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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

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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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13 Some thoughts about the Old English weaving and spinning terms

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Abstract: Great gaps in time often occur between vernacular forms recorded in the Anglo-Saxon period and similar forms known from later times. Yet some items in the weaving field with a continuous recorded history remain basic, e.g. weft, warp, weave, spin, spindle, distaff, yarn, thread, despite the few early texts in which weaving vocabulary occurs in context. The paper considers certain aspects of the evidence that remains.

Since first submitting the abstract for this paper I’ve rewritten it, drastically, because there are recent developments to celebrate: the Toronto DOE entries for the letter h are now online; the OED editors have continued to update their files; and a fine book by Megan Cavell has appeared, Weaving Words and Binding Bodies. There has been much that is new to digest. I shall begin with brief discussion of some words that relate to looms and weaving, before considering a weaving riddle virtually devoid of such terms. As is the way with those who dare comment on the Exeter Book riddles, my conclusions will be few. An introductory picture should (see figure 1) give some idea of how the warp-weighted loom used by the Anglo-Saxons may have looked (Petty (2014: 15)). We are to assume the structure is leaning against a wall. To either side are supporting uprights, with a beam across the top from which the cloth, woven on to its starting braid, would hang. The warp threads are secured in bundles at the bottom by weights. The...

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