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Language Contact and Vocabulary Enrichment

Scandinavian Elements in Middle English


Isabel Moskowich

The Scandinavian presence all over Europe during the so-called Viking Age is well documented and England is not an exception. However, the influence of their language on the development of English has not always been well interpreted. This volume aims at deciphering the reality behind the legend of a raiding heathen nation. By resorting to the evidence provided by language, the book explores and tries to reconstruct the social networks formed by both the English and Scandinavians. Their relations, needs and lives are inextricably intermingled with the hybrid tongue they adapted for communication and which has largely come down to us in what we know as English.


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A number of significant works on the history of the English language have appeared in recent years. The Cambridge History of English (1992-2001) and The Oxford History of English (2006), for example, aim at presenting the his- tory of English as a continuum, in contrast to the somewhat fragmented views we are more accustomed to see. The Anglocentric perspective still dominates the scene, as is the case in both of the above texts. Many authors, though, ap- proach the development of English in different ways and from more dynamic perspectives, in which extra-systemic factors are especially relevant. As Townend (2010: 61) notes, “one cannot look at English in isolation; for much of its history the English language in England has been in a state of co- existence, competition, or even conflict with one or more other languages”. It is with this in mind that the current book has evolved, focussing on a particu- lar point in the evolution of the English lexicon. The concept of lexical availability was introduced some years ago (Bern- stein 1961; Samper Padilla 2006: 101), and refers to the inventory of themati- cally-related words that a speaker can draw on without undue or excessive effort. In this sense, speakers of English have at their disposal an extensive range of lexical items. However, when they turn to the available lexicon, searching for a particular word, they seldom consider the origins of each available lexical item. Of central interest in this book will be the development of the...

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