The Bilingual Thesaurus of Everyday
Life in Medieval England

About the Thesaurus

The Bilingual Thesaurus of Everyday Life in Medieval England contains vocabulary relating to seven domains of everyday life: Building, Domestic Activities, Farming, Food Preparation, Manufacture, Trade, Travel by Water.

By creating a thesaurus of Middle English and Anglo French (also known as Anglo Norman) words, this project aims to capture the influence of Anglo French on the written English that emerged following the Norman Conquest and the resulting predominance of French in various aspects of life. The Bilingual Thesaurus is designed to allow users to conduct research on the presence of terms borrowed from French and/or the resistance to French in non-elite areas of life in medieval England.

Contact Us

If you have any comments or feedback about the Bilingual Thesaurus please contact Professor Louise Sylvester

Key Information

The vocabulary in the Bilingual Thesaurus comes from the Anglo-Norman Dictionary, the Middle English Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary. Its structure makes use of the category structures of the Historical Thesaurus though these were occasionally modified in order to capture the ways in which conceptions in the Middle Ages differed from those of the present day.

The vocabulary of the Bilingual Thesaurus is categorised according to semantic roles. These begin with the notion of ‘activity’ as the central concept in an occupational domain, and are focussed on ‘processes’. A process has agents who carry it out, objects on which it is carried out, and instruments with which it is carried out. There may also be a specialised location in which the process is undertaken. For example, the first level of ‘Manufacture’ is a list of processes:

  • Brick and tile making
  • Cask-making
  • Glass-making
  • Metalworking
  • Pottery-making/ceramics
  • Tanning
  • Woodworking

These processes can then be opened up so that Brick and tile making, for example, comprises

  • Agents
  • Effected objects
  • Instruments
  • Materials
  • Processes
  • Specialised locations

The domains contain terms particular to the occupations they contain, but words specific to particular domains may also be part of the vocabulary in general use in other contexts. In compiling the vocabulary for the Bilingual Thesaurus, the aim was to distinguish between new senses and extensions of use in order to include only special, technical senses and to exclude terms simply recorded as having been used in a particular context.

The editors of the Bilingual Thesaurus, Prof. Richard Ingham and Prof. Louise Sylvester, would like to thank the Research Associates who worked on it, principally Dr Jaclyn Rajsic and Dr Imogen Marcus with contributions from Dr Amel Kallel and Izabela Hopkins. The project was initially created at Birmingham City University by Matthew Gee and the technical team there. Further work was initiated at the University of Westminster by Professor Peter Cornwell and his colleagues. The current online resource and its database were designed and developed by Brian Aitken, Digital Humanities Research Officer for the School of Critical Studies at the University of Glasgow. The project was supported by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust 2013-2016.