Dr Laura Wright, Faculty of English



Biographical Information

I work on the history of the London dialect, including mixed-language texts written in Anglo-Norman, Medieval Latin and Middle English, as well as 17th, 18th and 19th century London English. I have published on the development of Standard English, and on the fate of London English taken to North America and elsewhere, including the East India Company island of St Helena, South Atlantic.  I am particularly interested in historical codeswitching, and am part of the Finnish Academy-funded team studying "Multicultural Practices in the History of Written English", along with Prof Päivi Pahta and others at the University of Tampere.

Research Interests

The history of the English language; the history of London English; the history of London place-names; the development of Standard English; historical codeswitching between Anglo-Norman, Medieval Latin and Middle English; historical sociolects. Most of my work has been on the language of 14th and 15th century MSS produced in London (in particular, the make-up of mixed-language business writing, but also on the Hammond scribe's use of English).  I have also published on the English of 16th century London court records, on the language of 17th and early 18th century slaves and settlers on the Island of St Helena, South Atlantic; on the language of 18th century London trade-cards and servants' bills - in particular, those of fireworkers and their fireworks, but also the linguistic conventions adopted by servants and masters when advertising for work, and Prepositional Phrase change caused (I suggest) by the abolition of building-signs (such as the sign of the Naked Boy and Coffin at the lower corner of Fleet Lane, or the sign of the Three Cover'd Chairs and Walnut Tree, St Paul's Churchyard).  As part of my work for the "Multilingual Practices in the History of Written English" project I am researching the effects of Victorian technological developments on colour terms and perfume names, amongst other things.

Areas of Graduate Supervision

I have recently supervised/am supervising doctoral work on English in Gibraltar, Hong Kong, North Carolina and St Helena, South Atlantic.


Selected Publications

Most recent book:

  • 2011.     Herbert Schendl and Laura Wright, eds. Code-switching in Early English.  Berlin:  Mouton de Gruyter.

Some recent articles:

  • 2013.  “The Contact Origins of Standard English”.  In  Daniel Schreier and Marianne Hundt (eds).  English as a Contact Language.  Studies in English Language.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 58-74.
  • 2013.  Judith A. Jefferson and Ad Putter (eds.) “Mixed-Language Accounts as Sources for Linguistic Analysis”.  Multilingualism in Medieval Britain (c. 1066-1520): Sources and Analysis.  Turnhout: Brepols, 123-136.
  • 2013.  “The language of slaves on St Helena, South Atlantic, 1682-1724.”  Marijke J. Van Der Wal and Gijsbert Rutten (eds). Touching the Past. Studies in the historical sociolinguistics of ego-documents.  Amsterdam:  Benjamins, 243-276.
  • 2012. “On variation and change in London medieval mixed-language  business documents.”  In Merja Stenroos, Martti Mäkinen and Inge Særheim (eds.), Language Contact and Development around the North Sea.  Amsterdam/Philadelphia:  John Benjamins, 99-115.
  • 2012.  “The Hammond scribe: his dialect, his paper, and folios 133-155 of Trinity College  Cambridge MS 0.3.11”.  In Claudia Lange, Beatrix Weber and Göran Wolf, eds. Communicative Spaces: Variation, Contact, and Change.  Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.  227-258.
  • 2012. “On Cribby Islands”.  Journal of the English Place-Name Society, 44, 49-65.
  • 2011.  “Semantic shift of the colour-terms maroon and magenta in British Standard English”.  Revista de Lengua para Fines Específicos, 17, 341-374.
  • 2011.  “The Nomenclature of some French and Italian Fireworks in Eighteenth-Century London”.  The London Journal, vol 36, no. 2, July, 2011, 109-39.
  • 2010.  Daniel Schreier and Laura Wright. “Earliest St Helenian English in writing: Evidence from the St Helena Consultations (1682-1723)”.  In Raymond Hickey (ed).  Varieties in Writing: the Written Word as Linguistic Evidence.  Amsterdam and Philadelphia: Benjamins, 245-262.
  • 2010.  “Eighteenth-Century London Non-Standard Spellings as Evidenced by Servants’, Tradesmen’s and Shopkeepers’ Bills”.  In Nicholas Brownlees, Gabriella Del Lungo and John Denton (eds).  The Language of Public and Private Communicaton in a Historical Perspective.  Cambridge:  Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 161-190.
  • 2010.  “A pilot study on the singular definite articles le and la in fifteenth-century London mixed-language business writing”.  In Richard Ingham (ed). The Anglo-Norman Language and its Contexts.  York:  York Medieval Press and The Boydell Press, 130-142.
  • 2009.  “Reading Late Eighteenth-Century Want Ads.”  In Jucker, Andreas H. (ed.).  Early Modern English News Discourse. Newspapers, pamphlets and scientific news discourse.  (Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 187). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
  • 2008.   “The Playground Language of London Schoolchildren: Southern Voicing Revisited.”  In Matthew Davies and Andrew Prescott (eds.). London and the Kingdom: Essays in honour of Caroline M. Barron.   Proceedings of the 2004 Harlaxton Symposium.  Harlaxton Medieval Studies xvi.  Donington: Shaun Tyas.  366-383.