University of Leicester
2013GilbertELphd.pdf (2.36 MB)

Nuancing Northern Middle English : Scribal language and variation in northern manuscripts of the Pricke of Conscience

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posted on 2014-06-16, 12:47 authored by Emma Louise Gilbert
This thesis investigates the concept of the Northern Middle English dialect area as largely homogenous, taking its core data from four Northern manuscripts of the devotional poem, the Pricke of Conscience. Due largely to a lack of localised manuscripts from this region, the NME area has been little-studied. A Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English is an invaluable resource for the dialectologist, but where anchor texts are lacking, it cannot form a sole basis for study. This thesis approaches dialect study in the region from a different angle, compiling and comparing linguistic data from its core manuscripts to determine what variation can be observed. Each manuscript is also considered in its codicological and sociolinguistic context, using scribal behaviour as a means of illuminating the possible provenances of manusctipts and their language types. Finally, the data is considered alongside similar information from edited texts from this region, to place it in its proper context and examine what patterns of variation emerge. The findings of this thesis show a greater range of variation across the NME region than traditional descriptions would indicate. The variation attested demonatrates that some features previously held to be 'non-northern' or anomolous are, in fact, organically and consistently in use in this area. This study identifies and describes five language varieties observable within NME. The combination of textual and codicological evidence enables suggestions to be made about the identity of several of the scribes examined, connecting language varieties to occupation and possible provenance. This thesis presents a more nuanced, heterogeneous picture of the NME region, which may serve as a basis for further study in the area.



Da Rold, Orietta; Shaw, Philip

Date of award


Author affiliation

Department of English

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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