Personal names in medieval libri vitæ as a sociolinguistic resource

Michelle Waldispühl, Christine Wallis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper explores the potential of using a historical sociolinguistic approach to interrogate the extensive lists of personal names found in medieval libri vitæ. So far, these lists have mainly been exploited in historical and a few onomastic studies, with a focus on name etymology and personal naming practices. Both the linguistics of the names and sociolinguistic perspectives remain to date underexamined. In this contribution, we explore possible sociolinguistic research questions, and present methodological challenges and preliminary results on the basis of four case studies from two examples, the libri vitæ of Thorney Abbey and Reichenau. The case studies examine autographs, choice of script and language, and dialect adaptation. Our main interest lies in the modelling and explanation of graphic and linguistic variation in the names. Our particular focus is on the status of the respective vernacular languages involved (Old English and Old High German) and in the conclusions we can draw from these documents about their underlying writing traditions in general, and scribal training and practices in particular.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-161
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Historical Sociolinguistics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2023


  • linguistic repertoires
  • scribal practices
  • libri vitæ
  • historical personal names
  • script and language choice


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