2) undergoes change like words; and is indexical (3) of a multi-lingual social context (4) and of oral and literary conventions.

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e-ISSN 2353-3218   ISSN 2299-7164





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College for Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Wrocław