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Vernacular vocabulary in the Durham Account Rolls (1278-1538): a philological approach



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Roig Marin, Amanda Dafne 


The burgeoning interest in historical multilingual texts has modified our appreciation of written material traditionally deemed macaronic: the mixing of Medieval Latin with the vernaculars is now considered not the result of an imperfect grasp of Latin but understood as fundamentally instrumental in articulating specific communicative functions in texts such as the multilingual administrative documents which form the basis of this PhD dissertation: the Durham Account Rolls (DAR). Previous research into multilingual records produced in medieval England has pinpointed a series of central linguistic patterns, including the occurrence of the French definite article, non-existent in Latin, the use of lexical items that could be interpreted as simultaneously belonging to multiple languages and, in relation to this, abbreviations or suspension marks in lieu of full inflectional Latin suffixes. This dissertation goes one step further: not only does it examine the vernacular vocabulary in multilingual accounts in terms of attestations, etymology, and semantics, but it also explores whether, within this multilingual system, it is possible to trace features of Northern Middle English (NME). To the best of my knowledge, this question has not been tackled so far in the examination of multilingual sources. I draw on previous work on Middle English dialects, which has made use of English monolingual sources, and discuss to what extent they can be applied to texts whose matrix language is Medieval Latin (see Section 1.2), thereby offering a fresh perspective on a long- standing topic. I collected all the lexis that could be recognised as 'English', but as this is a problematic assumption given the often blurry boundaries between Anglo-French and Middle English vocabulary, the term vernacular seemed more suited to describe the multilingual reality of these rolls. Section 1.3 describes the textual sources in question, giving some notes on editorial principles and the underlying manuscripts, and Section 2, the methodology employed. The analysis of my data, amounting to c. 1600 lexical items, is first organised by source language: Old English, Anglo-French, Old Norse, and Middle Dutch. Each individual section (3.1.1 - 3.1.4) provides an etymological survey of the DAR vocabulary coming from those source languages and pays attention to the lexicographical difficulties that arise in the study of each Germanic / Romance language in contact with the English vernacular and its interplay with Medieval Latin in the DAR. The main semantic fields to which each source language contributed in the vernacular lexical make-up of the DAR are also discussed. Because of the vast amount of French-origin lexical items, the section on Anglo-French is devoted to broader issues such as the Latin-Romance continuum, the teaching and learning of French at the time, and how pedagogical practices and historical milestones seem to be linked to the linguistic competence of the community involved in the production of these rolls. The aforementioned use of the French definite article is revisited in light of previously neglected evidence, further complemented by Section 4.3.2 in which the northern variant ly is addressed extensively for the first time in research into multilingual texts. After a panoramic vision of the major source languages, Section 3.2 gives some insights into local and global socio-economic history by analysing lexemes named after place-names as testimonies to the historical interactions and commercial transactions between England and the Continent as well as within Britain and Ireland. Section 3.3 examines multi-word lexical units as part and parcel of the vernacular vocabulary in the DAR. The thorny concept of compound is addressed and compounding is historically tracked from Old English to Middle English through a multilingual lens. Finally, Section 4 on NME covers several linguistic levels— namely, orthography (vowels and consonants), morphology, and lexis—in synergy with Medieval Latin. It also proposes a new taxonomy for the study of northern vernacular vocabulary, highlighting the role of dictionaries in constructing our understanding of what is meant by 'northern' and emphasising how often it is essential to revise impressionistic views on the dialectal status of this vocabulary.





Dance, Richard


Historical multilingualism, Vernacular vocabulary, Medieval Latin, Middle English


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
AHRC (1941890)