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The standardisation of spelling in Middle English: the case of said

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posted on 2024-05-16, 10:01 authored by Lynne CahillLynne Cahill

The standardisation of English spelling is widely assumed to have happened, or at least started, during the fifteenth century, with a variety of theories about the location and spread of the process. This paper provides an in-depth analysis of a single spelling feature: the vowel in the word said. It demonstrates that there were four main variants used across the country during the fifteenth and early sixteenth century, with preference for the modern standard form 〈ai〉 in Cambridgeshire, Middlesex and the Northern counties but for 〈ei〉 elsewhere. The analysis further raises serious questions about the claim that standardisation of the spelling system was well underway by the end of the fifteenth century, clearly showing that there was no reduction in either intra- or inter-document variation during the period covered by the MELD corpus, 1399–1525.

History

Publication status

  • Published

File Version

  • Accepted version

Journal

Journal of Written Language and Literacy

ISSN

1387-6732

Publisher

John Benjamins

Issue

1

Volume

26

Page range

131-153

Department affiliated with

  • English Publications

Institution

University of Sussex

Full text available

  • Yes

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

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