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Norse-derived vocabulary in La estorie del evangelie

Sara M. Pons-Sanz ORCID logo EMAIL logo
From the journal Folia Linguistica


While the study of Norse-derived terms in medieval English has benefitted from recent etymological advances (e.g. the Gersum project), the exploration of their process of integration lags behind. The latter requires the analysis of the dialectal and semantic distribution of the terms, as well as their interactions with other members of their lexico-semantic fields. This paper offers a case study of this approach by presenting the first comprehensive account of the Norse-derived terms included in La estorie del evangelie, an early Middle English poem from south Lincolnshire/north Norfolk. Besides identifying and classifying the Norse loans on the basis of the Gersum typology and the Historical thesaurus of English, the paper examines the different layers of scribal reworking in its seven fourteenth- and fifteenth-century manuscripts from various dialectal areas to separate the Norse-derived terms that can be attributed to the original composition from those that represent later lexical substitutions, thus tracing the terms’ fate into the late Middle English period. This work shows that this understudied text offers valuable information on the interaction between native, Norse and French terms both in the early Middle English period of the original Fenland author and the later period of the surviving copies. Given that the methodology showcased here should not be restricted only to the analysis of Norse-derived terms, the paper’s significance transcends its immediate focus, as it also contributes to our understanding of medieval English lexicology more broadly.

Corresponding author: Sara M. Pons-Sanz, School of English, Communication and Philosophy, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK, E-mail:


I am very thankful to Marcelle Cole, Richard Dance, the anonymous reviewers and the editors for their comments and suggestions on previous drafts of this paper. I am solely responsible for this paper’s shortcomings.


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Supplementary Material

The online version of this article offers Appendices 1 and 2 as supplementary material (

Received: 2020-04-30
Accepted: 2020-10-28
Published Online: 2021-10-14
Published in Print: 2021-11-25

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