Department of English

English Witness Depositions

The following is from a servant’s testimony, recorded in 1654 in south-east England:

[...] this
Informant saied to the said Susan haue a care or els
you will sett the barne on afire: And the said Susan
replyed if I doe what is that to you, goe about {goe} your bussines:

(Essex Record Office, Colchester. Borough of Colchester Informations. MS D/B5/Sb2/9, the information of Katheryne Perry, 1654)

Witness depositions like this abound in handwritten manuscripts that are scattered in archives across England. Because of their inaccessibility, these records are largely an untapped source in English historical linguistics. The project An Electronic Text Edition of Depositions 1560–1760 (ETED) is currently in its final stages at the department. The project team comprises Professor Merja Kytö, Associate Professor Peter Grund (University of Kansas) and Dr Terry Walker (Mid-Sweden University). The project will result in an electronic text edition of English witness depositions from 1560–1760 to be included on a CD that will accompany the monograph entitled Testifying to Language and Life in Early Modern England by the three editors (John Benjamins, forthcoming). Some details of the project are available in the article “Regional variation and the language of English witness depositions 1560-1760: constructing a ‘linguistic’ edition in electronic form” (Towards Multimedia in Corpus Studies (Studies in Variation, Contacts and Change in English 2), eds. Päivi Pahta, Irma Taavitsainen, Terttu Nevalainen and Jukka Tyrkkö. Helsinki: Research Unit for Variation, Contacts and Change in English (VARIENG), University of Helsinki) and in "English witness depositions 1560–1760: An electronic text edition", ICAME Journal 31: 65–85 (see http://icame.uib.no/ij31/ij31-page65-86.pdf).

Unlike many previous editions, this edition aims to reproduce the original manuscript text as closely as possible. To suit the various needs that end-users may have, the edition will be distributed in five formats (XML, resolved XML, TXT, HTML, and PDF), which will enable viewing texts and carrying out computerised searches. A text retrieval program, ETED Presenter, is included on the CD as well as 34 manuscript images and a number of support files.

The project was funded by the Swedish Research Council/Vetenskapsrådet (dnr. 421-2004-1310, 2005-2008) and grants from the University of Kansas.