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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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Chapter Five: The lexical system of Scandinavian England


Chapter Five The lexical system of Scandinavian England 1. Introduction In this chapter I will present the results of my analysis and I will also try to provide an interpretation for them in the light of the available historical in- formation and also from the sociolinguistic perspective described in Chapter 3. As is customary with this type of study, graphs and figures will be used for a better understanding of findings and for a preliminary presentation of con- clusions. As mentioned above in the discussion of data selection and the corpus, I have looked at a set of variables for each of the terms that the Middle English Dictionary regards as being of Scandinavian origin. The study of such vari- ables will offer valuable information about the circumstances under which borrowing (regarded as an important part of language change) occurred. In the sections that follow, each of these variables will be dealt with in some de- tail. 2. Dates The year 1107 is the first date in which a Scandinavian term is recorded in early Middle English in my corpus (following MED dates). The entry is documented in the third volume edited by the Early Place Name Society deal- ing with the counties of Bedfordshire and Huntingdon. The entry itself is the suffix bergh, from Old Icelandic berg, used to refer to mounds or hills, and in this particular case appears in the placename Wardeberg. The MED only re- cords one more occurrence of this suffix in the following twenty...

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