‘Hec sunt prata to wassingwellan’:
aspects of code-switching in Old English charters[*]
(University of Vienna)
Published: June 2005 (HSL/SHL
In 1996 and
1997 my first two papers on historical code-switching were published in
VIEWS, dealing with the phenomenon of language mixing in historical
English texts in general and in so-called ‘macaronic poems’ in particular. Based
on a paper delivered at the LACHE conference in 1994, I claimed that such early
language mixing should be seen as written instances of historical code-switching
and should be analysed using the theoretical models developed by current
Since then, historical code-switching research has established itself as a
promising field of English historical linguistics and an increasing number of
studies have been devoted to the topic.
However, for a number of reasons, this research has so far mainly focused on the
Middle English period: the extensive multilingualism in post-Conquest England,
at least among literate people, provided the ideal background for
code-switching, and there is a large number of texts from a wide range of text
types and genres which mix Latin, English and/or French (e.g. business accounts,
sermons, letters, year books, poems and medical texts; see Schendl 1996). As
shown in some of these studies, the syntactic forms as well as the functions of
Middle English switching are quite diverse and partly vary in the different text
types. So far, however, there has been hardly any published research on
language-mixing in the Old English period. This may be due to the widespread
view that the Anglo-Saxons did not mix languages, and the fact that different
scripts were used for writing Latin and Old English (Caroline vs Anglo-Saxon
minuscule) has been quoted as further support for the strict separation of
languages in Old English (see Howlett 1997).
paper I would first like to show that code-switching was quite frequent in
certain texts and text types from the Old English period, even though it was
certainly less widespread than in the Middle English period and may often have
been done consciously, as the use of different scripts seems to indicate;
secondly, I will briefly discuss and illustrate the main syntactic types of and
functional reasons for switching, though this must remain rather sketchy in the
present paper, which tries to survey the whole Old English period.
at least two Old English text types in which code-switching between Latin and
Old English is attested: these are, firstly, two well-known mixed or ‘macaronic’
poems, the Phoenix and the so-called Macaronic Poem. The
Phoenix, after more than 600 alliterative lines in Old English, has a
bilingual coda of eleven lines, with the first half-line in Old English, the
second half-line in Latin; both half-lines are connected by alliteration, which
supports the integration of the two languages, see (1).
Hafað us alyfed
Þæt we motum her mereri,
begietan gaudia in celo.
granted us The author of light
|that we may here
|with good deeds
obtain, the joys in heaven.’]
regular pattern of switching between the Old English first half-line and the
Latin second half-line is found in the 31 lines of the Old English Macaronic
Poem; as in the Phoenix, the two half-lines are also linked by
present paper will, however, focus on a second group of texts, in which
code-switching is attested on a large scale, namely the legal and administrative
documents commonly called charters. Charters are short legal documents typically
recording a grant or lease of land or certain privileges to individuals or
institutions. They first appeared in England in the seventh century and
developed both formally and linguistically to the end of the Old English period
(see Keynes 1999, s.v.). Various subclassifications of these documents have been
proposed. I will follow here Whitelock’s (1955:343) classification, who uses
‘charter’ as the superordinate term, which she subdivides into two classes,
namely royal and private charters; the ‘royal charter’ in turn is subdivided
into the so-called ‘diploma’ (often also referred to as ‘charter’ in the narrow
sense of the word) and the ‘writ’.
The diploma is a highly formal document with a clear structure, predominantly in
Latin, while writs are in the vernacular. The non-royal documents often follow
the royal ones quite closely and have equally been subdivided into ‘writs’ and
charters in a wider sense.
majority of the royal ‘diplomas’ show a distinctive structure, with, among
others, an invocation, followed by the proem (i.e. preamble), a dispositive
section (with immunity clause, statement of powers, etc.), the sanction, the
boundary clause (or ‘perambulation’), the dating clause, and the witness list;
an endorsement may summarise the substance of the charter (for a complete list
of elements, see Keynes 1999:99; see also Whitelock 1955:344; Chaplais 1965);
however, not all typical elements have to be present in every single document.
‘writ’, on the other hand, is “a letter on administrative business to which a
seal was appended”, addressing a variety of issues and from its first occurrence
typically written in Old English; its opening clause names the sender of the
letter and the person(s) to whom it is addressed (Harmer 1952:1; see also Whitelock 1955:345f.).
