Old Language(s), New Technologies: Corpus Linguistics and European Languages in the Renaissance, 1400s-1600s


The Renaissance is universally acknowledged to be a crucial moment in Europe for the development of vernacular national languages which begin to establish their prestige alongside Latin. Historical linguists have focused on the many interesting peculiarities of the European vernaculars in this period, such as the high degree of spelling fluctuation, (non-)lexicalisation of words, phonological and morphological adjustments, semantic shifts, etc. When it comes to diachronic approaches to corpus linguistics, however, scholars are sometimes sceptic about the possibilities offered by machine-readable samples of both literary and non-literary texts belonging to the Renaissance. This scepticism mainly derives from the debated issue of normalising/modernising corpora, thus eliminating, for instance, questions of variant spelling and part-of-speech (PoS) tagging. Such manipulations make examinations easier and more robust, at least from a quantitative point of view, but at the same time they rule out the possibility of investigating the potentials that such variations may offer to the understanding of intra- and interlinguistic phenomena. Some attempts have been made to automatise the process of modernisation of the spelling or the morphological inflections in corpora of Renaissance texts (e.g., the VARD software), and yet a linguistically and methodologically meaningful rationale must be developed by researchers to achieve satisfying results.


Moving from these premises, this issue of Status Quaestionis aims, on the one hand, to present theoretical considerations about the advantages and disadvantages of modernising corpora through (semi-)automated processes, and, on the other, to offer corpus-based analyses of monolingual and multilingual historical corpora from Renaissance Europe. Contributions will be focused on (but not limited to) the following research areas:

  • Theoretical perspectives about variant normalisation/modernisation of fifteenth- to seventeenth-century European corpora.
  • New corpus-based technologies for the exploration of diachronic corpora.
  • Case studies that involve monolingual/multilingual corpora showing advantages and/or disadvantages of the normalisation of spelling, morphological patterns, etc.
  • Corpus-driven explorations of historical corpora with reference to processes of intra- and inter-linguistic development of Renaissance vernacular languages in Europe.    

Proposals (no longer than 300 words), with a brief biographic note, can be sent to Fabio Ciambella (fabio.ciambella@uniroma1.it) no later than 31/12/2022. Acceptance or rejection of proposals will be announced no later than 15/01/2023. Complete articles (6000-8000 words) are due no later than 30/04/2023. Publication date by 31/12/2023.