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Aspects of Medieval English Language and Literature

Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference of the Society of Historical English Language and Linguistics


Edited By Michiko Ogura and Hans Sauer

This volume is a collection of papers read at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds in 2017, in two sessions organized by the Institute of English Studies at the University of London and four sessions organized by the Society of Historical English Language and Linguistics. Contributions consist of poetry, prose, interlinear glosses, syntax, semantics, lexicology, and medievalism. The contributors employ a wealth of different approaches. The general theme of the IMC 2017 was ‘otherness’, and some papers fit this theme very well. Even when two researchers deal with a similar topic and arrive at different conclusions, the editors do not try to harmonize them but present them as they are for further discussion.

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10 Reconsideration of the Development of English Third Person Plural Pronouns: An Analysis of the Use of Personal and Demonstrative Pronouns in Old English Biblical Glosses

1 Introduction


Abstract: This study examines how personal and demonstrative pronouns are used in the gloss to the Lindisfarne Gospels and several other OE biblical texts and glosses, arguing that (i) the usage in the Lindisfarne Gloss was possibly under the influence of ON, and that (ii) it can be regarded as an early stage of the development of they.

They-type pronouns are considered to have been borrowed or imposed from Old Norse (ON) as a result of Anglo-Norse intimate contact (e.g. Baugh and Cable 2002: Chapter 4). Previous studies have examined how the new forms spread in Middle English (ME) and later (e.g. Howe 1996: Chapter 6; Ritt 2003; Miller 2012: 128–130). However, relatively little attention has been paid to the process of the integration of pronoun forms in Old English (OE), which seems, as Werner (1991: 381) put it, “invisible to us”.

Several scholars maintain that OE demonstratives could have played an important role in the development of they-type forms. For example, Durkin (2014: 177) claims that “[t]‌here are several factors that probably eased the adoption of the Scandinavian third-person plural pronoun forms”, such as the occasional use of se/seo/þæt instead of personal pronouns, and the morphological similarity between the plural forms of OE demonstratives and those of ON personal pronouns. Werner (1991: 384) suggests the possibility of a semantic shift of OE demonstratives under the influence of the ON pronoun paradigms, stating that “English might also have done on its...

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