In the wake of the Reformation, intellectuals from all parts of the religious spectrum read, studied and translated Christian sources, not only the Scriptures but also ancient and modern patristic sources, sermons, commentaries, chronicles. The users of these texts – translators, theologians, controversialists – were highly experimental and lexically innovative, as demonstrated by the appearance of many of them amongst the first 1000 sources of the OED. In our paper we propose a corpus-based study of their lexical competence to assess their impact on the development of the English vocabulary 1500-1650. This is a pilot study intending to test the use of “sources” in the OED for corpus-building, and to combine digital databases and corpus-query systems (OED, EEBO, SketchEngine) for the diachronic study of lexis. Our study points out a prevalence of church-related vocabulary as a specialised terminology, but it also focuses on other secondary domains such as demonyms and geographical terms.
May 16, 2022