Sociolinguistic Variation in Old English

Records of communities and people

Olga Timofeeva | University of Zurich
ISBN 9789027211347 | EUR 99.00 | USD 149.00
ISBN 9789027257666 | EUR 99.00 | USD 149.00
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This is the first extensive study of Old English to utilise the insights and methodologies of sociolinguistics. Building on previous philological and historical work, it takes into account the sociology and social dialectology of Old English and offers a description of its speech communities informed by the theory of social networks and communities of practice. Specifically, this book uses data from historical narratives and legal documents and examines the interplay of linguistic innovation, variation, and change with such sociolinguistic parameters as region, scribal office, gender, and social status. Special attention is given to the processes of supralocalisation and their correlation with periods of political centralisation in the history of Anglo-Saxon England.
[Advances in Historical Sociolinguistics, 13] 2022.  xv, 204 pp.
Publishing status: Available
Table of Contents
“Timofeeva shows that although sociolinguistic methods have not been used extensively in studies of Old English texts in the past, they do have the potential to be extremely helpful. [...] Every case study opens up a new avenue of research. Though each case stands alone, it is not only a route to a new insight but also an example of how a sociolinguistic method can be applied. This will inspire future researchers to find parallel applications as well as following Timofeeva’s lead directly. Overall, Timofeeva has demonstrated what she set out to: that applying sociolinguistic methods to Old English texts on a small scale can provide insight into the society that produced them.”
“[Timofeeva] makes a novel contribution to the nascent field of historical sociolinguistics in demonstrating how even formulaic, legalistic texts can be carefully examined for evidence of sociolinguistic variation. [...] This work is likely to be of interest to historical linguists, given its nuanced treatment of lexical and morphosyntactic change in Old English, and to sociolinguists who are interested in the viability of synchronic variationist concepts in bygone communities. [...] The methodology and conclusions are accessibly written, and individual chapters are selfcontained enough to be assigned as case studies in historical linguistics courses.”
“This book presents an elegant solution to the problems of scribal anonymity by investigating texts for which we can obtain some social/biographical data, and by considering that data at community level. By examining the texts through the lens of temporary and permanent communities of practice, coalitions and discourse communities, Timofeeva is able to make links between the history and politics of the period and the users of the texts. A key strength of the book is in its exploration of the individuals who make up the communities involved with legal texts – as scribes, chancery officials, assembly members or donors composing wills – and the context in which the documents were produced, read aloud or enacted. Administrative documents are often overlooked by linguists, and Timofeeva’s excellent and clear introduction to each text type, detailing how they were produced and how they functioned in Anglo-Saxon society is most welcome”
“The volume is presumably aimed at a primary audience of historical linguists, but it clearly has much to offer for historians and literary scholars. Timofeeva’s volume should be welcomed for shedding light on the linguistic interaction of a number of Anglo-Saxon social networks whose contours can just about be made out by modern scholars, through the centuries, with the help of somewhat defective datasets. Modern scholarly communities can sometimes be ungrateful to those who try to bridge gaps between disciplines, or who try to make the best use of bad data: this volume and its impressive contribution to the study of early medieval authorial communities should be received with great appreciation by the multidisciplinary community of early medieval studies.”
Cited by

Cited by 3 other publications

Fox, Susan, Anthony Grant & Laura Wright
2023. Contact Theory and the History of English. In Medieval English in a Multilingual Context [New Approaches to English Historical Linguistics, ],  pp. 17 ff. DOI logo
Knooihuizen, Remco
2023. So What Had Happened Was. In The Linguistics of the History of English,  pp. 3 ff. DOI logo
Timofeeva, Olga
2022. The Art of Dying: Making a Will in Old English and Its Sociolinguistic Context. Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 57:1  pp. 109 ff. DOI logo

This list is based on CrossRef data as of 28 march 2024. Please note that it may not be complete. Sources presented here have been supplied by the respective publishers. Any errors therein should be reported to them.


Main BIC Subject

CF/2AB: Linguistics/English

Main BISAC Subject

LAN009010: LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / Historical & Comparative
ONIX Metadata
ONIX 2.1
ONIX 3.0
U.S. Library of Congress Control Number:  2022014468 | Marc record