Latin in Medieval Britain: Part III

Part III of Latin in Medieval Britain examines the relationship of Latin in Britain to the chief local native spoken languages, English, French, and Welsh. Here are the abstracts of the chapters in this part.

10. ‘Go and look in the Latin books’: Latin and the Vernacular in Medieval Wales

Paul Russell

In one form or another Latin and Welsh have co-existed and interacted in Wales from the Roman period onwards: whether in the quasi-charters of the Lichfield/Llandeilo Gospels, Braint Teilo ‘The Privilege of Teilo’ in the Book of Llandaf, the verse of the family of Sulien in Llanbadarn, the lament for the Lord Rhys in the Peniarth 20 Brut, the various chronicles, or the laws of Hywel Dda (the last two preserved in both Latin and Welsh). This chapter explores some consequences of that co-existence, and in particular how in some contexts medieval Welsh became distinctively Latinate and how in certain respects the Latin of medieval Wales arguably became Cambricized.

keywords: Wales, Welsh, the Lord Rhys, Boethius, Ovid, medieval Welsh law, Cronica de Wallia, Brut y Tywysogion

11. Official and Unofficial Latin Words in 11th- and 12th-Century England

Richard Sharpe

The terminology of official documents in England changed with the Norman Conquest, and this chapter focuses on the words used for ealdorman, earl, and count, thegn and baron, sheriff and reeve, and shire during the eleventh and early twelfth centuries. Unofficial texts sometimes preferred not to use the official terms but drew instead on a more classical vocabulary, investing words with the specific connotations of the underlying terms for which they were substitutes. Words that carry such specific meanings are identified by using unofficial Latin translations of official documents in Old English, law tracts that translate or reflect Old English terms, and translations or reworkings of narrative sources in both languages. Examples of the unofficial vocabulary are then reviewed, and how far both the Dictionary and modern editions of texts have recognized their use is appraised. Such lexical substitution has not been treated as a semantic category by dictionaries, but the argument here shows how important it is to recognise it if one is to arrive at a true contextual understand of the words used in primary sources. The examples shed light on categories of office and rank across this period, and the argument will lead to much rethinking of how passages in the sources are understood. The linguistic implications extend beyond the words used to make the argument.

key words: Old English, medieval Latin, translation, substitution, lexicography

12. On Non-integrated Vocabulary in the Mixed-language Accounts of St Paul’s Cathedral, 1315–1405

Laura Wright

Accounts of institutions and private individuals between the Norman Conquest and about 1500 were routinely written in a non-random mixture of Medieval Latin, Anglo-Norman and Middle English—by non-random is meant that only certain parts of speech could appear in each language. If the base language was Medieval Latin, then only nouns, stems of verbs and certain semantic fields such as weights and measures could appear in English or French, with all the grammatical material in Latin and English and Anglo-Norman nouns, verbs and adjectives Latinised by means of adding a suffix, or an abbreviation sign representing a suffix. If the base language was Anglo-Norman, then, in the same way, only the same restricted semantic fields and nouns and stems of verbs could appear in English. This situation changed over time as do all languages in use, but was essentially stable for the best part of five hundred years. The chapter asks the question: why, if English words could easily be assimilated into a Latin or French matrix by means of suffixes or abbreviations representing suffixes, were all English words not so assimilated? Why did letter graphies such as wr-, -ck, -ght  persist in mixed-language business writing? One effect is to make the text-type of business writing very unlike any other genre—half a glance is all it takes to recognise a mixed-language business document and that may perhaps have been an advantage.

keywords: mixed-language business accounts, St Paul’s Cathedral, diamorphs, emblems, abbreviations, codeswitching, Medieval Latin, Middle English, Anglo-Norman

13. Anglo-Norman, Medieval Latin, and Words of Germanic Origin

David Trotter

This chapter examines words of Germanic origin found in the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources and considers them especially with respect to the relationship between three languages of medieval Britain, namely medieval Latin, middle English, and Anglo-Norman French. A detailed examination of numerous examples reveals complex routes of transmission of items from Germanic sources which demand consideration of multiple sources over many centuries. In particular, because of the way the vernaculars developed and the nature of the extant evidence, it is often the case that the earliest evidence for an English or French word is found in a Latin word. The circuitous and overlapping interaction between these languages can be seen very clearly in the example of warda, and the discussion shows, by reference to the theory of etimologia prossima and etimologia remota, how the Latin word must be analysed with regard both to etymology and semantics in order to reveal the different layers of influence at different stages of the word’s development in this multilingual society.

keywords: Anglo-Norman, Germanic, etymology, language contact, semantics

14. The DMLBS and the OED: Medieval Latin and the Lexicon of English

Philip Durkin and Samantha Schad

This chapter explores and illustrates the ways in which the DMLBS enriches English lexicography, concentrating on use of data from the DMLBS in the third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED3) currently in progress. Data from the DMLBS has often provided a Latin etymon in instances where the OED previously gave a starred form or derived a word directly from its constituent Latin or English elements. It also often provides evidence for Latin words which probably acted as intermediaries in borrowings ultimately from Greek or Arabic. In each of the major classes of borrowings—words borrowed from Latin with some degree of morphological naturalisation, words borrowed without such naturalisation, and semantic loans—evidence from the DMLBS has enriched huge numbers of OED etymologies, typically allowing etymologies to cite Latin forms supported by glosses and dates of first attestation in British sources. In many cases it is uncertain whether the immediate donor or source was Latin or French (typically Anglo-Norman), or perhaps both; the circumstances of trilingual late medieval English society must be taken into account in assessing the data. It is often unclear whether vernacular words embedded in Latin documents show French or English words, and, indeed, the procedures of the printed editions of many of the everyday records in which such evidence occurs often leaves uncertainty as to whether a Latin word (i.e. with Latin inflections) or an embedded vernacular item occurs in a particular location. Editors of the dictionaries of all of the languages of medieval England need to tread warily in using and interpreting such evidence.

keywords: English, lexicography, etymology, borrowing, morphological naturalisation

15. Making the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources

David Howlett

The chapter considers the making of the Dictionary, expansion of the bibliography and refining of etymological and lexicographical conventions, with illustrations of ways in which presentation of origins and meanings of words improved with progress through the lexicon.

keywords: Latin, lexicography, etymology

You can read about the chapters in Part I here and the chapters in Part II here.


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