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Latin in Medieval Britain$
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Richard Ashdowne and Carolinne White

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266083

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266083.001.0001

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Official and Unofficial Latin Words in 11th- and 12th-Century England

Official and Unofficial Latin Words in 11th- and 12th-Century England

(p.247) 11 Official and Unofficial Latin Words in 11th- and 12th-Century England
Latin in Medieval Britain

Richard Sharpe

British Academy

The terminology of official documents in England changed with the Norman Conquest, and this chapter focuses on the words used for ealdorman, earl, count, thegn, baron, sheriff, reeve, and shire during the 11th and early-12th centuries. Unofficial texts sometimes preferred not to use the official terms but drew on a more classical vocabulary, investing words with the specific connotations of the underlying terms for which they were substitutes. Words that carry such specific meanings are identified by using unofficial Medieval Latin translations of official documents in Old English, law tracts that translate or reflect Old English terms, and translations or reworkings of narrative sources in both languages. Examples of the unofficial vocabulary are reviewed, and how far both the DMLBS and modern editions of texts have recognised their use is appraised. Such lexical substitution has not been treated as a semantic category by dictionaries, but it must be recognised to arrive at a true contextual understanding of words used in primary sources. The examples shed light on categories of office and rank across this period, and the argument will lead to much rethinking of how passages in the sources are understood. The linguistic implications extend beyond the words studied.

Keywords:   lexicography, Medieval Latin, Old English, substitution, translation

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