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Localizing And Dating Old English Anonymous Prose, And How The Inherent Problems Relate To Anglo-Saxon Legislation

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Chapter Summary

The considerable majority of what survives in the Old English language is preserved in the late West Saxon dialect, which was a literary language written everywhere in Anglo-Saxon England by the later tenth century. Most anonymous prose contains a small admixture of features otherwise found only in Kentish or Anglian texts. When Felix Liebermann encountered dialect mixture of this sort in a legal text, his assumption, like that of many of his contemporaries, was that the legislation originated in a different dialect and was translated, so to speak, into late West Saxon, but not so perfectly as to prevent leaving a residue of non-West Saxon features to reveal its true provenance. The corpus of anonymous prose would in fact more closely resemble the corpus of legislation in Old English, which, though preserved in late West Saxon, demonstrably represents a historically and geographically more diverse body of material.

Keywords: Anglo-Saxon legislation; Felix Liebermann; late West Saxon prose; Old English language; West Saxon dialect



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