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Culinary verbs in Middle English


Magdalena Bator

This study examines the range of culinary verbs found in the English culinary recipes of the 14 th and 15 th centuries. Altogether over 1500 recipes have been collected and over 100 verbs were selected for the research. They have been divided into three major semantic groups, i.e. verbs of cooking, cutting, and preparing. The analysis comprises such aspects as the origin of the verbs, rivalry of synonyms, context of usage and other criteria.
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s can be drawn from this work and applied generally to the culinary verbs in Middle English. First of all, despite the general belief that the French influence on the semantic field of food and cooking was enormous (see for instance, Baugh and Cable 2006, Bator 2011, or Miller 2012), in the culinary recipes of the 14th and 15th c. the Germanic verbs tend to be more frequent than those of French origin, see Fig. 1. This seems to be justified by the fact that the former were usually general and more basic in terms of their meaning, and thus could have been applied in a wider range of contexts. This leads to the second conclusion, i.e., that the verbs of French origin were usually very specific and referred to a very narrow context, which influenced their frequency in the analyzed ← 187 | 188 → recipes. The borrowings usually filled in lexical gaps, which earlier were occupied by phrases (i.e., general verbs, often polysemous, which were accompanied by specifying phrases). This can very well be seen in the group of the cutting verbs. The introduction of such verbs as dice, slice, leach, quarter, etc. replaced the phrases such as cut in four, hew in slices, etc. However, not all the verbs follow the division French = specific, Germanic = general. There are also cases, in which two verbs of different origins were synonymous and started to compete against each other. The most prominent example would be seethe and boil. As a result of this...

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