Evidence from sources prior to 1500

Carole Hough

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 from sources prior to 1500

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  • Linguistics
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics


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Sources for the history of English before 1500 include inscriptions (runic and non-runic), manuscript texts (religious and secular) and the onomastic corpus (personal and place names). None of these data sources can be considered representative. The epigraphical corpus depends on chance survivals and finds. Early manuscript production was concentrated in southern England and skewed towards the interests of the ecclesiastical and secular administrations. Onomastic evidence is geographically more even, but vulnerable to subsequent obfuscation. Used in conjunction with each other and with evidence from other disciplines, these sources can inform robust conclusions. As regards inscriptions and manuscripts, revisionist work has focused on the provenance, integrity and interpretation of extant witnesses. As regards onomastics, there has been a broadening of focus from etymology to historical and linguistic context, alongside a reappraisal of the relationship between the onomasticon and lexicon.

Keywords: English; evidence; linguistics; history; inscriptions; manuscripts; onomastics; personal names; place-names; runes; sources

Article.  5160 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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