History at Leicester

Dialect in Diaspora: Linguistic Variation in Early Anglo-Saxon England

Academic advisors

  • Dr Phillip Shaw
  • Dr Jayne Carroll
  • Professor Joanna Story

Research Associate

  • Dr Martin Findell

The origins of the English language present a complex problem of historical reconstruction. The diasporic contexts for the development of the language and its writing systems present numerous challenges: the nature and extent of migration, the homelands of migrants and their continuing contacts with their homelands, and the Germanic dialects represented amongst those who came to the British Isles, all represent important variables in the development of the language. The various contacts between Germanic speakers and speakers of Latin and the Celtic languages also contribute to the complexities of the problem. Its many complexities, however, offer numerous opportunities for analysis. Our increasing understanding of the impacts of diaspora on languages at present and in the recent past presents the opportunity to develop comparative models for developments in Migration Age Britain, and interdisciplinary analyses working across linguistic, historical, archaeological and genetic evidence also offer up the possibility of developing a richer understanding of how the English language came into being, and how it came to assume the forms represented in the Anglo-Saxon textual evidence. This project will consider how diasporic contexts shaped the earliest development of the English language.

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