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Historical Dialectology in the Digital Age$
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Rhona Alcorn, Joanna Kopaczyk, Bettelou Los, and Benjamin Molineaux

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474430531

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474430531.001.0001

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Approaching Transition Scots from a Micro-perspective: The Dunfermline Corpus, 1573–1723

Approaching Transition Scots from a Micro-perspective: The Dunfermline Corpus, 1573–1723

(p.39) 3 Approaching Transition Scots from a Micro-perspective: The Dunfermline Corpus, 1573–1723
Historical Dialectology in the Digital Age

Klaus Hofmann

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter describes the compilation of a new digital resource for historical dialectology: The Dunfermline Corpus, from the Late Middle Scots period (c. 1550–1700), recently relabelled as “Transition Scots” (Kopaczyk 2013). Transition Scots is the outcome of a contact situation of two written varieties – Scots and Southern English – that are both on the verge of standardisation. A diachronic analysis of five linguistic variables in The Dunfermline Corpus that are known to be distinctive features of Older Scots as opposed to Southern English usage confirm that Anglicisation proceeded at a faster page at supralocal levels than at local levels. Using a sociolinguistic, paleographic micro-approach, the author reconstructs the “community of practice” of town clerks that produced the local records. The findings suggest that the town clerks were slow to adopt Southern English forms because many clerks and scribes were trained by their own fathers, almost as if the clerkship was a family-run business. It is only when the transmission of the orthographic idiolect of this community was disrupted by a new clerk from outside the immediate scribal network that we see bursts of change towards the English forms.

Keywords:   Historical dialectology, Transition Scots, Late Middle Scots, The Dunfermline Corpus, Anglicisation, Community of practice, Scribal network, Standardisation

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