Anglo-Saxon

Update: Friday, 13 September 2019

The University of Illinois Press has given permission for me to post a pre-publication copy of the paper which will appear in an upcoming issue of JEGP (tentatively October 2020, 119.4).

A pdf of the paper can be downloaded from here.


[Note: I have a forthcoming article in the Journal of English and Germanic Philology (JEGP) on this topic which goes into much greater detail. I am posting this summary to correct some misinformation about the term Anglo-Saxon, its history, and its present-day usage that is currently circulating. Contrary to what others have said, the term is overwhelmingly used as a contemporary racial or ethnic label rather than as a reference to the historical, pre-Conquest period. This racial usage is also prevalent in other academic fields where Anglo-Saxon is used to mean “white.”

The information presented here is based on a study of corpora of usage, including the:

  • Dictionary of Old English Web Corpus
  • Oxford English Dictionary Online (OED)
  • Monumenta Germaniae Historica (MGH)
  • Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse (CoME)
  • Middle English Dictionary
  • Corpus of Early Modern English (CoEME)
  • Corpus of Historical American English (COHA)
  • Hansard Corpus
  • Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA)
  • Strathy Corpus of Canadian English
  • Corpus of News on the Web (NOW)

My study is of English-language and medieval Latin usage only, including present-day use in countries where English is not the predominant language. I have not studied how the term is used in other present-day languages, such as Spanish, French, and German.]

What sparked my interest in the usage of Anglo-Saxon was an off-hand remark at the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists (ISAS) 2013 conference in Dublin. At a reception at the British embassy, the host, the chargé d’affaires at the embassy, quipped that when they had been first approached to host the group, they had to do some background research to determine whether or not ISAS was some sort of white supremacist organization. The remark, made in jest, is a succinct summation of how the name affects how those outside the field view us and what we do.

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