The Middle English Grammar Project



The Middle English Grammar Project is an international research programme under way at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and Stavanger University College, Norway. The aim of the Project Team is to provide students of English historical linguistics with linked, up-to-date discussions of aspects of Middle English grammar broadly conceived: writing-systems, phonology, grammar (morphology and syntax), lexicology.


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Research Context

It is generally acknowledged that Middle English studies suffer from a lack of thorough grammatical description on up-to-date lines. Works regarded hitherto as authoritative, such as Jordan's Handbuch der mittelenglischen Grammatik: Lautlehre (1925 and subsequent editions), are not only partial but have become seriously outdated. The publication of the Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English (LALME) (1986), and other important surveys of Middle English dialectology such as Kristensson's Survey of Middle English Dialects, has meant a massive increase in the available information, and there have also been major developments of a theoretical nature.

However, there remains a continuing need to harness this material or theoretical orientation to an overall programme of grammatical description linked to interpretative study. The Middle English Grammar Project is designed to address part of this gap, with a pattern of steady publication of monographs, surveys and associated textbooks.

Of course, the Glasgow-Stavanger Project is only one initiative in a very active area of research, undertaken in many centres of excellence throughout the world. The Project Team has developed, and is developing, close relationships with colleagues in these centres, notably in the UK with the Institute for Historical Dialectology, University of Edinburgh, and with other initiatives in medieval English studies and English historical linguistics. The Project has hosted, and will continue to host, a series of collogues whereby its objectives, and those of the scholarly network of which it is part, may be furthered in a collaborative and cooperative atmosphere.

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Given the expertise of scholars currently working on the Project, the following desiderata have been identified as priorities:

(1) A machine-readable and diatopically-ordered corpus of texts from the late Middle English period, consisting of some 3.5 million words directly transcribed from either the original manuscripts or good-quality microfilms. This corpus is currently nearing completion, and is scheduled for release in 2005-2006. This corpus, which is conceived of as the basis for further transcriptions for further purposes at a future date, uses the same conventions for transcription as have been adopted for Edinburgh’s Corpus of Early Middle English, and is designed to be compatible with that resource. Together, the two corpora will form the most extensive machine-readable resource of diatopically-ordered materials from the Middle English period yet made available to scholars.

(2) A diachronic and diatopic interpretative survey of Middle English orthography and phonology based on published and unpublished material, with the initial aim of producing a replacement of Jordan's Handbuch. This publication, scheduled for 2007-2008 and building upon the corpus in (1) above, will supply the coherent, up-to-date history of medieval English transmission (writing- and sound-systems) currently lacking.

(3) Various associated articles, monographs and textbooks stemming from research undertaken as part of (1) and (2). For up-to-date details, see the links from the names of the Project Team below.

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It is considered that the Project will have major significance for Middle English linguistic studies in particular, and English historical linguistics in general. Moreover, there are wider implications for other branches of medieval English studies, such as textual and literary investigation.

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Project Team

Dr Simon Horobin is Lecturer in English Language at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, where he was previously an AHRB Institutional Research Fellow. He wrote his doctoral thesis on early texts of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and he has published extensively on English historical linguistics and the textual criticism of medieval English texts.

Dr Merja Stenroos is Associate Professor in English Linguistics at Stavanger College, Norway. She wrote her doctoral thesis on the dialect materials of medieval Herefordshire, and has written numerous articles on a range of topics within English historical linguistics, with a focus on the Middle English period.

Professor Jeremy Smith is Professor of English Philology at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. His doctoral thesis was on the language of manuscripts of Gower’s Confessio Amantis. Since then he has published widely on topics in medieval English and English historical linguistics.

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This section will be updated every four months.

-- The Project is affiliated to the new Medieval Manuscripts Research Hub -
-- New M.A. in Literacy Studies at Stavanger -
-- Plenary paper at ICEHL, Vienna, August 2004 -
-- Publication of The Language of the Chaucer Tradition (2003) -

Postal Address: Department of English Language, 12 University Gardens, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ
P: + (0)141-330 5684 (direct line), + (0)141-330 6340 (secretary)
F: + (0)141 330 3531

IHSL projects page

February 2004

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