2,000 writs and charters have survived from the Anglo-Saxon period, of which
more than half are diplomas. They date from the last quarter of the seventh
century up to the Norman Conquest, with a concentration around the middle of the
tenth century (cf. Clanchy 1993:1). About 300 of the diplomas are
originals, many are later copies preserved in cartularies, i.e. later
compilations of documents, and there is also quite a number of certain or
possible forgeries; such forgeries were produced to support a (genuine or
fraudulent) claim, but are not based on an original charter issued by the person
named in the respective document. The linguistic value of forgeries may be
doubtful, while the later copies generally show a high degree of linguistic
reliability (cf. Kitson 1995); therefore I will also assume that copying has
not levelled out or introduced code-switching into a text to any large degree,
though we can neither prove nor disprove this assumption and have to take the
surviving data in their recorded form.
Code-choice and code-switching in the Old English charter
will analyse and illustrate some aspects of language choice and language mixing,
i.e. code-switching in the various types of charters, especially in regard to
the function of switching.
There will be no systematic analysis of the syntactic switching patterns, though
some syntactic aspects will be pointed out briefly (for a discussion of possible
syntactic constraints in historical code-switching, see Schendl 2000b). It should
be emphasized right from the start that code-switching does not occur in all
types of charters and that the form and function of switching seems to differ
depending on the specific subtype and period.
(both royal and non-royal) seem to have been exclusively monolingual in the
vernacular: none of the 120 writs in Harmer’s edition (1952) shows any Latin
elements (see also Whitelock 1955:346), though, on the other hand, some of the
(often later) Latin versions of these vernacular writs have the legal terms for
the granted privileges in Old English; cf. the early twelfth century
Latin translation of an eleventh-century vernacular writ by King Edward under
(2) Latin translation
of a writ by King Edward, c 1052-66
(Harmer 1952, nr 34)
Ego Eadwardus gratio Dei rex
Anglorum omnibus episcopus, ducibus, comitibus ... amicabiliter salutem. Notum
vobis facio me concessisse Stigando archiepiscopo 7 monachis ecclesie Christi
Cant’ omnes terras quas habuerunt tempore patris mei 7 omnium antecessorum
meorum. Et saca 7 socne on stronde 7 streame, on wode, on felde, tolles an[d]
teames, griðbreche 7 hamsocne 7 forstalles 7 infangeneþefes 7 flemenfremthe supra suos homines infra urbes 7 extra, in tantum 7 tam plenarie sicuti proprii
ministri mei exquirere deberent, et etiam super tot thegnes quot
habent. [continued in Latin]
[‘I, Edward, by the grace of
God king of England send friendly greetings to all my bishops and all my earls
and all my sheriffs ... And I inform you that I have granted Archbishop Stigand
and the community at Christ Church, Canterbury, that they be entitled to all the
lands that they had in the time of my predecessors and in my time. And to
sake and soke, on strand and in stream, in woodland and in open country, to toll
and to team, to grithbreach and to hamsocn, to foresteall and to infangenetheof
and to flymenafyrmth, over their own men within boroughs and without, as
fully and completely as my own officers would exercise it, and over as many
thegns as they have.’]
code-switching is not attested in the vernacular writs, there are quite a number
of switches to Latin in predominantly vernacular non-royal ‘charters’. About 10%
of the 135 texts in Robertson’s vernacular Anglo-Saxon Charters (2nd
ed. 1956) have at least one Latin phrase or sentence, some even show a
considerable amount of Latin. Some typical Latin passages in otherwise
vernacular documents are listed under (3), though even these elements are
frequently found in the vernacular. They occur typically, though not
exclusively, in the invocation, dating clause and witness lists and are
predominantly of a formulaic nature.
(3) Selected formulaic Latin sentences in Old English
vernacular writs and charters
In nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti
In nomine domini (et saluatoris nostri Ihesu Christi)
Regnante in perpetuum domino nostro Ihesu Christo
Disponente regi regum cuncta cæli
secreta necnon quæ sub cæli culmine apud homines notantur miro ordine gubernante
cujus incarnationis humanæ anno DCCCCXXII indictione x hæc donatio quæ in ista
cartula saxonicis sermonibus apparet confirmata ac donata erat.
