Monthly Archives: March 2014

Late medieval England, Lausanne and trilingualism

The devotional compilations we study in this project clearly originated in a trilingual culture. The compilations my colleague Diana and I are focusing on at the moment — A Talkyng of the Love of God / The Tretyse of Loue and The Holy Boke Gratia Dei respectively — borrow and adapt excerpts from English and Latin sources and — in the case of the Tretyse — a French source, and some of the manuscripts in which the devotional compilations occur collect texts in the three languages used in England in the medieval period: French, Latin and English. As we immerse ourselves in the trilingual culture our 14th and 15th century corpus texts were part of, we live a mirrorred trilinguality in 21st century Lausanne, where Anthropole Room 5143 is a Dutch-speaking island in the English-speaking lake of the English Department in the French-speaking region of the University Campus and the city it is located in. French: we learn by immersion, and now know everything about ‘logiciels’, ‘onglets’ when we work on our ‘ordis’ and how to ‘coucher notre verres’ when putting our empty lunch trays on the conveyor belt. Like probably some of the medieval English unnamed compilers whose texts we study, we change from one medium to another with the speed of lightning, depending on the subject we discuss or the person we speak to, ‘glossing’ words we insert from one language into another, laughing at regional varieties even in our Dutch Dutch and Flemish Dutch (often because Flemish Dutch uses a French loanword when Dutch Dutch uses the germanic one). I drink from a ‘tas’ (French ‘tasse’), whereas Diana drinks from a ‘kop’ (English ‘cup’) and uses a ‘tas’ (English ‘bag’) to carry her papers home from work. So when I say: ‘I need to go and wash my ‘tas’ Diana’s bewilderment is perhaps comparable to the non-latinate reader who comes across a Latin Bible verse and needs a ‘that is to say’ followed by an English translation to understand what is being said. ‘I need to go and wash my ‘tas’, that is to say, my ‘kop’.’