Alliterative Patterning as a Basis for Emendation in Middle English Alliterative Poetry.
Examining a corpus of approximately 13,000 lines (including Death and Life 1-459; Mum and the Sothsegger 1-431; Parliament of the Three Ages; PPl B.5.365-4.167; Winner and Waster, et al.), finds that with the exception of PPl and PPCrede the alliterative poets wrote exclusively in the pattern aa / ax, with the single ordered exception aa / aa appearing when alliteration was vocalic. Regarding Parliament of the Three Ages, of 31 lines in which both mss. lack regular alliteration or appear to fail in alliteration, six are found to be regular, fifteen can be confidently emended to restore the poet’s lost reading, six can be less confidently emended given the existence of more than one alliterating synonym, and only four remain for which emendations according to the alliterative pattern aa / ax do not suggest themselves. During his career Langland appears to have moved away from traditional modes of composition in formulaic language and grammetrical patterns consonant with those of other alliterative poets.