[‘In the year 922 of the
incarnation of the King of kings, who governs all the secret things of heaven
and likewise controls in marvellous order those which are recorded among men
under the dome of heaven, and in the tenth Indiction, this grant which appears
in this charter in the Saxon speech was confirmed and given.’] (Robertson 1956:42, nr. 21)
Anno uero dominice
incarnationis .DCCCLII. Indictione .xv. hoc factum est
[‘This has been done in the year of the incarnation of the
Lord 852 and in the fifteenth Indiction’]
hii sunt nomina et uocabula qui in
synodali concilio fuerunt congregati;
[‘Here are the names and designations of those who were
assembled at the council meeting’]
Other typical switches into
Latin consist of quotations from the bible or of a statement that the land being
granted is free from any burdens except the church dues.
balanced use of Latin and Old English is, however, found in grants or leases of
land issued by the bishops of Worcester, especially by St Oswald, dating from
the second half of the 10th century. The example under (4) shows a
slight predominance of Old English over Latin, with an obvious functional
distribution of the two languages: the conditions for the lease and the boundary
of the estate are in Old English, as is a – possibly later – statement by the
receiver of the grant, Ælfric, while the more formulaic elements are in Latin.
Except for the place names, all the switches are intersentential, i.e. they
occur between sentences or independent clauses.
Lease of three lives by Oswald, Bishop of Worcester, of land at Cotheridge,
Worcestershire, A.D. 963
(MS Cotton Tiberius, A. xiii, f. 63; Robertson 1956, nr 35)
Ego Osuuald ergo Christi krismate
pręsul iudicatus dominicę . Incarnationis anno .
DCCCLXIII annuente regi Anglorum .
EADGARO . Ælfereque Merciorum comite nec non et familiae Wiogornensis ecclesiae
. quandam ruris particulam unam uidelicet mansam in loco qui celebri a solicolis
nuncupatur ÆT CODDAN HRYCCE uocabulo cuidam ministro meo nomine . Ælfric . perpetua largitus sum heredidate et post uite suę terminum duobus
tantum heredibus immunem derelinquat quibus defunctis ecclesiae dei in Uuigorna ceastre restituatur.
þæt gerad þe he ælce geare of þam lande ge erige twegen æceras 7 þær on his circ
sceat gesawe 7 þæt æft ge ripe 7 in ge bringe .
7 ic an him ælce geare on minum wudu . XII .
foþre wudas butan ceape .
sindan þa land ge mæru to coddan hrycge . ærest up ón temedan and lang biscopes
gemæres norð rihte ón ætinc weg of ætinc wege in coddan hrycges bece and lang
beces tó bricge burnan fordes þanan and lang stræte þæt hit cymeð beneoþan oban
treow þanan suð rihte and lang þære hege ræwe in rixuc andlang rixuc ón hihtes
gehæg þanan suð rihte in þa stræte and lang stræte þ in bregnes ford up and lang
temedan þæt eft on biscopes gemære.
est hæc carta is testibus consentientibus quorum inferius nomina notantur. [List
of 15 witnesses]
Ælfric cyþe minan leofe hlaforde þæt ic ón Æþelsige minan suna þæs landes þe ic
to gearnode æfter minan dæge to habbanne his dæg 7 æfter his dæge to syllanne
þæm þe him leofast seo 7 þæt sio on þa spere hand.
[‘I, Oswald, having been ordained bishop by the chrism of
Christ, in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 963, with the consent of Edgar,
king of the English, and of Ælfhere, ealdorman of the Mercians, and also of the
community of the church of Worcester, have granted in eternal inheritance a
certain portion of land, namely one hide in the place which is called by the
inhabitants by the well-known name of Cotheridge, to a certain thegn of
mine by name of Ælfric; and after the end of his life he is to leave it
unburdened to two heirs only, and when they are dead it is to be restored to the
church of God in Worcester.
condition that each year he plough two acres of that land and sow therein his
church-scot, and afterwards reap and garner it. And I grant him each year twelve
loads of wood in my woodland without payment.
are the boundaries to Cotheridge: First up the Teme and due north along the
bishop’s boundary to the Atchen way; from the Atchen way to Cotheridge stream,
and along the stream to Bridgeburnan ford, thence along the paved road until it
comes below Oba’s tree, thence due south along the Hedgerow to the Rixuc, along
the Rixuc to Hihtesgehaeg, thence due south to the paved road, and then along
the paved road to Bransford, up along the Teme, then back to the bishop’s
charter was written with these witnesses consenting whose names are noted below.
