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Historical sociolinguistics and language variation

My research in historical sociolinguistics focusses on the language of non-literary texts in late medieval Italy. Traditional studies in Italian language history have been on the development of literary texts, and how this has led to the formation of the national standard. My research deals with texts written “from below”, and what linguistic analyses can tell us about the picture of language variation at a time of fluid contact situations between medieval vernaculars.

The focus of this research at the moment is the writing of the 14th century nun from Milan, Margherita Lambertenghi (?-1454). Her letters show notably dialectal forms at a time when the principal process of language evolution in late medieval north Italy was koineizataion.

A pilot study involving a brief analysis of the language of her letters (by comparing it to the language of merchants) is available in Brown (2013). I am currently writing a monograph with a critical edition of Margherita Lambertenghi’s letters and linguistic analysis, to be finished by mid 2018.

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