Leuven Working Papers in Linguistics vol:2 pages:135-159
In this paper I present two case studies of how biographical and intellectual history can benefit from corpus-based linguistics, and how databases of a considerably different nature can fruitfully complement each other. (i) Combining information from the PASE.ac.uk prosopography and syntactically annotated corpora, I show that the choice of auxiliary with ofslægen ‘killed’ in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is related to how the killing occurred, with (wearð ofslægen) or without resistance (wæs), shedding new light on the deaths of people like king Oswald (716) and the earls Burghelm and Muca (822). (ii) The syntactic choice between it happened that X Y-ed or X happened to Y in late Middle English texts reveals whether the scribe/author believes X to be in control of what happens, providing novel evidence on medieval views of accountability levels with regard to adultery, sinning, and casualties. Particular attention is paid to the idea that men blamed women’s seductiveness for their own lack of sexual self-control as manifested in the language use of the scribe of the late medieval Alphabet of Tales.