Gerald of Wales and Standard Old English

This article examines a short passage from Gerald’s Descriptio Cambriae (c. 1194) that comments on the differences between Northern and Southern dialects of English and singles out the dialect of Devon as ‘rather rustic’ but ‘heed[ing] the original language and ancient mode of speech’, comparing it to the language found in ‘all the English books of Bede, Hrabanus, King Alfred and everyone else written’.  I suggest Gerald’s reference to these books is based not on personal knowledge of them (hence the bizarre reference to Hrabanus), but of a general twelfth-century awareness (a linguistic attitude, if you will) that there had been an antiqua proprietas for writing English in the Anglo-Saxon period, ‘Standard’ Old English. By the bye, it analyses the language of an Exeter manumission of 1133 and a Tavistock boundary clause from 1174 to establish the character of Devon English of the twelfth century.

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Reference: Mark Faulkner, ‘Gerald of Wales and Standard Old English’, Notes and Queries n. s. 58 (2011), 19-24.