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Essays and Studies in Middle English

9th International Conference on Middle English, Philological School of Higher Education in Wrocław, 2015

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Edited By Jacek Fisiak, Magdalena Bator and Marta Sylwanowicz

This volume is a selection of papers presented at the 9th International Conference on Middle English held at Wyższa Szkoła Filologiczna (Philological School of Higher Education) in Wrocław, Poland, from April 30 to May 3, 2015. The contributors cover a wide range of topics in the area of language and literature. The linguistic papers constitute the majority of contributions and focus on problems from phonology to grammar, semantics and pragmatics. The literary contributions discuss various aspects of Middle English texts.

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Genre, audience, and scribal adaptation to language change: The case of infinitival marking (Donka Minkova / Emily Runde)

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Donka Minkova & Emily Runde

UCLA UCLA/Les Enluminures

Genre, audience, and scribal adaptation to language change: The case of infinitival marking

Abstract: This paper examines the correlation of scribal adaptation to ongoing language change. Our particular focus is the loss or preservation of the infinitival marker -en in the orthography and in the scansion of verse. After explaining the philological rationale for targeting infinitival forms and the historical and codicological rationale for selecting the textual sources, we present our findings. The findings for four texts in the Auchinleck manuscript (c. 1331–1340): The King of Tars, Þe desputisoun bitven þe bodi & þe soule, attributed to Scribe 1, and Floris and Blancheflour and On the Seven Deadly Sins, attributed to Scribe 3, are quantified and tabulated. All four texts show statistically significant loss of the infinitival marker, with both orthographic and syllabic preservation of the marker in non-elision environment ranging from 4% for The King of Tars, to 20.3% in Floris and Blancheflour. This is in stark contrast with the independently established orthographic and syllabic consistency of -e(n) in the “bureaucratic” hand of Thomas Hoccleve (c. 1369-c. 1426). His results are compared to some statistics for Chaucer. Hoccleve’s anachronistic insistence on a moribund linguistic feature almost a century after the Auchinleck scribes is discussed in the context of intended audience, silent reading, and possible links to genre.

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