Middle English Abbreviation in the Context of Literacy and Script

Public lecture by Dr Alpo Honkapohja, postdoctor at the University of Edinburgh.

Alpo Honkapohja

Middle English Abbreviation in the Context of Literacy and Script

Abbreviations are one of the characteristic features of written communication today, ranging from official acronyms like NATO or EU, which are concise and precise at the same time, to ones used in new media YOLO or OMG to save precious time, when typing on WhatsApp, or space, when trying to fit what you have to say within the twitter character limit. Yet abbreviation is anything but new. They were much needed before printing to save precious parchment or time, when writing from dictation. Some abbreviations used today are of medieval origin: two especially common ones are & and etc; others include cf., et al., e.g., ibid. and viz.

This lecture examines abbreviation in the early Middle English period: 1150-1350 with a special focus on the importance of script. The period is of interest as it was a formative one for the writing systems of English. The linguistic situation in England changed dramatically after the Norman Conquest of 1066, which introduced a new ruling class and relegated English to a tertiary role after Latin and Anglo-Norman French. The writing system of English underwent a great deal of innovation and experimentation with new spelling systems introduced by Anglo-Norman scribes and the emergence of a new native cursive script: Anglicana.

The data comes from the Linguistic Atlas of Early Middle English (LAEME), a corpus of ca. 650,000 words divided into scribal samples of localised Middle English. The methodology is based on corpus linguistics, statistical analysis and historical dialectology."

About the lecturer

Dr Alpo Honkapohja is currently associated with the Angus McIntosh Centre for Historical Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh where he is working on a postdoctoral project entitled "A Corpus Approach to Manuscript Abbreviations". The project, which is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, studies scribal, regional, and chronological variation in the use of abbreviations.

Tags: lecture, Corpus linguistics, Historical linguistics
Published Apr. 1, 2019 1:29 PM - Last modified Apr. 4, 2019 11:59 AM