Current evidence for Anglo-Italian contact prior to 1500 is very rare and the major historical dictionaries contain only a handful of borrowings in either direction. This is in stark contrast to the huge amounts of evidence gathered for language contact between Continental French and Italian prior to 1500 and between English and Italian from 1500 onwards. However, Italians permeated many levels of English medieval society, including the top echelons of the royal Wardrobe and government Mints, London livery companies, wool-producing estate from the Cotswolds to Yorkshire and communities in major ports, such as Southampton. Given this role played by Tuscans, Venetians and the Genoese in the trade and finance of England in the later Middle Ages, conditions were ripe for a large-scale exchange of technical lexis. The thesis demonstrates that borrowing from and into Italian dialects occurred directly on English soil and that Anglo-Norman frequently played an important role in transmission, leading us to re-examine traditional assumptions about the agency of Continental French in the transfer of Italian vocabulary into Middle English. We also reanalyse the stance taken by Italian scholars which (even today) overlooks Anglo-Norman’s place at the centre of medieval English administration; this has led to studies on the earliest loanwords in Italian from England focusing solely on potential etyma from Middle English or Continental French. This project collates a glossary of 140 probable loanwords found in dictionaries and databases, as well as unpublished material from UK and Italian archives. These trade-related texts, dating from the 1200s to the 1400s, include Exchequer documents, port books, accounts, wills, letters, contracts and inventories and offer evidence of reciprocal influence in the professional vocabularies of English and Italian merchants. Certain semantic fields emerge as of particular relevance, such as (from Italian) luxury textiles, sugar, spices, shipping and financial terminology; (into Italian) English administrative and legal lexis, profession names, units of measurement, wool and woollen cloths. Whilst statistical analysis is restrained by the small amount of data collected, we do see a peak period of language contact over the years 1300-1450: the period in which Italian influence on the medieval English economy was at its strongest. Key sources include Bradley's recent edition of the Anglo-Norman Views of the Hosts of Alien Merchants (1440-44), a collection of bureaucratic documents testifying to the first official attempt by an English government to register immigrant workers. We also examine the London account books of the Gallerani of Siena (1305-08) and the Salviati of Florence (1448-51) which offer valuable insight into the multilingual environment of these alien merchants, whose native Tuscan mingled with the already trilingual business lexis of the English capital. Finally, a full transcription and analysis is provided of the extraordinary multilingual writing of an Englishman overseeing a large wool shipment in Tuscany (1450-51): the Cantelowe Accounts. The author, John Balmayn, employs a (so far) unique mixed-language business code, combining Italian, Middle English, Latin and Anglo-Norman, as well as a near-modern use of Arabic numerals that is many decades ahead of his contemporaries back in London. Until quite recently, non-literary material of this type has been largely overlooked by historical linguists in the UK and the effects of a foreign language, such as Italian, on the trilingual bureaucracy of English trade have not yet been examined. Overall, the thesis aims to emphasize the value of such sources and highlight the linguistic legacy of the Italian merchant presence in late medieval England.
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