SLT historical linguistics seminar 13.5 – Winding through the dusty deserts of a lush philology, pt 1

What games of chance did the ancient Romans play? What role did Latin have to play in fifteenth-century England? Can a portion of medieval street names in Turku be seen as loans from Baltic Sea region city plans, and to what degree do they draw their names from their context and functions, like a nearby market square? Could eighteenth-century runes in the Dalarna region in Sweden contain Finnish? What were the characteristics of a good book in the prologues of sixteenth-century English translated literature? Here are some examples of the questions discussed in the historical linguistics seminar of the UTU School of Languages and Translation Studies on May 13th 2016. We were many and the discussion was fruitful! Some key areas of research that were presented included multilingualism, paratextuality, historical onomastics, as well as vocabulary research and language contacts.
Sorolainen's Postilla 1625. Commons Wikimedia, University of Helsinki

Multilingualism is a concept relevant to the research of Delia Schipor, Sara Norja, and Tuomo Fonsén. Schipor was visiting from the University of Stavanger, Norway, and her study focuses on the shift from Latin to English in documentary writing in late medieval England. She studies the interplay and relative proportions of English, Latin, and French in documentary texts, and explores the possible links between genre and code choice. This same shift into English, or the process of vernacularization (becoming native-like in language), but in scientific texts, is the object of Sara Norja’s doctoral study in the Department of English. She is making a digital edition of ten manuscript versions of an English alchemical text, The Mirror of Alchemy, from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries. She will examine the similarities and differences between the manuscripts, their transmission, and their relationship to European alchemical tradition. Tuomo Fonsén from the Department of German, on his part, studies multilingualism in pedagogical texts, that is in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century pedagogical grammars of German in the kingdom of Sweden. These were bilingual, as Swedish was the medium of teaching German. He studies the writers, readers, and sources of these grammars, and the effects of a certain pedagogical approach on the linguistic philosophical stance of the grammars.

Paratextuality is a common denominator in the doctoral research of Sirkku Ruokkeinen and Aino Liira, both from the Department of English. Ruokkeinen studies the paratexts of sixteenth-century translated English literature aiming to find out how the work at hand is commented on, evaluated, and valued. She will use both theory on paratexts and the appraisal theory from discourse analysis as a basis for her work. Her study might even offer some answer to what constituted a good book to sixteenth-century Englishmen and –women! Aino Liira examines the communicative and text-organizing functions of paratexts in the translated version of Ranulf Higden’s Polychronicon. Her material consists of both manuscripts and early printed editions, and one of her goals is to see what impact the change in medium had on paratextual features.

To be continued
Text by Aino Haataja

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