Irregularity of the <ie> Spellings in West-Saxon: The Problem of Pronouns

Condorelli, Marco (2019) Irregularity of the <ie> Spellings in West-Saxon: The Problem of Pronouns. The Journal of the Spanish Society for Medieval English Language and Literature (SELIM), 24 (1). pp. 29-52. ISSN 1132-631X

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Orthographic consistency was rarely maintained in most Old English varieties, because the language system was relatively new and spelling norms took time to develop.
While full standardisation is never expected in Old English, the understanding of factors underlying patterns of regularity and irregularity are paramount for a full grasp of issues pertaining to authorship, textuality and other linguistic and non-linguistic levels of analysis. These notes explore spelling irregularity in material from West Saxon dialects, bringing comparative examples of variation in spelling between early West Saxon (eWS) <ie> and late West Saxon (lWS) <y>. West Saxon generally stands up for its emphasis on some degree of orthographic standardisation and yet appears to display interesting patterns of variation. The focus of my notes will be on particular instances of spelling inconsistencies, with special attention to a specific category of words where <ie> appears to vary more frequently, namely third-person pronouns. For my exploratory analysis, various witnesses of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (i.e. examples of eWS and lWS texts) were compared. The data was collected from different sections of an orthography-friendly edition of four different manuscripts, MSA (Bately 1986), MSB (Taylor 1983), MSC (O’Brien O’Keefe 2001) and MSD (Cubbin 1996), and compared with digital copies of the original manuscripts. The latter part of these notes points to some of the factors which could explain the features detected, with an exhortation for future researchers to build on some of the ideas proposed and explore new territory.

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