On Non-Integrated Vocabulary in the Mixed-Language Accounts of St Paul’s Cathedral, 1315-1405
Latin in Medieval Britain
Faculty of English, University of Cambridge
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Wright, L. (2015). On Non-Integrated Vocabulary in the Mixed-Language Accounts of St Paul’s Cathedral, 1315-1405. http://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/249308
This is the author accepted manuscript. It is currently under an indefinite embargo pending publication of the final version.
Accounts of institutions and private individuals between the Norman Conquest and about 1500 were routinely written in a non-random mixture of Medieval Latin, Anglo-Norman and Middle English—by non-random is meant that only certain parts of speech could appear in each language. If the base language was Medieval Latin, then only nouns, stems of verbs and certain semantic fields such as weights and measures could appear in English or French, with all the grammatical material in Latin and English and Anglo-Norman nouns, verbs and adjectives Latinised by means of adding a suffix, or an abbreviation sign representing a suffix. If the base language was Anglo-Norman, then, in the same way, only the same restricted semantic fields and nouns and stems of verbs could appear in English. This situation changed over time as do all languages in use, but was essentially stable for the best part of five hundred years. The chapter asks the question: why, if English words could easily be assimilated into a Latin or French matrix by means of suffixes or abbreviations representing suffixes, were all English words not so assimilated? Why did letter graphies such as wr-, -ck, -ght persist in mixed-language business writing? One effect is to make the text-type of business writing very unlike any other genre—half a glance is all it takes to recognise a mixed-language business document and that may perhaps have been an advantage.
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