IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Translator and Language Change: On J.R.R. Tolkien’S Translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Listed author(s):
  • Maria A. Volkonskaya


    (National Research University Higher School of Economics)

Registered author(s):

    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, an English poem written in the latter half of the 14th century, constitutes an important part of Tolkien’s life as a scholar and translator. The complex language of the poem attracted his attention from the moment Tolkien first encountered it as the Gawain-poet used some native words that were characteristic of Old and Middle English alliterative poetry. On the other hand, more than one third of his vocabulary is not derived from Old English: approximately one tenth of a total of 2650 words has Scandinavian etymologies (although at the time they were no longer considered borrowings, but rather northern dialect words) and about a third is of French origin. In his translation of the poem, Tolkien was primarily interested in special verse words, which resulted in his use of archaic diction such as capadoce ‘a short cape’ or carl ‘man’. However, this study focuses on the second important feature of the vocabulary of the poem: the combination of French and dialect (Scandinavian) words, which are not distributed evenly in the original text. As the author uses the stylistic contrasts between borrowed and native words; he carefully loads some of his lines with French loanwords while others are devoid of them. This paper discusses the stylistic effect thus created by the Gawain-poet and whether Tolkien managed to preserve it in his translation.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by National Research University Higher School of Economics in its series HSE Working papers with number WP BRP 10/LS/2015.

    in new window

    Length: 14 pages
    Date of creation: 2015
    Publication status: Published in WP BRP Series: Literary Studies / LS, October 2015, pages 1-14
    Handle: RePEc:hig:wpaper:10/ls/2015
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    Myasnitskaya 20, Moscow 101000

    Phone: +7(495)7713232
    Fax: +7(495)6287931
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hig:wpaper:10/ls/2015. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Shamil Abdulaev)

    or (Victoria Elkina)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.