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Dispersals and Diversification

Linguistic and Archaeological Perspectives on the Early Stages of Indo-European


Edited by Matilde Serangeli and Thomas Olander

Dispersals and diversification offers linguistic and archaeological perspectives on the disintegration of Proto-Indo-European, the ancestor of the Indo-European language family.
Two chapters discuss the early phases of the disintegration of Proto-Indo-European from an archaeological perspective, integrating and interpreting the new evidence from ancient DNA. Six chapters analyse the intricate relationship between the Anatolian branch of Indo-European, probably the first one to separate, and the remaining branches. Three chapters are concerned with the most important unsolved problems of Indo-European subgrouping, namely the status of the postulated Italo-Celtic and Graeco-Armenian subgroups. Two chapters discuss methodological problems with linguistic subgrouping and with the attempt to correlate linguistics and archaeology.

Contributors are David W. Anthony, Rasmus Bjørn, José L. García Ramón, Riccardo Ginevra, Adam Hyllested, James A. Johnson, Kristian Kristiansen, H. Craig Melchert, Matthew Scarborough, Peter Schrijver, Matilde Serangeli, Zsolt Simon, Rasmus Thorsø, Michael Weiss.

Language and Chronology

Text dating by machine learning


Edited by Gregory Toner and Xiwu Han

In Language and Chronology, Toner and Han apply innovative Machine Learning techniques to the problem of the dating of literary texts. Many ancient and medieval literatures lack reliable chronologies which could aid scholars in locating texts in their historical context. The new machine-learning method presented here uses chronological information gleaned from annalistic records to date a wide range of texts. The method is also applied to multi-layered texts to aid the identification of different chronological strata within single copies.
While the algorithm is here applied to medieval Irish material of the period c.700-c.1700, it can be extended to written texts in any language or alphabet. The authors’ approach presents a step change in Digital Humanities, moving us beyond simple querying of electronic texts towards the production of a sophisticated tool for literary and historical studies.

Der ‘Münchener Psalter’ aus dem 14. Jahrhundert

Mittelhochdeutscher Stabreim in der Tradition Notkers

John M. Jeep


A fourteenth-century version of Notker’s translation of the psalms with commentary yields 58 alliterating Middle High German word-pairs. These are compared with Notker’s original Old High German text, whereby phonological, morphological, semantic and syntactic changes are noted. In studying the transmission of the Biblical text, both continuity and change become evident.

Akira Kusamoto


The purpose of this study was to discover the language preferences of a letter writer for Wilhelm von Berg (1401–1428) in 15th century Westphalia. Various written languages such as Ripuarian, Westphalian and Eastphalian were already established in the region and it is known that writers sometimes mixed one language variation with the other. The study also considers other questions: i) Did writers maintain their prior-developed writing habits? ii) Did they learn the written language practiced at a new location when changing their place of work? The research uses a collection of correspondences between Wilhelm and his siblings, most of which are published here for the first time. They cover his frequent moves from within North-Western Germany when he either wrote letters himself or had them written for him. The study starts with distinguishing the handwritings of his letters, and then moves to an analysis of language variations used through a comparison of specific words. Results show that changing location for one writer (probably Wilhelm himself) did not greatly influence his language use, but that he took on new variants of certain words in his letters.

W. J. J. Pijnenburg


The etymology of the name of the river Dommel in the Netherlands causes some serious difficulties. In fact it has up to now been seen as an unsolved problem. A new close examination of the oldest attestations, like Dudmala (AD 704), has resulted in a new analysis, viz. *dūd-mal-a in which dūd- means ‘folk’, mal- means ‘dingplaats’ and -a is the appellative for ‘water’ < *aχwa-: ‘running water near to a dingplaats’. The two first elements find their parallel in the German place name Detmold, traditionally considered as going back to Germanic *Þeud-maχla – 1263 detmalle, 783 theodmalli.

Formulaic Language in the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle

Set Phrases and Discourse Markers in Middle High German History Writing

Alan V. Murray


This paper investigates formulaic syntax in the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle (German: Livländische Reimchronik), a Middle High German (MHG) verse history composed around 1290. A common syntactical formula is a unit formed with the adjective vrô (‘glad’, ‘happy’, ‘joyful’) or its negative variant unvrô, together with the verbs sîn (‘be’) or werden (‘become’), with a genitive object: NP-Nom + SÎN/ WERDEN + NP-Gen + (un)vrô (e.g. der meister was der rede vrô). In almost every case the adjective (un)vrô occurs in end position, so that it can be rhymed with another common word, e.g. (‘then’) or (‘thus’). An important variation is introduced with the demonstrative pronoun des: Pro-Dem-Gen + SÎN/WERDEN + NP-Nom + (un)vrô. This construction has the metrical function of filling a complete line, but it also functions as a discourse marker: it comments positively or negatively on an episode it follows or introduces. The high frequency of this construction in this text compared to its occurrence in other genres written in rhyming couplets suggests that the author was more conservative and less inventive than his contemporaries. In addition he also drew more frequently on the vocabulary and conventions of heroic poetry in which formulaic language was very common. It is argued that the employment of formulaic phrasing and syntax are connected with the sociolinguistic circumstances of the recitation of the chronicle.

Grabfrevel und Wiedergänger in der Lex Salica

Lex Salica XIV,12; LV,5; D XIX,2

Elmar Seebold


The main theme in this piece is the interment of two corpses in the same coffin.