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Chancery norms before Chancery English?: templates in royal writs from Alfred the Great to William the Conqueror


Timofeeva, Olga (2019). Chancery norms before Chancery English?: templates in royal writs from Alfred the Great to William the Conqueror. Journal of Historical Pragmatics, 20(1):51-77.

Abstract

This study analyses two Old English formulae gret freodlice (‘greets in a friendly manner’) and ic cyðe eow þæt (‘I make it known to you that’), which form a salutation–notification template in a document type called writs. It connects the emergence of this formulaic set to previous oral traditions of delivering news and messages, and to their reflection in dictation practices from at least the time of King Alfred. Their later routinisation and standardisation is seen as a factor brought about by the centralised production of royal writs and their subsequent adoption as templates in monastic scriptoria across the country. These templates continue to be recycled in the early Middle English period both in English and in Latin writs, ultimately shifting to Latin-only documents during the reign of William the Conqueror. Although this shift does not hinder the continuity of the selected bureaucratic template into the later Middle Ages, it affects the structure of the discourse community associated with the chancery norms, consolidating its core (those literate in Latin who are involved in production and preservation of writs) and marginalising its periphery (English speakers who used to make up the informed audience for writs in local courts).

Abstract

This study analyses two Old English formulae gret freodlice (‘greets in a friendly manner’) and ic cyðe eow þæt (‘I make it known to you that’), which form a salutation–notification template in a document type called writs. It connects the emergence of this formulaic set to previous oral traditions of delivering news and messages, and to their reflection in dictation practices from at least the time of King Alfred. Their later routinisation and standardisation is seen as a factor brought about by the centralised production of royal writs and their subsequent adoption as templates in monastic scriptoria across the country. These templates continue to be recycled in the early Middle English period both in English and in Latin writs, ultimately shifting to Latin-only documents during the reign of William the Conqueror. Although this shift does not hinder the continuity of the selected bureaucratic template into the later Middle Ages, it affects the structure of the discourse community associated with the chancery norms, consolidating its core (those literate in Latin who are involved in production and preservation of writs) and marginalising its periphery (English speakers who used to make up the informed audience for writs in local courts).

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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
Uncontrolled Keywords:discourse communities, Latin, chancery, writs, Old English
Language:English
Date:4 June 2019
Deposited On:05 Jun 2019 09:57
Last Modified:23 Jun 2019 06:00
Publisher:John Benjamins Publishing
ISSN:1566-5852
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1075/jhp.16004.tim

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