Two Historical Linguistic Atlases

  1. 1. Margaret Laing

    University of Edinburgh

  2. 2. Keith Williamson

    University of Edinburgh

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The principal aim of the "Linguistic Atlas of Early Middle English" (LAEME ) and the "Linguistic Atlas of Older Scots" (LAOS) is to produce historical linguistic atlases complementary to "A Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English" (LALME)1. Computer-based data-processing and analysis have been employed in the projects from their inception in 1987 . Their methodology differs radically from that used in LALME. Instead of recording data by a questionnaire of prescribed items, entire texts are diplomatically transcribed and keyed onto disk, where they can be analysed linguistically using programs written in-house. Each word or morpheme in a text is tagged according to its lexical meaning and grammatical function, and each newly tagged text is added to the corpus. The tagging creates a taxonomy of the linguistic material in the texts and permits systematic comparison of their dialects. Information on particular items (defined by one or more tags) may be abstracted from the corpus to identify spatial and/or temporal distributions of the forms associated with the item. The programs generate dictionaries, concordances, chronological charts and input files to mapping software. Maps are produced to show distribution of features or full text forms. This method of analysis has considerable advantages over the questionnaire. Items for study can be selected from a complete inventory of linguistic forms rather than from some predetermined sample. Tagged texts are immediately and constantly available to be processed and compared in whatever ways are desired. While not all the material in the corpus will be useful for dialectal analysis, it remains available for a wide range of future studies: historical phonology, morphology, syntax or semantics. We will demonstrate our method of lexico-grammatical tagging and illustrate how it may be exploited not only for linguistic geography, but also for phonological and for syntactic investigations.


1 McIntosh, Angus, Samuels, M.L. and Benskin, Michael (1986). A Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English, 4 vols. AUP, Aberdeen.

Conference Info

In review


Hosted at University of Glasgow

Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom

July 21, 2000 - July 25, 2000

104 works by 187 authors indexed

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Series: ALLC/EADH (27), ACH/ICCH (20), ACH/ALLC (12)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None