I, Ælfric, make known to my dear lord that I grant to my son Æthelsige the land
which I acquired of you, after my death to have for his lifetime and after his
death to give to whom may be most pleasing to him, and that is to be in the male
for a brief illustration of some tendencies of code-switching in writs and
non-royal charters. Now to the royal charters (or ‘diplomas’), which are often
claimed to be monolingual in Latin (see Keynes 1999:99), but which are
linguistically much more complex than usually claimed. The first of these
clearly structured royal documents, which normally grant land to a person or
religious house, date from the last quarter of the seventh century and have
survived from various parts of England. Even in these early documents we
sometimes find a brief description of the boundaries of the granted land, and up
to the end of the eighth century, these boundary clauses were, like the
rest of the charter, generally in Latin. However, according to Stenton, around
the middle of the eighth century, “detailed perambulations begin to
appear, particularly in Wessex, set out at first in Latin and English”
(Stenton 1955:56, my emphasis).
dating of the beginning of switched Old English boundary clauses has, however,
to be antedated by more than half a century, since this type of switching is –
though rarely - already attested from the late seventh century onwards.
King Cædwalla’s charter from AD 680 under (5), though surviving only in a tenth
century copy, shows intrasentential code-switching even within the
boundary clause: phrases indicating direction such as ‘from the west’,
‘eastward’ and ‘from that place’ are in Latin, while the actual
identification of the location is predominantly in the vernacular. Quite
generally, charters use the Old English forms of place names even in Latin
texts, but often identify them as vernacular forms by a preceding qui dicitur,
ubi ... nominatur, quod nostra lingua ... nominamus, ‘which is /
where it is called (in our language) ...’. This convention of naming locations
in the vernacular may be regarded a particular, though linguistically minor,
function of Old English code-switching, while preceding forms such as qui
dicitur can be seen as a kind of ‘flagging’ device to indicate the
change of language.
particular interest in (5), however, is the switching of the governing
prepositions in (or before) such place names and names of landmarks. Here we
find both instances where the whole PP, i.e. preposition plus dependent noun,
are in Old English, such as on fleot ‘to the stream’, on loxan leage
‘to Loxley’ and to hleap mere ‘to Leapmares’, but sometimes also cases
where the preposition is in Latin, while the dependent noun is in Old English,
as in ad pecgan ham ‘to Pagham’. With the preposition in an
unambiguous classification of language is not possible. However, we also find
complete Latin PPs in this naming function, such as per viam puplicam ad
terram heantunensem ad angulum circianum ‘along the highway to the
Easthampnett land, to the bend’ or
dirigitur in mare
‘runs to the sea’ (as against on fleot ‘to the stream’, see above). While
the use of the vernacular for the place names can be explained as a conventional
strategy to make identification easier, there is no discernible functional
motivation for the use of Latin forms here; however, the impossibility to find
functional explanations for every single instance of switching is a well-known
phenomenon in current code-switching research and not untypical of the use of
switching as a particular mode of discourse.
(5) Grant by Cædwalla, king of Wessex, to
Bishop Wilfrid of land at Pagham, &c. A.D. 680 (BL
Cottton MS Augustus ii, 86, 10th c. copy; Barker, 1947, nr 1)
Si quis vero quod absit contra
hæc decreta firmiter statuta contraire et ea solvere conatus fuerit, noverit se
ante tribunal examinis christi rationem redditurum et habere partem cum iuda
traditore domini nostri ihesu christi in inferno inferiore. hæc sunt territoria
ad pecgan ham pertinentia primitus ab occidente uedringmutha. per
illum portum ad locum qui dicitur holan horan fleot et sic ducitur in lang port. inde ad aquilonem
to unning londe. sic ad orientem on fleot super illud quod dicitur
in ufes ford. inde in
locum qui dicitur cynges uuic. et sic ad locum qui dicitur langan ersc.
