Code-switching in English of the Middle Ages

Päivi Pahta

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

 Code-switching in English of the Middle Ages

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  • Linguistics
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics


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Throughout its history, English has had extensive contact with other languages, and the impact of these various contacts on the lexicon is a popular topic among researchers of the history of English. Most studies on contact-induced change in earlier English have been undertaken in the context of lexical borrowing. As linguistic phenomena concerning multilingualism in present-day speech communities, along with the processes of language change, continue to draw interest, language historians have also begun to reevaluate the notion of contact and its implications from new perspectives. A recently thematized language contact phenomenon is code-switching, which refers to the alternating use of units from two or more participating linguistic systems within a communicative event. A multitude of extant writings from the Middle Ages shows different types of mixture. This article explores the formal and functional characteristics of code-switching in such texts, considering the practice of code-switching in the multilingual context of medieval England, and as a source of new lexicon in the English language.

Keywords: English; language contact; lexicon; language change; code-switching; mixed-languages; texts; Middle Ages; England; multilingualism; lexical borrowing

Article.  4132 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Sociolinguistics ; Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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