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Dunbar the Makar$
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Priscilla Bawcutt

Print publication date: 1992

Print ISBN-13: 9780198129639

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198129639.001.0001

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Language at Large

Language at Large

Chapter:
(p.347) 9 Language at Large
Source:
Dunbar the Makar
Author(s):

Priscilla Bawcutt

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198129639.003.0009

This chapter discusses the language of Dunbar, which has spurred countless criticisms and admirations among scholars of poetry and poets alike. In sixteenth-century Scotland, poets had a variety of language styles and options. Dunbar took full advantage of these options; he employed legal or liturgical, formal or vulgar, Latinate or Scots, poetic or everyday and archaic or newly coined terms and words into his poetry. Of the poets in his time, he is unrivalled not for his vast vocabulary but for his sensitivity to connotations of words and phrases. His poems abound in ironies, puns and several word-plays. He also observes the sense of linguistic decorum, and is aware of the contemporary views on diction and the distinction between the highland and lowland style of the language. Dunbar's language also shows flexibility and his poems observe a complex and unusual metrical form. In addition to his verbal flamboyancy, the chapter also discusses Dunbar's brilliance in figurative language. He uses imagery to enhance and denigrade; sometimes it is symbolic and unnatural, while at other times it is sensuous and provides exact observations of people and objects. He mastered figurative language and draws inspiration from varied sources: from the mundane to the Scriptures.

Keywords:   language, poetry, linguistic decorum, diction, metrical form, figurative language, imagery

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