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'My Testament in Englisshe Tonge': A study in the use of the vernacular in medieval wills

Spedding, Alison Jane (2010)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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This thesis surveys the gradual emergence and development of the English testament from the earliest surviving examples until 1499. The introductory section of this interdisciplinary study examines the religious and legal origins of the first vernacular dispositive acts, the oral roots of the testamentary process in the Anglo-Saxon period, and the development of the written will in the centuries before and after the Conquest, including detailed comparisons between early thirteenth-century texts from Worcester and Exeter. The second section begins by examining the processes of will-writing in later-medieval England in detail, analysing the essential linguistic components of the canonical testament before using two specific groups of wills from mid-fourteenth- and late-fifteenth-century London to explore nuances of composition and phrasing. Having established the context and structure of the developed form, a detailed comparative analysis of the testamentary language contrasts the phrasing of wills written in Latin and French with that used in the emerging English texts. The succeeding chapters focus on the testamentary archives of Bury St Edmunds and York, these case studies including examination of vernacular texts composed on behalf of women, trends in urban and rural usage, the effect of periods of high mortality on language choice, scribal methods, and the regional character of testamentary language.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Scase, Wendy
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
Department:School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies
Subjects:PE English
Institution:University of Birmingham
Copyright Holders:Alison J. Spedding
ID Code:772
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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