Anglo-Norman Dictionary Case-study

Submitting Institution

Aberystwyth University

Unit of Assessment

Modern Languages and Linguistics

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Linguistics, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

The main aim of the Anglo-Norman Dictionary (AND) in impact terms is to provoke a revision of the understanding of the role of Anglo-Norman in the development of English and to demonstrate how the language (especially the vocabulary) of the incoming Normans impinged on and fed into English. The project and its freely-available online dictionary ( have attracted considerable attention from the educated lay public with interests in language history, genealogy, family names, aspects of language use in Britain in the Middle Ages, and social history.

Impact has been achieved by speaking to non-academic groups; contributing to audio and visual displays in museums; and by being interviewed by Radio 4; Trotter appeared as an expert in a National Geographic film on broadly related matters to do with medieval literature; and the AND has been awarded a prestigious French prize. The AHRC decided to feature the AND as a project on their website in autumn 2012, suggesting that it is perceived as beneficial to their own impact and publicity strategy.

Underpinning research

The AND was effectively established in Aberystwyth from 2001 onwards, when a first AHRB grant was awarded to Trotter. From 2003 to 2012 there have been two PDRAs (Virginie Derrien and Geert De Wilde [2003-2008]; Derrien now replaced by Heather Pagan, 2008-) working as full-time assistant editors under Trotter's direction; in 2013. Katariina Nara joined the project for a two-year (2013-2015) post concentrating on revision of semantic labelling and the introduction of references to other dictionaries. Natasha Romanova completed a related project on National Archives documents, and Jennifer Gabel (jointly funded by the AHRC and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft in a shared Aberystwyth/Heidelberg project) was in Aberystwyth in 2011, working on the AND part-time and producing an edition of an Anglo-Norman text for a Freiburg doctorate. The AND is based on rigorous, primary, new research on original texts, both printed and (increasingly) in electronic format. It involves finding and using quotations from upwards of (now) 900 texts and documents, and the synthesis of this into coherent, organized articles, each of which is in effect an account of the meanings of a word in Anglo-Norman across 400 years of the language's existence in the British Isles. The AND — because of the evidence it has brought to light -- has enabled a complete rethink of the relationship between English and French in the British Isles in the Middle Ages (3.4; 3.5). We now understand far better how Anglo-Norman interacted with Anglo-Saxon to produce Middle English. A proper account of the vocabulary of Anglo-Norman is clearly a prerequisite for such a reconsideration, whose implications impinge, ultimately, on all speakers of English. The underlying research behind the AND (much of which has also been expanded on in the form of a series of scholarly articles by Rothwell and Trotter) is primary lexicographical research on raw data in the form of a) collected illustrative quotation-slips b) digitized texts searched by concordancing software c) the reading of published and in some cases unpublished texts and documents d) the integration of our work into international lexicographical and philological work on medieval French in its various forms (3.3).

The continuing importance of Anglo-Norman as an element in English, and in particular as a source of legal vocabulary up until the present day, means that this research is relevant to a much wider audience than that of academics specializing in medieval languages. We have a varied readership ranging from world experts in medieval French to interested members of the public in the UK and abroad. This was one reason for developing an online Dictionary — and for not charging for, or otherwise restricting, access. The position we have adopted has always been that the taxpayer has funded the entirety of our work and should therefore be allowed and indeed encouraged to use it (see the statement at The launch of the site was publicized and featured, for example, in the AMARC (Association for Manuscripts and Archives in Research Collections) newsletter no. 47 (5.1), and in the Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section online newsletter (5.2). In 2006 the project was allocated £10,500 of extra `pilot dissemination study' funding by AHRC and produced both the section of the website `for non-specialist visitors' to which this link refers, and a CD-ROM of materials, which was sent to around a thousand schools and colleges. The intention was to provide material of use (specifically) in English language A-level courses, and perhaps for history teaching. The CD contained an explanation of why the AND is needed; an overview of how the Dictionary came into being, and how it is developed, maintained and extended. We went on to show some of the maybe unexpected ways and places that Anglo-Norman has survived in vulgarities and dialect expressions, before moving on to look at perhaps the most famous and important document in Anglo-Norman: Magna Carta. Then we look at the abiding Anglo-Norman presence in the present day language of food and cooking, and some of the ways Chaucer brought Anglo-Norman words into the mainstream of English literature and language. Finally, we illustrate from a documented complaint about offensive stenches in the City of London what we mean by saying that medieval England was 'multilingual', and show the place of Anglo-Norman in the multilingual mix. Because Anglo-Norman existed in a multilingual environment (which Rothwell and Trotter have done much to explain to the scholarly world: 3.4; 3.5), we also look routinely at medieval Latin and Middle English. In parallel with the Dictionary itself, 78 texts and 9 academic articles by Rothwell have been digitized and put online, as a related but separately-funded project in Swansea (dir. Andrew Rothwell). In addition to the AND itself (which since 2003 has completely revised F-N, A-E being completed from 1989/90 to publication in 2005), the editors have produced well over sixty academic articles (predominantly Rothwell and Trotter) and delivered 100 or so papers/invited lectures on subjects related to the AND in fourteen countries. Key conferences have been organized in Aberystwyth on multilingualism (1997) and medieval French lexicography (2011); proceedings have in both cases been published. The AND's research findings have thus been disseminated and promoted by parallel scholarly activity (e.g. 3.5; 3.6).

