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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton October 29, 2020

Battling for semantic territory across social networks. The case of Anglo-Saxon on Twitter

Hans-Jörg Schmid, Quirin Würschinger, Melanie Keller and Ursula Lenker


In Present-Day English, the term Anglo-Saxon is used with three dominant meanings, which have been labeled “historical/pre-Conquest”, “ethno-racial” and “politico-cultural” uses (cf. Wilton 2019). From at least the middle of the 19th century, the second sense has been politically appropriated to convey the racial notion of white supremacy. Recently, a fierce conceptual and socio-political controversy over the meaning and implications of the term Anglo-Saxon has spilled over into academia, ultimately causing the vote of the members of the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists (ISAS) to change its name to International Society for the Study of Early Medieval England (ISSEME).

We discuss this development as a paradigm case of controversies over the conceptual territory associated with a contested term. Using the Entrenchment-and-Conventionalization Model (Schmid 2020) as a theoretical framework, we analyze a large collection of Twitter posts (n ~ 510,000) with a view on the conventionalization and entrenchment processes involved in the conceptual and political controversy.


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Published Online: 2020-10-29
Published in Print: 2020-10-27

©2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston