The Urban Vernacular of Late Medieval and Renaissance Bristol
Moragh Sanne Gordon
How do we define what a standard language is? How do standard languages develop? These questions lie at the heart of the project Emerging Standards: Urbanisation and the Emergence of Standard English, c.1400-1700.
By focusing on the emergence of written Standard English, this project aims to identify the processes that are involved in the development of standard languages. Traditional accounts of the development of written Standard English tend to trace its beginnings back to a single time and place in history, i.e. the political and economic importance of the metropolis and the prestige that was associated with it are frequently used as explanatory factors for the dissemination and nation-wide acceptance of a London-based Standard variety. These claims are, however, often based on small sets of data or an imprecise interpretation of textual history. What is more, other factors such as the role of language and dialect contact through trade and migration, the development of literacy and different literacy practices, text type conventions, as well as the role of other prominent urban centres have to date often been marginalised.
Based on a newly compiled corpus of civic records and personal writings from Bristol during the Late Medieval and Early Modern periods, this dissertation sheds new light on supra-localisation processes, notably linked to factors such as literacy, migration and text types. The study is concerned with the development of three different linguistic features from a historical sociolinguistic angle and, by doing so, provides a piece to the standardisation puzzle.