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Word formation in Early Middle English: Abstract nouns in the linguistic atlas of Early Middle English


Gardner, Anne-Christine (2011). Word formation in Early Middle English: Abstract nouns in the linguistic atlas of Early Middle English. Varieng. Studies in Variation, Contacts and Change in English, 6:online.

Abstract

Since the early 1990s historical word formation, in particular derivation in Early Middle English, has increasingly attracted scholarly interest in the form of more general approaches to productivity and semantics. The present study focuses on the derivational patterns available to speakers and aims to identify factors which could influence the speakers’ choices. For this purpose abstract formations in Early Middle English will be investigated, specifically (near) synonyms involving the Germanic suffixes -dom, -hood, -ness and -ship in which various suffixes can be attached to the same base without any or with only little differentiation in meaning. Abstract nouns ending in -lac, its Scandinavian cognate -leikr and -reden are also taken into consideration since – despite their subsequent, virtually complete demise – they still form an observable part of the lexicon and are represented in doublets such as fairness ~ fairleikr and fellowship ~ fellowreden. Regional and temporal variation, as well as the influence of text types, are shown to be factors which may have motivated the choice of suffixes in such synonymous derivations. The corpus-linguistic analysis is based on the Linguistic Atlas of Early Middle English, 1150–1325 (LAEME), the most recent corpus dedicated to the early period of Middle English. Owing to the patchiness of records, the texts are grouped in a way similar to the prototypical text categories proposed by the Helsinki Corpus in order to facilitate the comparison of data across space, time and text type. LAEME as a new research tool also offers an opportunity to re-examine previous statements which have to be amended in the light of new data.

Since the early 1990s historical word formation, in particular derivation in Early Middle English, has increasingly attracted scholarly interest in the form of more general approaches to productivity and semantics. The present study focuses on the derivational patterns available to speakers and aims to identify factors which could influence the speakers’ choices. For this purpose abstract formations in Early Middle English will be investigated, specifically (near) synonyms involving the Germanic suffixes -dom, -hood, -ness and -ship in which various suffixes can be attached to the same base without any or with only little differentiation in meaning. Abstract nouns ending in -lac, its Scandinavian cognate -leikr and -reden are also taken into consideration since – despite their subsequent, virtually complete demise – they still form an observable part of the lexicon and are represented in doublets such as fairness ~ fairleikr and fellowship ~ fellowreden. Regional and temporal variation, as well as the influence of text types, are shown to be factors which may have motivated the choice of suffixes in such synonymous derivations. The corpus-linguistic analysis is based on the Linguistic Atlas of Early Middle English, 1150–1325 (LAEME), the most recent corpus dedicated to the early period of Middle English. Owing to the patchiness of records, the texts are grouped in a way similar to the prototypical text categories proposed by the Helsinki Corpus in order to facilitate the comparison of data across space, time and text type. LAEME as a new research tool also offers an opportunity to re-examine previous statements which have to be amended in the light of new data.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Language:English
Date:2011
Deposited On:12 Mar 2012 09:45
Last Modified:18 Apr 2016 17:43
Publisher:Research Unit for Variation, Contacts, and Change in English
Series Name:Studies in Variation, Contacts and Change in English
Additional Information:Volume 6: Methodological and Historical Dimensions of Corpus Linguistics. Edited by Paul Rayson, Sebastian Hoffmann & Geoffrey Leech
Free access at:Official URL. An embargo period may apply.
Official URL:http://www.helsinki.fi/varieng/journal/volumes/06/gardner/
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-58668

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