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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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14 The Language of the Early Culinary Instructions

1 Overview of publications


Abstract: A number of studies dealing with the language of the Middle and Early Modern English medical recipes have been published (e.g., Taavitsainen 2001, Sylwanowicz 2015), illustrating that a certain technical vocabulary is used throughout these medical texts. In the proposed paper I will concentrate on the language used in instructions representing the same text type, which (due to being perceived as rather non-specialised) do not arouse any expectations of technical vocabulary – namely culinary recipes. The aim of this paper is to offer an overview of the available publications dealing with the vocabulary found in the early cooking instructions, as well as to show that technical language was used in these culinary texts already in the Middle English period.

Even though cooking is perceived as a rather non-specialised field and so it arouses no expectations of technical terminology, scholars agree that in the 21st century a technical vocabulary of culinary arts does exist. Wierlacher (2008) calls it culinary language; Cotter (1997: 58) writes about technical vocabulary which can be understood only by “a member of the subculture that knows how to cook”. Special glossaries are published to serve as manuals for those learning to cook.1 Bubel and Spitz (2013: 162) even offer a division of the culinary vocabulary, and distinguish two categories: (a) “special terms referring to measures and quantities”, and (b) technical verbs.

But the situation is not so clear when we look at the culinary texts of the earlier period. Whilst the...

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