• Patterns of borrowing, obsolescence and polysemy in the technical vocabulary of Middle English

      Sylvester, Louise; Parkin, Harry; Ingham, Richard; University of Westminster; University of Chester; Birmingham City University
      This paper reports on a new project, Technical Language and Semantic Shift in Middle English which aims to address questions about why semantic shift, lexical and/or semantic obsolescence and replacement happen and to try to uncover patterns of narrowing, broadening, obsolescence and synonym co-existence at different levels of the lexical hierarchy. The data is based on the Middle English vocabulary for seven occupational domains collected for the Bilingual Thesaurus of Everyday Life in Medieval England, with the addition of two further domains representing the interests of the elite and professional classes. This paper offers three case studies illustrating how we used the type of information in the BTh, the MED and the OED to construct the semantic hierarchy on which our analyses are based; an example of how data are interpreted in relation to change within a particular semantic field; and an exploration of how obsolescence by distinguishing between obsolete lexemes and obsolete senses. We then present some results of our analyses of obsolescence, polysemy and borrowing in our data.