inde on loxan leage. ... inde in pontem thelbrycg. et sic ad
aquilonem juxta palustria loca. super hoc ad locum qui dicitur hylsan seohtra
et sic ad orientem in uuærmundes hamm. Hinc in uuadan
hlæu. Ab illo loco in fisc mere. et sic in brynes
fleot. sicque dirigitur in mare. Sed et hi sunt termini pertinentibus ad tang mere. primitus
of hleap mere per viam puplicam ad terram
heantunensem ad angulum circianum. inde in locum horsa gehæg. ... hinc ad
ælrithe. ab ipso rivo ad fraxinum unum. et sic ad locum cealc
mere. hinc ad headan screaf. ab illo loco to lulan treouue. et
sic in tatan ham. sic ad risc mere. ab illo loco to
hleap mere. Et sunt pascua ovium in meos dune pertinentia ad tangmere.
[‘And (may it not be) if anyone
attempts to go against and nullify this firmly established decree, let him know
that he will have to render account before the judgement seat of Christ, and
will take his place with Judas, the betrayer of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the
depths of Hell. These are the lands belonging to Pagham, firstly from the
west of Withering, by that harbour to the place which is called Honer
stream, and thus it leads to (the) long village, thence
northwards to Unna’s land, so eastward to the stream and
over it at the place called (in) Ufa’s ford, thence to the
place called the king’s farm, and thence to the place called Lagness,
thence to Loxley, ... thence to the bridge (at) Elbridge, and thus
northwards beside the marshy places, over this to the stream called (Aldingbourne
Rife) and thence east to Wærmund’s enclosure. Thence to
Wada’s barrow. From that place to (the) fish pond, from
there to (Ryfebank Rife), and so the line runs to the sea.
And these are bounds belonging to Tangmere, firstly from Leapmares
along the highway to the Easthampnett land, to the bend, thence to the (place)
horse paddock, ... thence to (the) eel brook, from that brook to
the single ash-tree, and thus to the place (called the) chalky pool,
thence to the (?) deep cave, from that place to Lula’s tree, and
thus to Tata’s farm, thus to (the) rushy pool, and from
there to Leapmares. And there are sheep pastures belonging to Tangmere.’]
mixture of Latin and the vernacular within the boundary clause is also
frequently found in West Saxon charters from the late eighth century
(cf. also Stenton 1955:26), as in Cynewulf’s grant to Bica from the year 778
under (6). The general insensitivity to this type of code-switching in
traditional research is illustrated by the fact that the language of this
charter is given as Latin in Sawyer’s list of charters (Sawyer 1968, nr 264),
i.e. no explicit mention is made of the Old English prepositional phrases
denoting direction to the various places, such as to bradan leage
‘to Bradley‘ in the otherwise Latin text (this is the more interesting since the
citation form or nominative of place names often has the form æt + noun,
e.g. æt bradan leage).
(6) Grant by Cynewulf,
King of the Saxons, to Bica, Earl, of land at Bedwyn, A.D. 778
(Birch, nr 225)
[…] et sic in affricum vergens
in longum illius septi tendit ad peadan stigele deinde per iddem sept[um]
in filiðleage . australem partem inde in longum prædicti septi in
quoddam vallu in . haradene . ... et extenso tramite ejusdem septi
. to holhrygc gete . et eodem septo to hadfeld geate . et eodem
septo to baggan gete . et sic in illud septum . to bradan leage
. transitque . illo septo bradanleage intrans in . standene
. et in longum ejus in quoddam vallum ejusque . valli serie in .
puttan ... ealh . et sic in longum aggeris to bulcan pytte.
boundary clauses seem to represent an intermediate stage between the early
monolingual Latin texts and the later monolingual vernacular ones, which first
appear in the early part of the ninth century. However, there was
evidently some temporal overlap between the various types: even in the middle of
the ninth century we still find examples like the one under (7): in
this original charter issued by Ethelberht of Kent, code-switching also occurs
within the boundaries, with a number of Old English prepositional phrases
denoting place names inserted into the Latin text; furthermore, some of the
other goods and privileges granted in the charter are also given in the
vernacular within the otherwise Latin text, such as I . sealtern 7 II . wena
gang mid cyninges wenum to blean ðem wiada 7 . IIII . oxnum gers mid cyninges
oxnum ‘and one salthouse and [the right for] two wagons to go with the
king’s wagons to Blean wood, and pasture for four oxen with the king’s oxen’.
Other grants, however, are in Latin, such as II.que molina ad illam eandem
terram pertinentia ‘and two mills belonging to the same land’, etc. That
switching here (as in general) is not due to lack of words is illustrated by the
alternate use of ab aquilone and be norðan, both meaning ‘in the
north’. (For this type of variation in the choice of language, see also the
discussion of PPs in example (5).)
(7) Grant by King
Ethelberht of Kent to Wullaf, of land at Wassingwell, in exchange for land at
Merham, A.D. 858 (MS
Cotton, Augustus II, 66; original charter; Birch, nr 496)
Regnante in perpetuum domino
Deo nostro omnipotenti sabaot ego EĐELBEARHT rex cum consensu ac licentia meorum secularium optimatum
divinorumque personarum liventi animo dabo et concedo meo fideli ministro WULLAFE aliquam partem terre juris mei hoc est . V . aratra in illa loco ubi
WASNGWELLE nominatur in bicissitudinem alterius terre hoc est et
mersaham hanc terram supranominatam et wassingwellan ego Eðelbearht ab omni servitute regali operis eternaliter liverabo sicut ante
fuerat illa prenominata terra et mersaham hec sunt etenim marisci que ad
eandem terram rite ac recte pertinent quos ‘h’ega ante abuerat id est an
wiwarawic quae ante subjecta erat to wii 7 to leanaham 7 et
febresham . I . sealtern 7 . II . wena gang mid cyninges wenum to
blean ðem wiada 7 . IIII . oxnum gers mid cyninges oxnum an wiwarawic
. XXX . statera kasei et item . X . statera in alia wiwarawic 7 . XX . lamba 7 . X .
fehta hec autem terra suprascripta et wassingwellan
his notissimis terminibus antiquitus circum jacentibus ab occidente cyninges
folcland quod abet wighelm 7 wulflaf ab aquilone cuðrices
dun heregeðeland ab oriente wighelmes land a meritie biscepes land
to cert . II.que molina ad illam eandem terram pertinentia una an
wassinwellan alia an hwiteceldan hec sunt pascua porcorum quot nostra
lingua denbera nominamus hoc est lamburnanden orricesden teligden
stanehtandenn et illa silva sandhyrst nominatur que pertinet to
wassingwellan hancque livertatem huic eodem agel`l´ulo illoque wullafe
similiter et wassingwellan cum consensu ac licentia meorum optimatum
liventer largitus sum ut omnium regalium tributum et vi exactorum operum et
penalium rerum principali dominatione furisque conprehensione et cuncta seculari
gravidine absque expeditione sola et pontium structura et arcium munitionibus
secura et inmunis permaneat ...
prata to wassingwellan stocmed healf be norðan hegforde be sturemeda sue ðer
to limpað. [List of 23 witnesses]
[‘Our Lord Almighty God of
Hosts reigning for ever.
I, King Ethelbert, with the consent and permission of
my secular nobles and religious dignitaries, with willing heart will give and
concede to my faithful thegn Wulflaf some portion of land of my rightful
possession, namely five ploughlands in the place which is called Wassingwell,
in exchange for other land, namely at Mersham. I, Ethelbert, will
free eternally this above-mentioned land at Wassingwell from all
liability to royal service just as the afore-mentioned land at Mersham
was before. These indeed are the marshes which duly and rightly belong to the
same land, which marshes Hega had before: i.e. one dairy-farm of the people
of Wye, which before was subject to Wye and to Lenham, and one
salthouse at Faversham, and [the right for] two wagons to go with the
king’s wagons to Blean wood, and pasture for four oxen with the
king’s oxen; in the dairy-farm of the people of Wye 30 weys of
cheese, and also 10 weys in the other dairy-farm of the people of Wye,
and 20 lambs and 10 fleeces. And the above-written land at
Wassingwell [has] from of old these well-known boundaries lying round it: in
the west, the king’s folkland, which Wighelm and Wulflaf
hold; in the north, Cuthric’s down, Heregetheland; in the east, Wighhelm’s land; in the south, (the) bishop’s land at Chart; and two
mills belonging to the same land, one in Wassingwell, the other in
Hwitecelde. These are the swine-pastures which we call in our language denbera, namely
Lamburnanden, Orricesden, Tilden, Stanehtanden, and the wood called
Stanhurst which belongs to
Wassingwell. And I have willingly granted this privilege to this same piece
of land at Wassingwell and likewise to the said Wulflaf, with the
consent and permission of my chief men, that it may remain free and immune from
all royal tribute, and services exacted by force and penal matters, from the
domination of the ealdorman and the capturing of a thief and every secular
burden, except military service only, and the building of bridges and
fortification of fortresses. ...
