Language and technology: some examples from Seafaring (Germanic and Celtic)

Authors


  • This essay is based on a paper presented at the ‘Languages of Early Britain’ symposium in Manchester on 21 May 2009. I am grateful to Philip Durkin, Stephen Laker, Inge Milfull and Paul Russell for spotting weaknesses and contributing thoughts.

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Abstract

Language contact and the transfer of technologies are closely linked and often influence each other. This paper examines a few examples from the domain of seafaring at various periods relevant to the history of Anglo-Saxon England and the Old English language. The origin of Old English segl is used to illustrate prehistoric influences reflected in the recorded vocabulary; the fate of ciula, the Latin adaptation of ceol, shows the failing of a borrowing in the course of the Anglo-Saxon period; and floege and cuople are rare Viking Age survivors of oral and literary contact with two very different languages.

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