References to the research

1) William Rothwell, Stewart Gregory, David Trotter, Anglo-Norman Dictionary: revised edition, A-C; D-E, 2 vols. (London: MHRA, 2005), xlix + 1107 pp..


2) Anglo-Norman Dictionary: Revised to date: A-M [of which I-M is REF2 submitted], plus the remainder of the alphabet as an online version of the relevant parts of AND1 (originally published 1977-1992).

3) Trotter, D.A., `Les néologismes de l'anglo-français et le FEW', Le Moyen Français, 39-41 (1996/1997 [1998]), 577-635.

4) Trotter, D.A. (ed.), Multilingualism in Later Medieval Britain (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2000), x + 237 pp.

5) Trotter, D.A., `Death, taxes and property: some code-switching evidence from Dover, Southampton, and York', in H. Schendl/L. Wright (eds.), Code-Switching in Early English (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2011) [REF2 submitted]


6) Trotter, D.A., `Une rencontre germano-romane dans la Romania Britannica', plenary paper at XXVIé Congrés Internacional de Lingüística i Filologia Romàniques, Valencia, September 2010, published in Casanova Herrero, Emili/Calvo Rigual, Cesáreo (eds.), Actes del XXVIé Congrés Internacional de Lingüística i Filologia Romàniques (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2013).


Evidence for quality of the research:

The AND was awarded the Prix Honoré Chavée by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles- Lettres, Paris, in 2011 ( It is cited as the authority on Anglo-Norman by all major dictionaries of French, English and Romance. Reviewers have commented as follows: `questo magnifico lavoro' Medioevo Romanzo 29 (2005), 472 [A. Vàrvaro]; `enormous increase in coverage in this edition'; `very impressive start to the new edition' Journal of French Language Studies 17 (2007), 134-136 [G. Hesketh]; `it is nearly impossible to prevent assessment of the new AND from becoming advocacy' Medium Aevum 76 (2007), 146-148 [D. Burrows]; `eine Neubearbeitung, die die Lexikografie einen deutlichen Schritt voranbringt' Zeitschrift für französische Sprache und Literatur 118 (2008), 87-90 [Städtler]; `die bedeutendste Leistung im Bereich der galloromanischen Lexikographie seit dem Abschluss des TL (2002) und des FEW (2003)' Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie 123 (2007), 505-509 [M. Pfister]; `un outil de premier ordre et tous ceux qui s'intéressent à l'anglo-normand, à l'ancien français et à l'histoire du français devront le consulter quotidiennement' Revue de Linguistique Romane 71 (2007), 277-323 [G. Roques]; `an astounding amount of information [...] a huge step forward' TLS 5458 (9 Nov. 2007), 26 [G. Burgess].

Grants awarded:

1996/97: British Academy (Humanities Research Board), Revision of Anglo-Norman Dictionary: £17,105

1996/98: Modern Humanities Research Association, Support for Anglo-Norman Dictionary: £3,000

1997/98: Modern Humanities Research Association, Grant for continuation of work towards second edition of Anglo-Norman Dictionary (research assistant): £10,206

1998/99: British Academy (Humanities Research Board), Second edition of Anglo-Norman Dictionary (research assistant): £28,036

2001/03: AHRB Resource Enhancement Scheme, The Anglo-Norman Online Hub (Phase I) [digitization of AND2 and associated materials]: £108,894

