Imagining medieval English : language structures and theories, 500-1500


Imagining medieval English : language structures and theories, 500-1500

edited by Tim William Machan

(Cambridge studies in medieval literature, 95)

Cambridge University Press, 2016

  • : hardback

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Bibliography: p. 281-311

Includes index



Imagining Medieval English is concerned with how we think about language, and simply through the process of thinking about it, give substance to an array of phenomena, including grammar, usage, variation, change, regional dialects, sociolects, registers, periodization, and even language itself. Leading scholars in the field explore conventional conceptualizations of medieval English, and consider possible alternatives and their implications for cultural as well as linguistic history. They explore not only the language's structural traits, but also the sociolinguistic and theoretical expectations that frame them and make them real. Spanning the period from 500 to 1500, and drawing on a wide range of examples, the chapters discuss topics such as medieval multilingualism, colloquial medieval English, standard and regional varieties, and the post-medieval reception of Old and Middle English. Together, they argue that what medieval English is, depends, in part, on who's looking at it, how, when and why.


  • Part I. Introduction: 1. The metaphysics of medieval English Tim William Machan
  • Part II. Organizing Ideas: 2. What was medieval English? Seth Lerer
  • 3. The evolution of Old and Middle English texts: linguistic form and practices of literacy Jeremy Smith
  • 4. Snakes, ladders, and standard language Tim William Machan
  • Part III. The Continuities of Language: 5. 'thaet is on englisc': performing multilingualism in Anglo-Saxon England Christopher M. Cain
  • 6. Regional language and culture: the geography of Middle English linguistic variation Merja Stenroos
  • 7. The linguistic repertoire of medieval England, 1100-1500 Ad Putter
  • Part IV. The Discontinuities of English: 8. The nature of material evidence Simon Horobin
  • 9. Sifting through the evidence: principles and pitfalls Cynthia L. Allen
  • 10. Everyday English in late medieval England Colette Moore
  • 11. Imagining the literary in medieval English Andrew Galloway
  • Part V. Retrospection: 12. 'The most excellent creatures are not ever born perfect': early modern attitudes to Middle English Helen Cooper
  • 13. Ideas of medieval English in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries David Matthews
  • Bibliography.

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