<U> or <o>: A dilemma of the Middle English scribal practice

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The paper discusses the spread of the spelling variation &#9001; u: o&#9002; in Middle English in all localized texts from the <i>Innsbruck Corpus </i>(Markus 2008). The present author&#8217;s aim is to determine the distribution of the replacement of &#9001;u&#9002; by &#9001;o&#9002; 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 &#9001;u&#9002;. The examination of the above corpus has revealed the lack of a consistent universal rule governing the replacement of &#9001;u&#9002; by &#9001;o&#9002; in the graphically obscure contexts of the postvocalic graphemes &#9001;m, n&#9002;. The earliest &#9001;o&#9002; 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 &#9001;u&#9002; (HUNDRED, HUNGER) or innovative &#9001;o&#9002; (HONEY, SON) appears to have been determined by the East Midland and London usage.


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