<i>Disseisin</i>: The lexeme and the legal fact in Early Middle English

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Revealing the processes of vernacularising the prefix <i>dis</i>- in English requires attention to each lexeme which uses it. This article explores the term <i>disseisin </i>and its associated lexemes from its earliest uses to about 1200 AD. The historical dictionaries suggest that <i>disseisin </i>is the earliest <i>dis</i>compound in English. Elucidating its history requires more however than consulting a historical dictionary or amassing corpus data. I show that the differences between lexemes casts doubt on the standard accounts. The present data suggests that the <i>seiz</i>- <i>disseis</i>- lexemes may predate the dictionary evidence. Other sources reveal a rich legal background and enough tokens to suggest patterns of usage. It seems that, since <i>seisin</i>/<i>disseisin </i>is an antonymic pair only in legal fact, not in connotation, <i>disseisin </i>is privative but not necessarily pejorative. Since the language boundaries in England between French, Latin, and English were not simple, we should consider individual situations, writers, and individual lexemes wherever possible.


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