- Electronic Linguistic Atlas of Late Medieval English
The University of Edinburgh, 2013-.
Since its publication in 1986, the Linguistic Atlas of Late Medieval English has served as a critical resource for scholars attempting to understand the shifting morphology and syntax of the English language in the medieval period. Its careful tracing of the patterns of morphological variation, and the attachment of those variants to manuscripts held in libraries and archives, has allowed scholars to localize manuscripts whose provenance were unknown—most notably in the localization of the Pearl manuscript to Cheshire. In revising the printed text produced by Angus McIntosh, M. L. Samuels, and Michael Benskin, Benskin and Margaret Laing’s electronic version of LALME (http://www.lel.ed.ac.uk/ihd/elalme/elalme_frames.html, hereafter eLALME) is a monumental task of scholarship in its own right—one which shows a promising start considering the time frame the editors were provided with for the project, but falls short in terms of the presentation of that scholarship in what is an entirely new medium.
Scholars who are used to dealing with the LALME in its print form will find much that is familiar in eLALME. Linguistic Profiles, based on a questionnaire, and dot maps of particular linguistic forms are still at the core of the information presented on the site. However, in revising LALME the editors have not only provided all of the material from the printed edition of the text, but have also searched a number of archives that were not part of the original scope of the printed edition. Furthermore, they also found and included additional material from archives that were searched during the initial production of LALME. Additionally, those LPs that were really too early a form of Middle English for LALME have been removed and transferred to eLALME’s sister project, the Linguistic Atlas of Early Medieval English. The core content thus has been revised based on the best current understanding of the state of the late-medieval English language.
More importantly, the editors have provided some useful search capabilities to help engage with eLALME’s data. Users of eLALME can search the LPs by county, by a string in a record field, or by the LP number of a particular item. This uses the capabilities of the website’s [End Page 142] underlying database to avoid the juggling between multiple volumes that has always plagued the use of the LALME in the past. Likewise, LALME’s Item Maps are present in the electronic edition, but the intuitive connection between a particular grammatical form as defined by the questionnaire, the data collected on that form, and the dot map has been lost. Instead, the editors have divided up the dot maps by the particular forms used with no way for users to know intuitively when multiple forms are being used in a particular location.
This shortcoming is alleviated somewhat by two mapping features that are unique to eLALME. The first is the “fitting” map script, which attempts to automate the process of attempting to localize a text that is not in either LALME or eLALME. By selecting LP items found in the text, and then specific forms of those items, a custom dot map is generated over a map of the United Kingdom. The dots on this map are various shades of red, with the darker shades indicating a more likely match in terms of area. The second mapping feature is a user-defined dot map, where users first select one or more Linguistic Profile items from a drop-down list, then select the particular form of the LP item chosen. The map is then generated with blue dots indicating all the LPs where the chosen items appear. Users can also interact with the map by hovering the mouse over unselected forms to see where they appear. Furthermore, in both cases individual dots can be selected, which will show the relevant LP items and forms for that location. However, these dot maps do not differentiate between items chosen, so users cannot, for example, lay a...