Characteristic Features Of Artistic Images’ Linguistic Representation In Anglo-Saxon Poetic Linguoculture


Keywords: Imagologyartistic imagestylistic analysisspeech portrait


Within contemporary scientific paradigm it has become possible to study literature from a variety of research perspectives: theory of literature, linguistic stylistics, linguistic poetics, semiotics, culture studies, theory of information, etc.. Different approaches tend to focus on studying this complex phenomenon from a particular angle: an insight into literary types and genres, specifics of their themes and composition; analysis of author’s stylistic devices; interaction of author’s individual style, poetic picture of the world and poetic structure of precise literary work; semiotic peculiarities and structure of artistic texts; interaction of cultural background and artistic picture of the world; a focus on a literary text as a generator of a new communicatively relevant type of information, etc.. Application of a particular approach depends on a precise angle of literary research which results in selecting appropriate research methods and tools.

A key aspect of the present paper is ideas developed within literary and linguistic imagology. Originally imagology has been developed within comparative literature studies; its primary concern was images representing a conceptual duad ‘us – them’. The works of Jean-Marie Carré, Marius-François Guyard, Hugo Dyserinck, Joep Leerssen contributed greatly to laying scientific foundation of imagology. Central to their theory is a concept of an image of ‘them’ within a receptive perspective: how images of ‘non-us’ are created and function in perception of different cultures, how national character acquires a status of a “discursive object” which encompasses writer’s narrative tropes and rhetorical formulae (Leerssen, 2016; Folie, 2018). Thus, of particular concern for imagology is a notion of an artistic image – a quintessential element for constructing stereotypes / ethnotypes of national literatures (Folie, 2018). Later on this idea was reconceived by political discourse analysts and applied to analyzing images of power within potestant imagology and their change over a span of several centuries ( McGlynn, & Woodacre, 2014; Boytsov & Uspenskiy, 2010; Sannikov, 2017).

Problem Statement

The above-cited studies focus on image as a complex literary and cultural phenomenon, capable of transmitting intra – and extratextual meanings. So far, however, there has been little discussion about its linguistic representation: studying the language of image is an integral part of any imagological research as it provides an insight into semantic peculiarities of image actualization. Language as a ‘building material’ imparts its meanings and connotations on an artistic image and forms an entity that is transmitted from one culture to another, from one historical epoch to another. When it comes to analyzing images of other historical periods studying their language becomes an issue of paramount importance as their immediate interpretation by recipients is hampered by a linguistic distance. In this case a correct linguistic research helps to disclose hidden meanings through addressing etymological roots of lexemes and expressions, stylistic preferences and conceptual highlights of the epoch under consideration. Besides, due to its objective nature language could be an ‘umbrella phenomenon’ uniting and reconciling different research facets: traces and roots of different image interpretations can be found in its language.

Research Questions

An artistic image as a linguistic phenomenon has hitherto received scant attention by scholars – imagologists. To date, several pertinent questions haven’t yet been comprehensively studied. Primarily, what is the importance of language levels in image actualization. It seems to us that different levels – phonetic, lexical, grammatical, pragmatic and conceptual – play different roles in representing image. These roles are dependent on a number of factors, such as historical phase of national and poetic language development, stylistic tendencies of the epoch, conceptual and genre picture of the world, etc.. A number of stable peculiarities typical of all levels of image representation can be singled out. A major one is dominating importance of a lexical level due to its nominative function and direct connection with semantic layout of the image (Lotman, 1998). Lexemes which participate in the image actualization form its lexical frame and predetermine its semantic representation.

Secondly, the image exceeds the limits of an artistic text and exists in a broader context of a national culture. Studied from this perspective it should be viewed upon as a cultural phenomenon being immersed in national culture of a certain historical period.

Thirdly, it is essential to find a category that would bind all the image levels together and connect them to culture so that the linguistic analysis would look like a logical mosaic of facts and findings rather than an array of separate and unconnected linguistic or stylistic peculiarities. To our mind, category binding the image and a sphere of culture is a notion of value embedded in stylistic connotations and linguocultural concepts. The former reveals national attitude to the image through a network of diversified stylistically marked lexemes and expressions that participate in the image verbalization. The latter acts out as a means of representing national values.

Purpose of the Study

Old English literature is an interesting research material from the point of view of imagology. Predominating male and female artistic images of the period are: a Hero, a king / queen, a warrior, a lover, an enemy, God. Each of them has some typical peculiarities which are actualized on a linguistic level. One of the best--developed images is a king which is represented in different literary genres: heroic epic (“Beowulf”), religious epic (“Helena” and “Juliana”), heroic elegy poems (“Wanderer”, “Deor”), histories (“Coronation of Edgar”, “Death of Edgar”, “Death of Edward”, “Death of Alfred”), heroic poems (“Battle of Finnsburh”, “Battle of Brunanburh”). Thus, the purpose of the paper is to define and characterize linguistic peculiarities of the image of the king in Anglo-Saxon period of British literature.

