A corpus-based study of abbreviations in early English medical writing

Keywords: abbreviations, brevigraphs, contractions, Early Modern English, Late Middle English, superior letters, suspensions


The Early Middle English period witnessed the massive borrowing and adoption of the Latin system of abbreviations in England. Mediaeval writers appropriated those symbols that were directly transferable from Latin exemplars, especially suspensions and brevigraphs, while contractions and superior letters were incorporated somewhat later. The existing accounts of abbreviations in handwritten documents are fragmentary as they offer the picture of the literary compositions of the period, which have been traditionally taken as the source of evidence for handbooks on palaeography. In addition to this, most of these accounts are limited to the description of their use and typology in independent witnesses, being in many cases impossible to extrapolate the results beyond the practice of individual scribes. The present paper takes that step beyond individuality and pursues the study of abbreviations from a variationist perspective with the following objectives: a) to analyse the use and distribution of abbreviations in Late Middle English and Early Modern English (1350–1700), and b) to evaluate the relevance of these abbreviations across different text types of medical writing. The data used as source of evidence come from The Málaga Corpus of Early English Scientific Prose, both the Late Middle English and the Early Modern English components (1350–1500 and 1500–1700, respectively).


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How to Cite
Calle-Martín, J. (2021). A corpus-based study of abbreviations in early English medical writing. Research in Corpus Linguistics, 9(2), 114-130. https://doi.org/10.32714/ricl.09.02.06