Pushing the boundary: the periodisation problem in dictionaries of Old English

Fletcher, Rachel Ann (2021) Pushing the boundary: the periodisation problem in dictionaries of Old English. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[img] PDF (edited version, 3rd party copyright removed)
Download (1MB)


This thesis offers a detailed study of the theoretical challenge of linguistic periodisation as it appears in dictionaries of Old English, past and present. I consider the varied representations by lexicographers of Old English as a period. I focus especially on how they establish the scope and context of their work by invoking the concept of an imagined period boundary that separates Old English from subsequent periods, and how this boundary is problematised.

Five major dictionaries of Old English are used to illustrate developments in historical lexicography from the early stages of Old English scholarship to the present day: William Somner’s Dictionarium Saxonico-Latino-Anglicum (1659), Edward Lye and Owen Manning’s Dictionarium Saxonico et Gothico-Latinum (1772), Joseph Bosworth’s A Dictionary of the Anglo-Saxon Language (1838), Joseph Bosworth and Thomas Northcote Toller’s An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (1882–98 with later supplements), and the University of Toronto’s Dictionary of Old English (1986–). Alongside these I also consider relevant material from the Oxford English Dictionary (1884–).

The first two chapters of the thesis establish the significance of dictionaries as objects of study that can offer unique insights into the development of linguistic periodisation, and situate them in scholarly history. Chapter Three outlines how lexicographers’ interpretations (conscious or otherwise) of periodisation may be reflected in their dictionaries. Chapter Four examines the exact properties and ways of defining the period boundary marking the end of Old English, as it was imagined by different lexicographers. Chapter Five uses case studies of well-known texts associated with late Old English (focusing on the Peterborough Chronicle, the Winteney Rule of Benedict and the Textus Roffensis) to build an account of how the nature of mediæval source texts frequently leads to unavoidable inconsistencies in lexicographical policy. Chapter Six considers how ideal periodisation interacts with external pressures, including the practical methods and aims of lexicography and broader agendas surrounding the portrayal of Old English. The conclusion reflects on significant themes, findings, and identifies future directions for both research and lexicographical practice.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PE English
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Supervisor's Name: Lowe, Dr. Kathryn and Alexander, Professor Marc
Date of Award: 2021
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2021-82535
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2021 14:33
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2021 14:32
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82535
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/82535

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year