Institute for Historical Dialectology
The Institute continues an extensive research programme into variation in medieval written vernaculars that was started in the early 1950s by Professor Angus McIntosh of Edinburgh University and Professor Michael Samuels of Glasgow University (later joined by Professor Michael Benskin, now of Oslo University). This resulted in the publication in 1986 of A Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English. Laing and Williamson have since investigated (1) written English (ca. 1150-1300) over the two or three generations preceding the material in LALME; (2) Older Scots (ca. 1350-1700), which was given only token coverage in LALME. These projects resulted in A Linguistic Atlas of Early Middle English (LAEME) and A Linguistic Atlas of Older Scots (LAOS). Since then IHD has been engaged on a project using the LAEME corpus as a data source. A Corpus of Narrative Etymologies from primitive Old English to early Middle English aims to account for the shape of all the variant spellings of all the Germanic vocabulary appearing in LAEME.
We announce with great sadness the death of Derek Britton, former Director of the IHD.
|Professor Michael Benskin||University of Oslo|
|Professor Emeritus Roger Lass||University of Cape Town|
|Dr Anneli Meurman-Solin||University of Helsinki|
- A Linguistic Atlas of Early Middle English [1 January 2008 - ] Version 2.1 [1 December 2008 - ]
- A Linguistic Atlas of Older Scots Version 1.1 [ 1 January 2008 - ]
- A revised and corrected on-line edition of A Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediæval English (eLALME) [forthcoming 2011]
- A Corpus of Narrative Etymologies from Primitive Old English to early Middle English [in preparation]
The LALME project was largely carried out before the computer age. It was made using filing slips and paper, pen or pencil. It collected data using the tool traditionally employed by dialectologists, the questionnaire. By 1987 computer technology had progressed to the point where we were able to use computers from the inception of the daughter projects and in a way that is integral to the methodology. Instead of completing questionnaires comprising a set of predetermined 'items', we are developing a method whereby entire texts are transcribed and keyed onto computer disk and are analysed linguistically using programs written in-house.
Each word or morpheme in a text is tagged according to its lexical meaning and grammatical function and each newly tagged text is added to the corpus of such texts. Programs then allow information on particular 'items' (defined by one or more tags) to be abstracted from the corpus to identify spatial or temporal distributions of the forms associated with the item. Output may be produced in different formats including concordances, text profile comparisons, time charts and maps. Professor Lass is engaged in compiling an etymological corpus, which will contain a narrative etymology of every form-type that appears in the LAEME database. This will be extended in due course also to the LAOS corpus.
This corpus method of analysis has considerable advantages over the traditional questionnaire. Selection of items for a questionnaire must be made before analysis begins, or very early in the investigation, on a trial-and-error basis. Results are restricted and provide only a fraction of the information achievable by the corpus method. Tagged texts in the corpus are immediately and constantly available to be processed and compared. Not all the material will be of use for dialectal work but this method allows items to be selected from a complete inventory of linguistic forms rather than from some predetermined sample.
The method shortcircuits Gilliéron's paradox that for results to be optimal a questionnaire ought to be devised after the investigation. The tagged corpora provide a detailed lexical-grammatical taxonomy that is useful not just for dialect mapping but for the historical study of phonology, morphology, syntax or semantics. The implementation of the corpus approach to linguistic analysis makes feasible a dynamic, interactive concept of dialect atlas. The corpus can be on CD or on a website for scholars to search the data themselves and make their own linguistic maps and timecharts.
The Institute for Historical Dialectology has received financial support for the LAEME and LAOS projects from the Leverhulme Trust, the British Academy and the Carnegie Trust as well as from individuals. We here also acknowledge with gratitude two consecutive three-year grants from the Arts and Humanities Research Board.
From September 2007 to August 2010, the IHD, in collaboration with Michael Benskin, was engaged on an AHRC-funded Resource Enhancement Scheme project to produce an extensively revised and corrected on-line edition of A Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English (e-LALME).
In 2010, the AHRC awarded the IHD a three-year grant to produce A Corpus of Narrative Etymologies from Primitive Old English to early Middle English. PI: Roger Lass; RAs Margaret Laing, Rhona Alcorn and Keith Williamson.
- 1992/93 'A Computer-aided Method for Making a Linguistic Atlas of Older Scots'. Scottish Language 11/12: 138 - 73
- 1995/96 'A Maze of Words. The William Will Fellowship Data-base Project'. Review of Scottish Culture no. 9: 128 - 38
- 2000a 'Changing Spaces. Linguistic Relationships and the Dialect Continuum'. In Irma Taavitsainen, Terttu Nevalainen, Päivi Pahta and Matti Rissanen (eds.), Placing Middle English in Context, Topics in English Linguistics series, pp. 141 - 79. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter
- 2000b 'Lexico-grammatical tags and the phonetic and syntactic analysis of medieval Texts'. In Christian Mair and Marianne Hundt (eds.), Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory, Language and Computers: Studies in Practical Linguistics, no. 33, pp. 385 - 95. Amsterdam, Atlanta GA: Rodopi
- 2001 'Spatio-temporal aspects of linguistic variation in Older Scots texts'. Scottish Language 20: 1 - 19.
- 2002 'The dialectology of “English” north of the Humber, c. 1380-1500'. In Teresa Fanego, Belén Méndez-Naya and Elena Seoane (eds.), Sounds, Words, Texts and Change. Selected Papers from 11 ICEHL, Santiago de Compostela, 7?11 September 2000, Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 224, pp. 253 - 86. Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins
- 2004 'On Chronicity and Space(s) in Historical Dialectology'. In M. Dossena and R. Lass (eds.) Methods and Data in English Historical Dialectology, pp. 97 - 136. Bern: Peter Lang
- 2005 'DOST and LAOS? A Caledonian Symbiosis?’. In ed. Christian J. Kay and Margaret A. Mackay (eds.), Perspectives in the Older Scottish Tongue, pp. 179 - 98. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press
- 2006 Review article: 'A.J. Aitken, The Older Scottish Vowels, A History of the Stressed Vowels of Older Scots from the Beginnings to the Eighteenth Century, ed. Caroline Macafee (Edinburgh: Scottish Text Society, 2002)’. Notes and Queries NS vol. 53, no. 4: 559 - 60.
- 1994 Speaking in our Tongues: Proceedings of a Colloquium on Medieval Dialectology and Related Disciplines, Edinburgh, 10–12 April 1992 edited by Margaret Laing and Keith Williamson. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer. ca. 231 pp.
- 2004 'The Archaeology of Middle English Texts'. In Christian J. Kay and Jeremy J. Smith (eds.), Categorization in the History of English, Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 261, pp. 85 - 145. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.