New Perspectives on the Lindisfarne Gloss

This three-year research project is based at the Universities of Seville and Westminster and is funded by a grant from the Spanish Ministry of Education.


The project focuses on the linguistic features of late Old Northumbrian (the dialect spoken in northern England and part of Scotland from the 9th to the 12th century) through the language of one of its key texts, the Old English gloss to the Lindisfarne Gospels (c. 950).

The Lindisfarne gloss seems to exhibit many of the linguistic features which are more commonly associated with much later texts: e.g. case syncretism, loss of grammatical gender and the significant use of non-technical Old Norse loans.

They are one of the earliest extant texts from the areas settled by the Scandinavians (Old Norse speakers) in the ninth century. The glossator, Aldred, is likely to have originated from a peripheral area of Scandinavian influence and it is in such areas that the Scandinavians appear to have adopted Old English most quickly. Current sociolinguistic models suggest that during processes of language

shift speakers impose some of the features of their original language onto the new one and one of our main aims is to analyse the extent to which the vocabulary and morphosyntax of the gloss reflect the effects of language contact and imposition.

The members of the research team will conduct independent and yet complementary studies. While the researchers based in Spain will aim to determine the effects of Anglo-Norse contact on the nominal and verbal morphosyntax of the glosses and to provide the first comprehensive study of the late Old Northumbrian verbal system, Sara Pons-Sanz will focus on lexical issues. She will study the synonymous multiple glosses (i.e. cases when a single Latin term is rendered by two or more Old English synonyms) to establish how frequently Aldred uses the terms included in such glosses to render their Latin equivalent(s), and his preferences on the terms' order. There has been some speculation about whether the 1st or (a) subsequent term(s) in a multiple gloss is/are likely to be the more common synonym in Aldred’s idiolect (or own linguistic system), but no systematic study has been conducted yet. Besides helping establish the general make-up of Aldred's vocabulary, her work will throw light on the integration in his idiolect of the Norse loans recorded in the glosses, as many of them appear in multiple glosses. She will also compare Aldred’s practices with those of Owun, the author of the Northumbrian glosses to the Rushworth Gospels, to establish dialectal, rather than merely idiolectal, practices.


Principal Investigator

Dr Julia Fernández Cuesta, Associate Professor, University of Seville


Dr Sara M. Pons-Sanz, Lecturer, University of Westminster

Dr María Nieves Rodríguez Ledesma, Associate Professor, University of Seville

Dr Luisa García García, Associate Professor, University of Seville

Dr Inmaculada Senra Silva, Lecturer, National University of Distance Education (UNED, Spain)

Doctoral researcher: Ms Marcelle Cole, University of Seville,