Marcelle Cole, Andrew Cooper, Maria Belen Mendez Naya, Sara Pons-Sanz


A new look at the language of the Ormulum

The linguistic significance of the Ormulum, a collection of twelfth-century sermons commonly localised in south Lincolnshire, is beyond doubt. The text has mainly been studied in connection with its innovative and highly regularised spelling system, as well as its status as a key witness of the state of English in a period of flux following heavy Scandinavian and French settlement.

The proposed workshop will capitalise on the new opportunities opened up by a forthcoming new edition (EETS, 2023) initiated by Professor Nils-Lennart Johannesson and completed by his colleague Andrew Cooper. Their work has not only re-invigorated scholarly interest in the text but also enabled scholars to undertake much more nuanced and accurate work than the previous edition by White and Holt (1878) allowed for.

The workshop intends to offer a global approach to the language of the text, paying attention to the different levels of linguistic analysis (phonology and orthography, morphosyntax and lexis). We envisage that it will include eight papers (which have already been discussed with their authors), covering topics which have so far been understudied or invite new attention on the basis of the new edition and other advances in the field:

  1. fresh linguistic and cultural perspectives on the localization of the text;
  2. an exploration into rare spelling conventions and spelling inconsistencies with particular references to the segmental and suprasegmental phonological features of the text’s consonantal system;
  3. new insights into the development of the verbal system, with specific focus on the perfect periphrases and…
  4. variation between synthetic and analytic forms as expressions of the future tense;
  5. a novel approach to intensification strategies in the text as compared with coetaneous and/or codialectal texts;
  6. innovative work into the adaptation of Norse-derived verbs into English in connection with argument structure;
  7. an etymological re-assessment of French- and Norse-derived terms in the text (the latter on the basis of the typology developed by the Gersum Project;
  8. an analysis of the largely unexplored Latin sections, in connection with both their Latin sources and comparanda in other early Middle English texts

If time permits, together with the eight papers we would also like to have some additional time for further discussions on the language of this fascinating text and the collection of essays where we hope to publish all the aforementioned papers.

The moment is right to cast a new look on the language of this fascinating text. This workshop is an early response to the new opportunities opened up by the new edition and hopes to lead the way in inspiring further research on a text whose full value for the history of the English language still awaits exploration.