Throughout these genres the image has 15 character representations: kings Edgar, Eadward, Alfred, Æðelréd, Æþelstan, Hnæf, Eadmund, Harold, Ermanaric, Hrothgar, Hygelac, Heremod, Offa, Constantin, Maximian. In this respect it will be interesting to find out stylistic and linguostylistic coloring of the images in Old English literature. It can constitute the first stage of axiological analysis of the image. At this stage an axiological marking of the image is revealed that can pave the way to understanding a general attitude towards a king in the period under consideration. This marking can be both explicit and implicit. Explicit marking is revealed in denotative meanings of lexemes and expressions representing the image, their semantic peculiarities, grammatical constructions used in representing the image (Radbyl, 2017). Implicit marking is constituted by textual relations of the lexemes, their stylistic connotation and general stylistic background of the image. The next stage of axiological analysis could involve conceptual analysis of the image; at this level a notion of value is embedded in a linguocultural concept (Slyshkin, 2004). Therefore, studying conceptual space of dominant literary images can contribute to reconstructing axiological highlights of the Anglo-Saxon period.

Research Methods

Traditionally, the artistic image has been characterized by applying methods worked out within literature theory, comparative theory of literature, literary stylistics. Within this approach the image is a projection of a thematic – plot – motive interaction. Its linguistic nature has rarely been a subject of meticulous scientific research. Meanwhile, its analysis as a cultural and linguistic phenomenon calls for methods elaborated within stylistic linguistics, linguistic culturology, cognitive and conceptual linguistics.

Since the focus of the paper is linguistic peculiarities of the image the methods applied to the analysis will include quantitative analysis (to define a number of characters / lexemes representing the image), contextual analysis (to determine an associative network of the lexemes), stylistic analysis (to reveal connotative meaning of the lexemes representing the image), pragmatic analysis (to characterize speech strategies and tactics typical of the speech portrait of the image). Besides, methods of description and analysis are used to outline a problem area and analyse research findings. The latter is carried out by means of attracting extratextual information which includes analysing general historical and cultural background, elements of conceptual and genre pictures of the world, axiological highlights of the period.


It is possible to single out several linguostylistic characteristic features of the king. First of all, a significant quantity of non-direct nominations of the king, that can reflect its cultural importance. It is well known that well-developed ornamentality of speech typical of Old English poetic language helped to put forward the most important concepts of the epoch: the more axiologically marked the concept was the more lexical variations it had. A number of non-direct variations of the king amounted to 56 lexemes and lexical combinations.

In terms of content linguostylistic characteristics of the king (expressed by epithets and non-direct nominations) bind the image of the king with the following notions and functions:

  • Distribution of gifts: sinces brytta, sincgyfa, giefstolas breac, beahgifa, beorna beahgifa, boldes brytta, maϸϸumgifa;

  • Bravery on the battlefield: niðweorca heard, guðrof cyning, beadurof cyning, guðweard gumena;

  • Heroism: har hilderinc;

  • Nobility: æðelum kinge, hæleða wealdend;

  • Protection: Engla waldend, Engla hlaford, helm Scyldinga, folces hyrde;

  • Glory: breme cyning, tireadig cyning, kyningwuldor, heria hildfruma;

  • Legitimacy: riht cyning;

  • Unlimited abilities: cyning ælmihtig;

  • Age: gamol cyning, gamolfeax / blondenfeax cyning. Despite the fact that the lexemes ‘gamolfeax and blondenfeax have a meaning “grey – haired” their true significatum is an idea of age associated with another idea of wisdom in Anglo-Saxon picture of the world. This interconnection is valuable while investigating conceptual space of the image.

  • Love: leof leodcyning, leof ϸeodcyning, leofast londbuendum.

A predominating poetic formula for the king is a phrase þæt wæs god cyning! (Beo 11; Beo 2390). It is a concentrated expression and assessment of the ideal of the king from the angle of military success, determination, aptness for heroic deeds, generosity and loyalty (Hill, 2002). In this respect the formula þæt wæs grim cyning! may be considered as the second member of the semantic opposition: if the first phrase conveys axiological meanings, the second one focuses on anti-axiological semantics associated with the king: cruelty, uncertainty, inability to protect his folk.

