Literary and Linguistic Computing vol:30 issue:3 pages:371-387
In this article I present two case studies that show how biographical and intellectual history can benefit from corpus-based linguistics, and how databases from different disciplines can cross-pollinate. (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 consistently signalling death in battle. This finding sheds new light on the deaths of people like king Osred (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 appears to determine 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 language use of the scribe of the late medieval Alphabet of Tales, and how it reveals his pragmatic attitude towards sex outside marriage.