Evidence for the history of English: Introduction

Susan Fitzmaurice and Jeremy Smith

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of English

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199922765
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Evidence for the history of English: Introduction

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  • Linguistics
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics


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The extensive scholarly study over many years of the history of the English language has yielded a well established set of accounts of the histories of English sounds, structures, words and meanings. This article urges the re-examination of the evidence on which these accounts are based, and offers fresh examinations of historical changes in the language before and after 1500. The authors discuss the implications for histories of the English language of different sources of evidence, such as material objects in the form of coins, inscriptions and manuscripts, and the impact on the nature of historical investigation of newly found and available kinds of evidence, such as parish records and court papers. The article introduces the discussion of the ways in which different kinds of evidence are collected in critical research tools, like atlases, thesauruses, dictionaries and historical corpora and addresses the relationships among the data that are drawn from different sources and types of evidence, methodology and theory. Finally, the article serves as an introduction to the articles in this section which examine the methods of selecting, collecting and presenting data from different sources of evidence in different forms and ways in order to inform the best research in the history of the English language.

Keywords: history; English; evidence; sources; methodology; data collection; philology; linguistics; dictionaries; thesauruses; dialect atlases; manuscripts; material evidence; historical corpora

Article.  8133 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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