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Univ. Prof. Dr. Mag. Peter Bierbaumer, i.R.

For the first 15 years of my academic career (1965-1980) I worked intensively on research into the lexicon of Old English in general and in particular into the botanical vocabulary of Old English. This resulted in a great number of publications (s. bibliography) including my three volume study Der botanische Wortschatz des Altenglischen. (1975-1979) comprising more than 700 pages:

The first volume (Das Laeceboc: xv + 168 pp.) deals with the botanical terms to be found in the Old English medical text Laeceboc. More than 400 terms are arranged in alphabetical order, each entry containing all instances of the respective term, an attempt at identification of the term (many OE plant names are not identified) and ñ if applicable ñ a discussion of its etymology. The second volume (Lacnunga, Herbarium Apuleii, Peri Didaxeon. xvii + 160 pp.) deals with the OE botanical vocabulary in the medical texts mentioned in its title. It contains around a further 400 botanical terms which are treated in the same way as those in the first volume. The third volume (Der botanische Wortschatz in altenglischen Glossen: xlviii + 341 pp.), which was accepted as my Habilitationsschrift in 1980, is the first attempt at representing and interpreting the complete botanical vocabulary contained in Old English glosses. More than 6500 glosses are arranged alphabetically in ca 950 entries. Each entry gives all instances of the respective term and its English and German meaning (in the case of plant-names the meaning is also given in modern botanical nomenclature). Difficult glosses are discussed with regard to the meaning equivalence of Latin lemma and Old English gloss, etymological problems and in individual cases questions of word-formation are treated. The introduction and the appendix contain lists of all texts, manuscripts and editions, a matrix showing the distribution of the glosses in the individual texts and a list of all Latin lemmata (more than 2000) plus their Old English glosses.

After the completion of my Habilitation (Englische Sprachwissenschaft / English Linguistics) my attention was diverted to other tasks. In the early eighties I was first appointed head of our department of language teaching and I have maintained this post since then. I was also head of the Department of English Studies (Institut f¸r Anglistik) for 8 years. During this time and throughout the 1990s I was crucially involved in founding the now well established Graz International Bilingual School, the Graz Bilingual Primary School, the International Language Centre at the University of Graz and also in bringing the Council of Europe¥s European Centre for Modern Languages to Graz. The nature of these activities also raised my interest in language teaching in general and in English for Specific Purposes in particular and I consequently became co-editor of FACHSPRACHE. International Journal of Languages for Specific Purposes

When in the year 2000 I was invited to attend the first interdisciplinary symposium of the newly founded Anglo-Saxon Plant Name Survey in Glasgow I was highly encouraged to resume my research into the Old English botanical vocabulary. It is for these reasons that apart from my article “Real and not-so-real plant-names in Old English glosses” (Bierbaumer 2003) most of my relevant publications appeared in the 1970s and 1980s.

When my studies into the botanical vocabulary of Old English first appeared, they were accepted very positively as can be seen e.g. from E.G. Stanley¥s review in the renowned Oxford journal Notes & Queries (1979: 566)

The first two volumes of Dr Bierbaumer¥s highly impressive study of Old English botanical terms were reviewed in Notes and Queries, ccxxii (1977), 561-3. [...] Dr Bierbaumer discusses suggestions made by others [Ö].Often he is unconvinced by their solutions. His doubts carry conviction. So do his solutions. [...] This work [Der botanische Wortschatz in altenglischen Glossen] is well indexed, which makes it a pleasure to use.

Meanwhile my studies are considered world-wide as belonging to the most important contributions to the research into the Old English botanical vocabulary. Cf. the dedication in the Proceedings of the above mentioned Glasgow conference of the Anglo-Saxon Plant Name Survey (Biggam 2003: 13)

This book is dedicated to Univ.Prof.Dr.Mag. Dr.Peter Bierbaumer of Karl-Franzens-Universit‰t Graz, Austria, in recognition of his massive contribution to the study of Anglo-Saxon plant-names, with the publication of his three-volume Der botanische Wortschatz des Altenglischen.

Similarly Stephen Pollington in his book on Anglo-Saxon medicine (2000:15) gives a very favourable evaluation:

There was a flurry of interest in the botanical literature in the late 1970s, with the publication of Bierbaumer¥s magnificent three-volume work dealing with the plant-names evidenced from Old English sources. In Austria I was awarded the Theodor-Kˆrner Preis 1981 for my work.

A concluding fourth volume, which was to cover the botanical vocabulary in the Old English texts not dealt with in the first three volumes, was planned but since my new duties in administration, research and teaching, especially my appointment as full professor in 1982, prevented me from completing this project.

However, the increasing interest in mediaeval plant and plant-name studies, the continuous enquiries of international colleagues and my frequent work as advisor for the Dictionary of Old English have convinced and encouraged me that it is time to complete my long delayed studies and to ‘tie up loose ends’. The development in the field of information technology over recent years has been another major influence on my decision: with the help of modern IT-structure the remodelling, conversion and completion of my work on Old English plant-names seems a task worth undertaking. What is even more encouraging are the vast possibilities modern information technology provides for publishing our findings and therefore for reaching as many people interested in our studies as possible.


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