Corpus of Narrative Etymologies (CoNE)

The purpose of CoNE is to explain a specific data set: the forms attested in the corpus of early Middle English texts collected for a Linguistic Atlas of Early Middle English (LAEME). This corpus is the largest available collection of texts written or copied in English during the period 1150-1325. It has two very valuable characteristics.

(1) The source manuscripts’ text forms have been transcribed to conserve as much information as possible. The corpus texts record the litterae as found in the texts, notice the abbreviations, suspensions and mark the manuscripts’ punctuation. Texts are not emended: all scribal forms, even if apparent errors, are left in place; verse-texts originally written as prose are left as prose; manuscript line-ends are marked; there is no modernization of litterae, capitalisation or punctuation. Also, the corpus texts provide extensive descriptions and annotations concerning the orthographies and scripts.

(2) Each text form (word or morpheme) has been lexico-grammatically tagged in considerable detail. The texts are therefore heavily enriched with both linguistic and palaeographical information.

The scribal languages of the texts in the LAEME corpus of tagged texts (LAEME CTT) are the product, in part, of developments from Old English. It is these developments that CoNE aims initially to explicate in detail, to account for each variant spelling type attested in the LAEME CTT. The variant forms of a word or morpheme are gathered under a ‘tag’ which taxonomizies the form lexically and / or grammatically with respect to each of its occurrences in one or more texts. This tag – as the label for a set of forms – is related to a form deemed to be original for Old English (the presumed form at the time of the original settlement of speakers of a West Germanic tongue in England). Each CoNE etymology in effect tells the story of how that original form changed (often taking divers paths) to give the various forms found subsumed under the LAEME tag. The LAEME CTT provides a specific terminus ad quem for the linguistic narratives.

Of course, in the languages of the texts in the LAEME CTT are to be found lexis from Old French and Medieval and Classical Latin. The Romance lexis in the LAEME CTT has not been dealt with in this initial phase of CoNE. This, we have deemed, will require a separate project to be carried out by Romance specialists as well as Anglicists.

The two fundamental parts of CoNE are the set of narrative etymologies (the Corpus of Narrative Etymologies itself) and the set of linguistic changes (the Corpus of Changes, the CC).

Compilers:Roger Lass (University of Cape Town), Margaret Laing (University of Edinburgh), Rhona Alcorn (University of Edinburgh)

Webscripts: Keith Williamson

Period: 1150-1325

Size: over 1200 entries

Language: EME

Project home page:

Funding: The Arts and Humanities Research Council of Great Britain, The University of Edinburgh

Reference line and copyright

CoNE, the CC and all associated materials in the CoNE website are intended as a non-commercial research and teaching resource. We ask you to respect the materials you use in the same way that you would those in a printed book, with appropriate citation and regard for copyright. The CoNE website and its materials are the copyright of The University of Edinburgh. For information about citing CoNE please go to Citing CoNE and for important information about copyright please read the CoNE Copyright statement.

Whatever your motivation for using CoNE (research, teaching or just curiosity), we hope that you will find CoNE a rewarding resource to explore, and that you will enjoy making discoveries about a fascinating period in the history of the English Language.

An appropriate citation is:

A Corpus of Narrative Etymologies compiled by Roger Lass, Margaret Laing, Rhona Alcorn and Keith Williamson []. Edinburgh: Version 1.1, 2013-, ©The University of Edinburgh.


Lass, Roger, Margaret Laing, Rhona Alcorn, Keith Williamson. 2013– A Linguistic Atlas of Early Middle English, 1150–1325, Version 1.1 []. Edinburgh: © The University of Edinburgh.


Online: - Version 1.1 (sept. 2013)


Roger Lass (University of Cape Town), Margaret Laing (University of Edinburgh), Rhona Alcorn (University of Edinburgh)


on the corpus website.

Associated Corpora

The Corpus of Changes (CC)