Legal history meets lexical semantics. Feudal legal terminology in Flanders and England of the 13th and 14th centuries.

01 January 2018 → 31 December 2021
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • History
  • Social sciences
    • Law
    • Metalaw
Multilingualism in law England Primogeniture Flanders Feudalism
Project description

This project will study the intricacies of medieval multilingualism in law by researching the use of
feudal legal terminology in England and the (Dutch-speaking) part of the county of Flanders during
the 13th and 14th centuries in parallel to examining the development of the corresponding legal
concepts in relation to land tenure. The linguistic landscape in both cases was inhabited by Latin,
French and a Germanic language (Middle Dutch and Middle English) - though not in equal shares
but in continuous and subtle intermingling, in particular of the French and Germanic languages and
cultures. The specific issue to be studied is the rule of male primogeniture, which was, both in
England and Flanders, a key concept that determined feudal law and around which all other parts of
feudal law evolved. We anticipate to reveal a concordance between the development of feudal legal
concepts and the evolution of the language used to describe them. This concordance will offer us a
sharper understanding of how the feudal concepts and laws have evolved throughout the period
under consideration. The most appropriate methodology is to examine the legal language in its
textual context. The use of corpus linguistics methods and linguistics/concordance software allows
for detailed searches of words and phrases in multiple contexts and among a large amount of
electronically held texts, providing information on the data that is both quantitative and qualitative,
empirical rather than intuitive.