The project investigates the competition between suffixal doublets in Middle English. These structures are characterised by the appearance of the same base with two different suffixes, with no apparent distinction in meaning. Examples of doublets are 'ble reschipe' and 'blerinesse' ('bleariness'); 'dulshipe' and 'dulnesse' ('dullness'); or 'narweschipe' and 'narwenesse' ('narrowness'). On most occasions, the base survives in Present-Day English with only one of the suffixes. The project is thus concerned w ith understanding mechanisms of word-formation and, more broadly, language change. It has a time span of three months.
The Stavanger team has, under the heading of the 'Middle English Scribal Texts Programme' (MEST), built a corpus of medieval English te xts, both documentary and non-documentary. The corpus is partly lemmatized (in a database form), while the whole of it, some 700 texts at present, is available in diplomatic transcript. Its availability will facilitate the retrieval of suffixal doublets. The specific doublets to be studied are -NESS and -SHIP (which the applicant has studied in other corpora; see *Esteban-Segura 2011), -Y vs -FUL, and -Y vs -OUS.
Further, the corpora available at Stavanger allow the occurrence of the doublets to be relat ed to contextual elements such as text type, genre, and date. These elements may give clues to explain the success of one or the other doublet over time.
The project will result in at least one peer-reviewed journal article and a conference presentation .
*Esteban-Segura, Laura. 2011. Suffixal Doublets in Late Middle English: -NESS vs -SHIP. Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 112/2: 183-194.