Old and Middle English Sickness-nouns in Historical Perspective. Lexico-Semantic Analysis


Marta Sylwanowicz

Æ Academic Publishing

Sickness, evil, cothe? Or disease, languishment, and malady? The book will be of interest to lexicologists and scholars interested in historical language of medicine, as well as historians of medicine.



The monograph aims at filling a long-existing gap in English historical linguistics by offering a comprehensive account of the semantic development of Old and Middle English synonyms of the term sickness, and an examination of possible conditioning factors leading to the loss of Anglo-Saxon lexical items, presented within the context of previous research on the semantic change in general, and theoretical and practical discussion of English medieval medicine, in particular. Analyzing the origin and meaning of the terms within the overall structure of the lexical field, the author also considers different chronological layers of the sickness-nouns and the explicatory techniques used by the scribe when presenting those terms to their reader. The book will be of interest to lexicologists, scholars interested in historical language for specialized purposes, as well as historians of medicine.

Additional information


Dr. Marta Sylwanowicz


Warsaw Studies in English Historical Linguistics

Series Vol.



Jerzy Wełna


Published in



2nd revised


978-0-9961021-0-0, 978-0-9961021-1-7




Smyth sewn with gatefolds


14cm x 21.5cm x 1.4cm


0.36 kg

Table of Contents

ChapterPage No.
1 Semantic change in English: a review of earlier research and an outline of the present study
1.0 Preliminary remarks
1.1 Previous studies on semantic change
1.1.1 Structuralists and Trier’s field theory
1.1.2 Componential analysis
1.1.3 Cognitivism and prototype semantics
1.1.4 Loss of prototypical meaning
1.2 Purpose of the study
1.3 Corpora and the analysis of the data
1.3.1 Methods used in the analysis
1.3.2 Sickness-nouns corpus
1.3.3 Corpus texts
1.4 Summary
2 Medieval English medicine
2.0 Preliminary remarks
2.1 Medieval views on medicine
2.2 Medieval medical practitioner
2.3 Old English medical terms
2.4 Vernacularization of lexis after the Norman Conquest
2.5 Review of major studies on medieval medical texts and terminology
2.6 Summary
3 General terms denoting sickness in Old English
3.0 Preliminary remarks
3.1 Selection of the Old English nouns for sickness
3.1.1 Preliminary investigation
3.1.2 Compounds
3.2 Distribution of the material
3.3 Old English sickness-nouns
3.4 Summary
4 General terms denoting sickness in Middle English
4.0 Preliminary remarks
4.1 Selection of the Middle English nouns for sickness
4.1.1 Preliminary investigation
4.1.2 Compounds
4.2 Distribution of the material
4.3 Middle English sickness-nouns
4.3.1 Old English heritage: sickness, evil, cothe
4.3.2 Middle English sickness-nouns: disease, infirmity, languishment, languor, malady, malaise
4.3.3 Middle English sickness-nouns: affection, cause, ill, infection, plague, pestilence
4.3.4 Middle English sickness-nouns: grievance, passion
4.4 Summary
5 The loss of sickness-nouns
5.0 Preliminary remarks
5.1 Loss and substitution of Old English medical terms: potential conditioning factors
5.2 External causes
5.2.1 Translations
5.2.3 Semantic need
5.3 Internal causes
5.4 Summary

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