Studies in the dialect materials of medieval Herefordshire
This thesis is an investigation into the medieval dialect of the pre-1974 county of Herefordshire. The main source materials consist of a group of literary texts of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, localised in the Herefordshire area by linguistic means. The study builds on the methodology developed in connection with the Linguistic Atlas of Late Medieval English (McIntosh, Samuels and Benskin 1986), but goes far beyond it both in its analysis of the individual texts and in using the data for descriptive and interpretative study. The aim is to contextualise and evaluate the evidence, as well as to gain a broad view of the characteristics of the dialect, including both diatopic and diachronic patterns and developments. In order to assess their value as evidence, a detailed dialect is carried out for each individual text; as part of this process, the Atlas localisations are reviewed, taking into consideration the full material now available, and various linguistic and textual questions are discussed. A set of dialect criteria for the localisation of texts within Herefordshire and the South-West Midland area is defined. While the study focuses on the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century materials, comparisons with earlier and later periods are made. Several thirteenth-century literary texts are discussed in detail, including the well-known 'AB-language' and the two manuscripts of The Owl and the Nightingale; the material is further related to the available evidence for the Old, Early Modern and Present-Day English periods. A series of studies of specific areas of grammar and phonology are carried out, covering topics such as the changes affecting the systems of gender, case and number since the Old English period, and the developments of the Early Middle English front rounded vowels, and of Germanic a. A language contact-based explanation of the Old English sound-change known as 'second fronting' is suggested. The linguistic patterns are related to the external history of the dialect, including geographical, political and settlement patterns, language contact with Welsh, and social/economic factors.