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British Academy Lectures 2013-14$
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Janet Carsten and Simon Frith

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265864

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265864.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 14 April 2021

Getting a word in

Getting a word in

Contact, etymology and English vocabulary in the twelfth century

(p.153) Getting a word in
British Academy Lectures 2013-14

Richard Dance

British Academy

English vocabulary owes an enormous debt to the other languages of medieval Britain. Arguably, nowhere is this debt more significant than in the 12th century—a complex and fascinating period of ‘transition’, when (amongst many other things) influence from both Norse and French is increasingly apparent in writing. This article explores the etymologies, semantics and textual contexts of some key words from this crucial time, as a way to think about the evidence for contact and change at the boundary of Old and Middle English, and to illustrate how rich, diverse, challenging and surprising its voices can be. It concludes with a case study of words meaning ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ in Old and early Middle English, concentrating on the vocabulary of the manuscript Oxford, Bodleian Library, Bodley 343.

Keywords:   Old English, Middle English, language contact, etymology, semantics, 12th century

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