The following words and word combinations constitute a lexical framework of the image:

material riches / gifts: feohgift, madma, beaga brytta, bearm scipes, segen geldenne, maþþumgyfa, beahgifa, giefstolas (breac):

Aledon þa leofne þeoden, beaga bryttan, on bearm scipes (Beo 34 – 35);

… fromum feohgiftum on fæder bearme (Beo 21)

þær wæs madma fela (Beo 36)

swa he hwilum ær in geardagum giefstolas breac. (Wanderer 43 – 44)

Hwær cwom mearg? Hwær cwom mago? Hwær cwom maþþumgyfa? (Wanderer 92)

Her æþelstan cyning, eorla dryhten, beorna beahgifa, and his broþor eac (The Battle of Brunanburh 1 – 2)

hwæt se god wære, boldes brytta (Elena 162 – 163), etc..

kinship: bearn, sunu, fæder, leod, ϸeod, cyn, folc, mæg, æþeling.

Him on mod bearn þæt healreced hatan wolde (Beo 67 – 68),

… wilgesiþas, þonne wig cume, leode gelæsten (Beo 23 – 24)

siþþan hy forwræcon wicinga cynn ond Ingeldes ord forbigdan (Widsith 47 – 48)

Ðá hine sóna frægn folces hyrde … (The Battle of Finnesburh 46 – 47)

Her Eadmund cyning, Engla þeoden, mæcgea mundbora, Myrce geode … (The Capture of the Five Boroughs 1 – 2)

he þær/ for/ feorme feorhwunde hleat sweordes swengum, sunu Hygelaces (2385 – 2386),

Her com Ælfred, se unsceððiga æþeling, Æþelrædes sunu cinges, (Death of Alfred 1-2)

inner man: mod, sawel, sefa, fyrhð, modceare, hreϸer, frod, snotor.

And se froda swa þeah befæste þæt rice heahþungenum men … (The Death of Edward 29 – 30)

Siteð sorgcearig, sælum bidæled, on sefan sweorceð … (Deor 28 – 29)

Wæs him niwe gefea befolen in fyrhðe … (Elena 195 – 196)

Heht þa wigena weard þa wisestan snude to sionoðe, þa þe snyttro cræft … (Elena 153 – 154)

… ic þære socne singales wæg modceare micle (Beo 1777 – 1778)

englas feredon soþfæste sawle innan swegles leoht. (Death of Edward 27 – 28)

on þam suðportice; seo saul is mid Criste. (Death of Edward 25)

war which contains micro semantic groups like battle, warrior, armoury: guϸ, heaþu, wroht, hæleð, rice, sweord, hildfruma, hæleð, secg.

ealdorlangne tir geslogon æt sæcce sweorda ecgum ymbe Brunanburh. (The Battle of Brunanburh 3 – 6)

ða gewat him wund hæleð on wæg gangan … (The Battle of Finnesburh 43)

… gamol ond guðreouw, glæde Scyldingas (Beo 58)

se þe him god syleð gumena rice to gehealdenne, þenden he her leofað. (Widsith 134 – 135)

þa wæs syxte gear Constantines caserdomes, þæt he Romwara in rice wearð ahæfen, hildfruma (Elena 8 – 10)

He wæs riht cyning, guðweard gumena … (Elena 13 – 14)

Com þa wigena hleo þegna þreate þryðbold secan, beadurof cyning burga neosan. (Elena 150 – 152)

þæt hi æt campe oft wiþ laþra gehwæne land ealgodon (The Battle of Brunanburh 8-9)

Ne gefrægn ic næfre wurþlicor æt wera hilde sixtig sigebeorna sel gebæran … (The Battle of Finnesburh 37 – 39)

Swilce þa gebroþer begen ætsamne, cyning and æþeling, cyþþe sohton, Wesseaxena land, wiges hremige.( The Battle of Brunanburh 57 - 59)

Bordweal clufan, heowan heaþolinde hamora lafan (The Battle of Brunanburh 5 - 6)

Christianity: God, Crist, fulwiht.

æt þam se leodfruma fulwihte onfeng ond þæt forð geheold (Elena 192 – 193)

Constantinus, Cristes rode, tireadig cyning, tacen gewyrcan. (Elena 103 – 104)

Her Eadward kingc, Engla hlaford, sende soþfæste sawle to Criste on godes wæra (The Death of Edward 1 – 3)

Wundor is to secganne hu mihtig god manna cynne þurh sidne sefan snyttru bryttað, (Beo 1724 – 1726)

The middle dwelling, the earth: middangeard

þæt he manegum wearð geond middangeard mannum to hroðer … (Elena 15 – 16)

Swa ic Hringdena hund missera weold under wolcnum ond hig wigge beleac/ manigum mægþa geond þysne middangeard (Beo 1769 – 1771).

