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The Beginnings of Standardization

Language and Culture in Fourteenth-Century England

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Ursula Schaefer

Developing a written standard is one of the most fundamental institutional achievements of a society. On the threshold to the Modern Era the vernaculars massively gained ground in writing throughout Western Europe. They soon underwent regularization and eventually standardization. In England, however, the situation was quite different from that of the continent: well into the 14 th century the literate space was filled mainly by Latin and French. For a long time Chaucer has been regarded as having brought about the ‘victory’ of English. But recent research calls for a broader perspective including the work of linguists as well as literary and cultural historians. Such a new perspective helps to assess that English was not reestablished by a poet hero and standardized by a king. Instead we need to consider that various forces were at work.
Contents: Ursula Schaefer: The Beginnings of Standardization: The Communicative Space in Fourteenth-Century England – Derek Pearsall: Before-Chaucer Evidences of an English Literary Vernacular with a Standardizing Tendency – Alastair Minnis: Standardizing Lay Culture: Secularity in French and English Literature of the Fourteenth Century – Julia Boffey: Forms of Standardization in Terms for Middle English Lyrics in the Fourteenth Century – David Trotter: Language Contact, Multilingualism, and the Evidence Problem – Annette Kehnel: Poets, Preachers and Friars Revisited: Fourteenth-Century Multilingual Franciscan Manuscripts – Terttu Nevalainen: Fourteenth-Century English in a Diachronic Perspective – Matti Rissanen: On the Development of Borrowed Connectives in Fourteenth-Century English: Evidence from Corpora – Donka Minkova: Randomness or Design in the Formation of a Standardized Phonemic Inventory – Robert P. Stockwell: The Status of Late Middle English Spellings as Early Evidence of the English Vowel Shift – Andrew James Johnston/Claudia Lange: The Beginnings of Standardization - An Epilogue.