Corpus Philology, Big Dating and Bottom-Up Periodisation

Argues, with Crane, Bamman and Jones 2013, that philology can be seen as a special case of corpus linguistics, showcasing a range of techniques that allow for the contextualisation of linguistic variants in Old English texts using corpus-linguistic techniques. As a case study, it attempt to date two English versions of Sawyer 136 (King Offa for St Albans, ostensibly from 793), suggesting an eleventh-century date for its forgery is feasible. The conclusion delineates some broader possibilities that derive from these corpus-philological methods, including using cluster analysis on linguistic profiles of texts and applying techniques like Variability-Based Neighbour Clustering to ascertain where to place the boundary between Old and Middle English.

Pre-print available here.

Reference: Mark Faulkner, Corpus Philology, Big Dating and Bottom-Up Periodisation’, in Dark Archives I: Voyages into the Medieval Unread and Unreadable 2019-2021 eds. Stephen A. Pink and Anthony Lappin, Medium Ævum Monographs n. s. 43 (Oxford, 2023), 285-313.

Using Manuscript Books as a Source for Medieval Culture

A case study of what can be gleaned about how medieval texts were written and read from the close study of a single manuscript, in this case a copy of Lydgate’s Fall of Princes in the Newberry Library Chicago, which is available in digitised form alongside the case study.

Reference: Mark Faulkner, ‘Using Manuscript Books as a Source for Medieval Culture’, in Research Methods Primary Sources (Marlborough: Adam Matthew Digital, 2021).

The Old English Bede: a new source for the F-version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Identifies the Old English Bede as the main source for annal 995 of the post-Conquest Domitian Bilingual, where its compiler puts into the mouths of some fictitious wise men a spurious account of Christ Church’s history reaching back to the time of Augustine, which they claim is ‘swa þu ræddan miht on Ystoria Anglorum’.

Preprint available February 2024.

Reference: Mark Faulkner, The Old English Bede: a new source for the F-version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Medium Aevum 90.2 (2021), 217-229.

A New Literary History of the Long Twelfth Century: Language and Literature between Old and Middle English

When William the Conqueror was crowned in 1066, to the Norman guards at the coronation English was an ‘unknown tongue’. My New Literary History of the Long Twelfth Century focuses on post-Conquest English as the unknown tongue of English literary and linguistic history, where it habitually falls between the subperiods of ‘Old’ and ‘Middle’ English. The book’s approach spans the disciplines of literature and linguistics. Both have always seen the long twelfth century as pivotal but essentially inscrutable. Linguistically, the transition from Old English to Middle English in the course of the period has been described as ‘the most dramatic change in the English language’, but this change remains seriously underexamined. In literary studies, the connection between the body of texts aggregated as ‘Old English’ literature and those labelled as ‘Middle English’ remains tantalising. Texts composed in the long twelfth century, produced at the intersection of these two periods, invite us to consider scholarship’s construction of ‘Old’ English, ‘Middle’ English and thereby the entire body of medieval texts. The book offers a literary history of English language texts in the long twelfth century, considering texts first and foremost as linguistic objects and the various approaches it adopts to understanding their language are described in a methodological chapter that follows the introduction. Part I of the book establishes the affordances of English in the long twelfth century. Part II examines how English was used during this period in three different genres: documents, histories and sermons.

Reference: Mark Faulkner, A New Literary History of the Long Twelfth Century: Language and Literature between Old and Middle English (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022)

Habemus Corpora: Reapproaching Philological Problems in the Age of ‘Big’ Data

This paper demonstrates the potential of new methodologies for using existing corpora of medieval English to better contextualise linguistic variants, a major task of philology, and a key underpinning of our ability to answer major literary-historical questions, like when, where and to what purpose medieval texts and manuscripts were produced. The primary focus of the article is the assistance these methods can offer in dating the composition of texts, which it illustrates with a case study of the “Old” English Life of St Neot, uniquely preserved in the mid-twelfth-century South-Eastern homiliary, London, British Library, Cotton Vespasian D.xiv, fols. 4–169. While the Life has recently been dated around 1100, examining its orthography, lexis, syntax and style alongside that of all other English-language texts surviving from before 1150 using new techniques for searching the Dictionary of Old English Corpus suggests it is very unlikely to be this late. The article closes with some reflections on what book-historical research should prioritise as it further evolves into the digital age.

Published article available now.

Reference: Mark Faulkner, ‘Habemus Corpora: Reapproaching Philological Problems in the Age of ‘Big’ Data’, Anglia: Zeitschrift für Englische Philologie 139 (2021), 94-127.

The final publication is available at

Medieval Manuscripts

An annotated bibliography of 100+ items for anyone interested in working more extensively with medieval manuscripts. As dictated by its publication in the section of Oxford Bibliographies Online devoted to British and Irish Literature, the focus is on Latin, English and French manuscripts from the insular world, c. 500-1500 (manuscripts in Celtic languages I largely left to the experts!).

Reference: Mark Faulkner, ‘Medieval Manuscripts’, Oxford Bibliographies Online (2019).


Co-written with my former Sheffield colleague, Joan Beal, this is an introduction to the role of language contact in the shaping of the English language, which particularly considers contact with Celtic, Norse and French from the beginnings to the present day.

Reference: Joan Beal and Mark Faulkner, ‘English’, in The Oxford Handbook of Language Contact ed. Anthony Grant (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), pp. 374-387.

Quantifying the Consistency of ‘Standard’ Old English Spelling

This paper presents two large datasets, one of over 19,000 morphemes from 100 texts, the other of over 91,000 spellings from 941 texts across 198 manuscripts for one phonological segment, with a view to providing an empirical basis for discussions of the homogeneity with which the vernacular was written in late Anglo‐Saxon England. These show the infinitive morpheme was spelt <‐an> 96.1 per cent of the time and the diphthong /æa, æ:a/ was written <ea> 96.5 per cent of the time. Such consistency, over time and across dialect boundaries, suggests that recent scepticism about the existence of a homogenous, conservative, supraregional variety of written Old English, perhaps a ‘standard’ Old English, is unwarranted.

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Reference: Mark Faulkner, ‘Quantifying the Consistency of ‘Standard’ Old English’Transactions of the Philological Society 118 (2020), 192-205.

‘Like a Virgin’: the Reheading of St Edmund

Argues that the late-tenth-century lives of St Edmund by Abbo and Ælfric form an opus geminatum which uses the posthumous reattachment of Edmund’s heard to figure the possibility of married clerks becoming chaste monks, in accordance with the goals of the ‘Benedictine Reform’.

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Reference: Mark Faulkner, ‘”Like a Virgin”: the reheading of St Edmund and monastic reform in late-tenth-century England’, in Heads will Roll: decapitation in the medieval and early modern imagination eds. Larissa Tracy and Jeff Massey (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 39-52.