the meadows belonging to Wassingwell: half Stocmead, north of Hegford, by
Stour mead, as belong thereto.’]
century, the monolingual Old English boundary clause had become a typical
feature of charters. Thus we see a diachronic development from the monolingual
Latin charter to a charter showing switching within a subtext of the charter,
namely the boundary clause, and finally to charters showing switching between
the Latin main text of the charter and the fully vernacular boundary clause. As
mentioned above, there is, however, a certain amount of overlap in this
development, a fact which is also attested in the diachronic development of
other text types in the Middle English period, such as letters (see Schendl
2002b) and sermons (see Wenzel 1994). Furthermore, other elements of the charter
may also be switched to a certain degree, which is again compatible with current
(8), a charter by King Æthelstan from the early tenth century, is a
good illustration of a vernacular boundary clause embedded in a Latin text.
After the Latin Hii sunt termini huius prefate terre, ‘These are the
boundaries of the aforesaid land’, the text switches into Old English. (A
further vernacular sentence in this charter is the summarising endorsement ‘Đis
sind þa land þe Æethelstan ...’.) Thus the two languages are rather
consistently separated, with a clear functional motivation for the switches. The
land boundaries as a central piece of information in the charter are described
in the language in which these landmarks and boundaries were locally known; this
obviously facilitated their clear identification – an important aspect of such a
legal document (see also the discussion of place names and PPs above). A similar
reason may apply to the summarising endorsement. This clear discourse function
of the vernacular was evidently a deliberate, conventional choice of the
authorities issuing these charters at that time. This is supported by the
frequent use of different scripts for the two languages mentioned in the
(8) King Æthelstan
confirms five hides at Chalgrave and Tebworth, Bedfordshire, to Ealdred,
minister, A.D. 926
(BL Cotton Claud.
B. vi, 23v-24r: copy s. xiii; Kelly 2000:88f.)
In nomine Domini nostri Iesu
Christi. ... Quapropter ego Æthelstanus Angulsaxonum rex non modica infulatus,
sublimatus dignitate, superno instigatus desiderio, fideli meo Ealdredo ministro
terram que nuncupatur Cealhgræfan et Teobban wyrþe .v.
manentium quam propria condignaque pecunia, id est .x. libras inter aurum et
argentum, a paganis emerat, iubente Eadwardo rege necnon et duce Æþeredo, cum
ceteris comitibus atque ministris, in iuris hereditarii libertatem concedens
donabo, habendam possidendamque quamdiu uixerit et post obitum suum quibuscumque
sibi placitis heredibus dare uoluerit.
Hii sunt termini huius prefate terre.
Đær se dic
sceot in Wæclinga stræte, anlanges Wæxlinga stræte ðæt on ðane ford, þæt anlang
broces in þanne oðerne ford, þonne of ðæm forde up on þane welle, 7 þanan in ðæt
dell, þanan of ðæm delle in ðone dic, of ðæm dice in ðone oþerne dic, þone of
ðæm dice in þone broc, þonne of þam broce to Cynburge wellan, þanne anlang dices
to east coten, þæt þanan in þane ealdan broc, up of þæm ealdan broce on æfem ðæt
riþig, þæt up rihte in ðiod weg, æftær ðiod wege in þone dic, æfter dice in
autem hec prefata terre donatio ab omni seculari honore libera, preter
expeditionem et arcis pontisue construccionem, pro competenti pecuni quam ego
accepi, id est .cl. mancas de puro auro. Si quis uero hanc largitionis
munificentiam, arrepto procacitatis stimulo, infringere uel mutare aut minuere
temptauerit, sciat se in illa magni examinis die cum poli cardines terreque
fundamenta simul et infernorum ima pauitando contremescent latibula, qua
uniuscuisque patebit opus et conscientiam siue bonum siue malum quod gesserit,
si non prius satisfaccione emendauerit.
