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Reassessing the semantic history of OE brēad / ME brēd

Pons-Sanz, Sara M. 2017. Reassessing the semantic history of OE brēad / ME brēd. English Language and Linguistics 21 (1) , pp. 47-67. 10.1017/S1360674316000058

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Our etymological understanding of PDE bread has been influenced, to a considerable extent, by Otto Jespersen’s comment that ‘An Englishman cannot thrive or be ill or die without Scandinavian words; they are to the language what bread and eggs are to the daily fare’. This paper analyses the evidence behind the possibility that PDE bread might represent a Norse-derived semantic loan, i.e. that OE brēad acquired the meaning ‘bread’, which was more frequently expressed by OE hlāf, because of the influence of its Viking Age Norse cognate (cp. OIc brauð ‘bread’). On the basis of an in-depth study of the attestations of OE brēad and hlāf and their early Middle English reflexes, as well as the use of their cognates in various Germanic languages, the paper challenges the traditional view that OE brēad originally meant ‘piece, morsel of bread’ and concludes that Norse influence is not needed in order to account for the semantic history of PDE bread

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English
Additional Information: Pdf uploaded in accordance with the publisher's policy at (accessed 09/02/2016)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press (CUP)
ISSN: 1360-6743
Funders: Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Date of Acceptance: 8 February 2016
Last Modified: 15 May 2020 19:03

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