2003/07: AHRB Major Research Grant: Revision of the Anglo-Norman Dictionary, F-H: £426,112

2006: AHRC Pilot dissemination grant, In conjunction of the Anglo-Norman Dictionary, F-H: £10,500

2007: AHRC Research Grant, Anglo-Norman in the National Archives: £80,107

2007/12: AHRC Major Research Grant, Revision of the Anglo-Norman Dictionary, I-M: £873,669

2009/12: DFG/AHRC, Edition of Baudri de Bourgueil and work on Dictionnaire Étymologique de l'Ancien Français [DEAF]/AND: £66,35

2012/2016: AHRC Standard Research Grant, Revision of the Anglo-Norman Dictionary, N-Q: £802,415.

Details of the impact

The AND has had an impact on three major groups: professional bodies, the media, and the public. This is a direct corollary of the authority which the Dictionary has acquired, and this could only have been achieved by demonstrably producing work which meets the highest standards of international lexicographical practice.

The AND's impact is international. We know, for example, from analysis of the visitors to the website that there are hits from all around the world, and not only for the main Dictionary itself. Usage statistics indicate that (e.g. for the period November 2010-October 2011) the `non-specialist' part of the site (see section (2) above) attracted on average 300 visits per month, with over 200 pages being viewed per week by users from 22 countries: the most common sources of enquiries being the UK and USA (43% between them), followed by the Russian Federation (16%), France (13%), Italy (5%), Germany (5%), Netherlands (3%). Search strings used include: anglo-norman words in england; anglo norman in west yorkshire; chaucer vocabulary; dialects of shropshire; hedgehog scots dialect; pears in comfyt; scottish word vennel; water [sic] scott ivanhoe middle english food words like beef cow; westmorland slang; why did chaucer ride [sic] in english; worcester doss house; anglo-norman words still used today.

Our dissemination policy has always been one of maximum accessibility and we have aimed to make it easy for professional bodies and members of the public to benefit from our work. The site is exceptionally easy to use. Information regarding the AND was distributed to an archivists' discussion list on 16 March 2010 (5.3), with the express aim of generating awareness of the Dictionary amongst these professional users.

Trotter has also been involved in various media activities: he was interviewed on 16 May 2006 by Radio 4's Making History (5.4), by BBC Wales in June 2004 (5) and again in February 2008 (5.6), and by the Today programme, following the announcement of the opening to the public of the AND site. WalesOnline registered the Prix Honoré Chavée in 2011 (5.7).

Trotter's related public activities have included: making an audio recording of an excerpt of the Chanson de Roland for an audiovisual display at Battle Abbey Museum; supplying a translation and reading of an Anglo-Norman document describing the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in 1282 for the National Museum of Wales's `Voices from Medieval Wales' (5.8); involvement as an invited expert for a National Geographic `Mystery Files' film made in Venice in 2010 and shown in the UK in June 2011 (5.9).

Members of the public are clearly aware of the AND and have often — after using the Dictionary - addressed supplementary enquiries to the editors. In November 2010, the Vice-Chancellor and Librarian of Lincoln Cathedral enquired about a word in a 1319 Lincoln will (5.10). April 2011, the Curator of European Arms and Armour at Glasgow's Kelvingrove Art Gallery wrote to ask about the etymology of jazerant (a form of padded tunic-cum-armour) and remains in contact over other lexical queries (5.11). We also receive a steady trickle of enquiries from members of the public, in particular interested in their family names where these appear to be of Anglo-Norman origin.

With the advent of the `Pathways to Impact' element within AHRC grants, the project is committed to developing its impact-generating activities over the period 2012-2016. An article about the impact of Anglo-Norman on English place-names has been submitted to English Today, and a blog with a `word of the month' has been set up (

Within the commercial dictionary world, finally, the AND is regularly drawn on by the OED. Its revision clearly takes account of our findings and incorporates them in its discussion of etymologies. We are thus making a direct and measurable impact on the world's leading dictionary of English, itself a reference-work widely used by non-academic users.

Sources to corroborate the impact

References (N.B. the numbers refer to those given in parentheses (x) in Section 4, above).







(7) norman-dictionary-that-has-been-60-years-in-the-making-91466-28563735/

(8) (requested by Curator, Medieval & Later Archaeology, National Museum Cardiff)


(10) email from Vice-Chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral, 01/11/10.

(11) email from Curator of European Arms and Armour at Kelvingrove, 07/04/11