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Thursday, 31 January 2013
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OED quotations per decade 1150-1499


Note extreme peaks and troughs: for this period there were a number of factors which distort the data. Many works, existing in manuscript copies written perhaps some years or decades after original composition, could be only approximately dated. Historians and literary and linguistic scholars would often choose to date works at the beginning or end of a century, merely for convenience's sake: hence the bunchings of quotations around 1200, 1300 and 1400. These bunchings are also due to extensive mining of a few specific sources, e.g. Robert of Gloucester (dated 1297; over 3,000 quotations), Cursor Mundi (dated 1300; over 11,000 quotations), Trevisa (dated 1387/1398; over 6,000 quotations).

Another problem was the small quantity of medieval literature in print: one of the founders of OED, F. J. Furnivall, set up the Early English Text Society in 1864 partly to provide printed editions of previously unpublished medieval works from which the lexicographers could draw their material (see further Brewer 2000, 1996: chapter 5).

Since OED1 was compiled, many other medieval works have been edited and printed, and the Middle English Dictionary (Michigan, 1953-2001) has been completed. This means that knowledge and understanding of Middle English vocabulary and language have enormously increased: this early period will consequently be one of the many areas of OED most likely to undergo change in the revision of the dictionary currently underway. Indeed, this appears to be the case, judging from the treatment of 1150-1499 in alphabet range M-philandering in OED3 to date.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 30 May 2007 )
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