ða ic wide gefrægn weorc gebannan manigre mægþe geond þisne middangeard, (Beo 74 – 75)

Dominating lexemes have positive stylistic coloring. Negative characteristics are scarce and connect the king with such features as hostility (firencræft, feondscype), enemy (feond), anger (laþra), feud (fæhðe), honorlessness (arleas) :

þætte in dagum gelamp Maximianes, se geond middangeard, arleas cyning, eahtnysse ahof … (Juliana 2 – 4)

þa þe dryhtnes æ feodon þurh firencræft. Feondscype rærdon, hofon hæþengield, halge cwelmdon … (Elena 14-15)

We geascodan Eormanrices wylfenne geþoht … (Deor 21 – 22)

þæt hi æt campe oft wiþ laþra gehwæne land ealgodon … (The Battle of Brunanburh 8-9)

hwile wið Hroþgar, heteniðas wæg, fyrene ond fæhðe fela missera (Beo 152 – 154)

A speech portrait of the image is mostly characteristic of the epic genre: “Beowulf” contains maximum quantity of direct speech narratives: among them speeches of kings Hrothgar and Hygelac represent the longest ones. Axiological marking of the speech portrait is carried out on a linguopragmatic level: the recurrent speech strategies of the king include edification and directive enhanced by tactics of appealing to one’s own experience and one’s own authoritative opinion. Illocutionary force of every strategy is marked by a variety of lexical and grammatical means. Directives and edifications are created by imperative sentences:

ðu þe lær be þon, gumcyste ongit; ic þis gid be þe awræc wintrum frod. (Beo 1722 – 1724)

Bebeorh þe ðone bealonið, Beowulf leofa, secg betsta, ond þe þæt selre geceos, ece rædas; oferhyda ne gym, mære cempa. (Beo 1758 – 1761).

Ga nu to setle, symbelwynne dreoh wigge weorþad; unc sceal worn fela maþma gemænra, siþðan morgen bið (Beo 1782 – 1784)

Onsend Higelace, gif hildnime, beaduscruda betst, ϸaet mine breost wered... (Beo 452)

Beo ðu on ofeste, hat in gan seon sibbegedriht samod ætgædere; (Beo 386 – 387)

Site nu to symle ond onsæl meoto, sigehreð secgum, swa þin sefa hwette. (Beo489 - 490)

Hafa nu ond geheald husa selest, gemyne mærþo, mægenellen cyð, waca wið wraþum. Ne bið þe wilna gad (Beo 658 – 660)

Ac onwacnigeað nu, wigend mine, habbað eowre linda, hicgeaþ on ellen, winnað on orde, wesað onmode!" (The Battle of Finnesburh 10 – 12)

The modality of edification is best expressed in the famous speech of king Hrothgar (Beo 1700 – 1784), in which theological and heroic motives are intertwined. This modality is created by a range of textual devices like a didactic story about king Heremod (1), an appeal to Hrothgar’s age (2) and his glorious military past (3):

  • ðu þe lær be þon, gumcyste ongit; (Beo 1722 – 1723)

  • ic þis gid be þe awræc wintrum frod. (Beo 1723 – 1724)

  • 3) Swa ic Hringdena hund missera weold under wolcnum ond hig wigge beleac/ manigum mægþa geond þysne middangeard/, æscum ond ecgum … (Beo1769 – 1772)

Studying linguostylistic and linguopragmatic aspects of the image representation is the first stage of a complex imagological analysis. At this stage a general connotative background of the image and its stylistic tonality in culture are reconstructed. The next step might include reconstruction of the content of the image through analyzing concepts which constitute conceptual space of the image. These concepts are directly tied to culture of the period under research as they transmit national values and anti-values.


An insight into linguistic characteristics of the artistic image includes different types of analysis. The given article focused on its stylistic and pragmatic angles which could render understanding of cultural marking of this or that image. The king is one of the dominating images in Anglo-Saxon period that is represented by 15 literary characters and has an extensive imagological context. Major linguistic peculiarities of this context are an overabundance of positively marked lexemes which connect the image with such areas as kinship, gifts and material riches, war, Christianity and inner man. The anti-values associated with the image of the king refer to the notions of cruelty, lack of firmness, inability to protect his folk.

The speech portrait of the image is characterized by predominantly directive modality with imperative constructions as a device / tactic to convey it. It can characterize a perception of the king in Anglo-Saxon society: he was viewed upon as a mentor and edifier. The king’s major social roles were associated with setting rules and standards, passing on his knowledge / experience and teaching his folk.


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30 April 2018

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Sociolinguistics, linguistics, semantics, discourse analysis, translation, interpretation

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Tomberg, O. (2018). Characteristic Features Of Artistic Images’ Linguistic Representation In Anglo-Saxon Poetic Linguoculture. In & I. V. Denisova (Ed.), Word, Utterance, Text: Cognitive, Pragmatic and Cultural Aspects, vol 39. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 590-596). Future Academy.