<U> or <o>: A dilemma of the Middle English scribal practice
The paper discusses the spread of the spelling variation 〈 u: o〉 in Middle English in all localized texts from the <i>Innsbruck Corpus </i>(Markus 2008). The present author’s aim is to determine the distribution of the replacement of 〈u〉 by 〈o〉 in the <i>Corpus</i> texts in order to reveal a temporal and regional conditioning of the change. The study covers eight high-frequency items (HUNDRED, HUNGER, HONEY, NUN, SOME, SUMMER, SUN, SON), five of which have restored the original grapheme 〈u〉. The examination of the above corpus has revealed the lack of a consistent universal rule governing the replacement of 〈u〉 by 〈o〉 in the graphically obscure contexts of the postvocalic graphemes 〈m, n〉. The earliest 〈o〉 spellings in the prose corpus belong to the westerly areas of England (<i>Hali Meidenhad, Hali Maidhad, Ancrene Riwle</i>), but the later selection of either traditional 〈u〉 (HUNDRED, HUNGER) or innovative 〈o〉 (HONEY, SON) appears to have been determined by the East Midland and London usage.