The final session of our celebratory conference looked at some of the challenges involved in producing a dictionary of a medieval language. Entitled ‘Lexicography and linguistics’, it was chaired by Paul Russell, whose paper on medieval Wales had already paved the way.
The first speaker was Laura Wright (Cambridge), whose paper on ‘Medieval Latin/Anglo-Norman French/Middle English codeswitched writing’ focussed on a series of documents relating to London Bridge in which Latin was replaced with English over the course of the 15th century. Laura argued that the documents from the transitional decades resist easy classification, and should be mined for evidence by lexicographers of both languages.
As if on cue, next up was David Trotter (Aberystwyth), the Editor of the Anglo-Norman Dictionary (not to mention one of our external readers), whose disarmingly generous talk on ‘Why the AND likes the DMLBS’ revealed how freely his dictionary borrows from ours.
After coffee, Richard Sharpe (Oxford), a former Assistant Editor on the DMLBS, raised the thorny question of how a dictionary should handle the use of antique or generic terms like ‘consul’ and ‘provincia’ as substitutes for official terms like ‘comes’ (earl) and ‘comitatus’ (county). Richard argued that medieval readers would have been expected to understand these substitutes in a technical sense, and that a dictionary should define them accordingly.
The final paper of the conference returned to the theme of trilingualism, as Philip Durkin (Principal Etymologist and Deputy Chief Editor, OED) and Samantha Schad (Etymologist, OED) explained how the DMLBS and its quotation slips provide valuable evidence for the Oxford English Dictionary.
Full abstracts of these talks can be found on the conference website.