Anni ab incarnatione Domini nostri Iesu Christi .dccccxxvi.,
þa land þe Æthelstan cyng gebocade Ealdred wið his clæne feo on ðas gewitnesse
þe her on sind.
Æþelstanus rex fundamine sancte crucis subarraui [List of 22 witnesses]
[‘In the name of our Lord Jesus
Christ. ... Therefore I, Athelstan, king of the Anglo-Saxons, adorned and
elevated with no small dignity, prompted by desire from on high, will grant to
my faithful thegn Ealdred the land of five hides which is called Chalgrave
and Tebworth, which he bought with sufficient money of his own, namely
ten pounds of gold and silver, from the pagans by the order of King Edward and
also of Ealdorman Ethelred along with the other ealdormen and thegns ; conceding
with it the freedom of hereditary right, to have and possess as long as he
lives, and to give after his death to whatever heirs, acceptable to himself, he
the boundaries of the aforesaid land: Where the dyke runs into Watling
Street, along Watling Street to the ford, then along the brook to the other
ford, then from that ford up to the spring, and thence into the valley, thence
from the valley to the dyke, from the dyke to the second dyke, then from that
dyke to the brook, then from the brook to Kimberwell, then along the dyke to
Eastcote, then thence to the old brook, up from the old brook parallel with the
little stream, then straight up to the highway, along the highway to the dyke,
along the dyke to Watling Street.
donation of the aforesaid land is to be free from every secular burden except
military service and the construction of bridges and fortresses, in return for
an adequate sum of money which I have received from him, i.e. 150 mancuses of
indeed, incited by impudence, shall try to infringe or change or diminish this
generous munificence, let him know that, on the day of the great Judgment, when
the hinges of the pole and the foundation of the earth as well as the deepest
dens of hell shall quake and tremble, on which each shall reveal his work and
conscience, what he did, good or ill, if he have not previously made emends with
year of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ 926, the fourteen indiction.
are the estates which King Athelstan granted by charter to Ealdred in return for
his pure money, in the witness which is herein.
+ I, King
Athelstan, have inscribed below with the sign of the Holy Cross. [Translation
Istis terminibus predictum cingitur nemus. Þis syndan ðæs dennes landgemæru
to hæsel ersc.
aforesaid grove is surrounded by these bounds. These are the forest
boundaries of Hazelhurst.’]
repetition may be due to the fact that land boundaries sometimes seem to have
been inserted into the Latin text only later, possibly on the basis of notes
written by local scribes (cf. Kitson 1995:48); though this is an interesting
aspect of the actual process of text production, it does not affect the
result, namely the fact that for the readers of such charters they show
code-switching in the same way as texts produced in one continuous writing
discussion necessarily had to remain sketchy, and there are quite a number of
additional points relating to the question of code-choice and code-switching in
Old English charters which will have to be the subject of further research.
However, even this brief survey has clearly shown that code-switching is quite
frequent in Anglo-Saxon legal texts. In these texts, code-choice and
code-switching were evidently influenced by various extralinguistic variables,
such as the time of text production, the particular type of document, as well as
the structural elements of the text. In regard to the latter, there seems to
have been a tendency to prefer Latin in the formulaic parts of the documents,
though this is by no means obligatory. Furthermore, switching seems to have been
more frequent and extensive in predominantly Latin texts, while texts in which
the base language is the vernacular tend to show switching less frequently and
often restrict it to certain formulaic phrases, especially at the beginning or
end of the document. These results are, however, only tentative and have to be
supported by further research in progress on a larger, ideally the complete
corpus of Old English charters.
sociolinguistic situation and the number of languages used in England was
certainly quite different before and after the Conquest, but there was an
obvious continuity of code-switching in administrative texts from the Old to the
Middle English period, a fact generally overlooked in current research, which
has so far mainly focused on the Middle English period. Finally, the number of
text types showing switching was much higher in the Middle English period,
while, as far as I know, only two types used switching in the Old English
period. Most importantly, the Old English documents discussed in the present
paper prove that we should antedate the use of code-switching in early written
English by about five centuries.
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