Language and knowledge in early modern Britain, Paris, November 2019

Language and knowledge in early modern Britain:

circulating words, expanding lexicons

Paris, 15-16 November 2019

Maison de la Recherche (salle Athéna)

Université Sorbonne Nouvelle

4 rue des Irlandais, Paris 75005 (map)


Friday, 15 November

9.15     Welcome coffee

9.45-10.45      Keynote lecture – chair: Laetitia Sansonetti (Université Paris Nanterre & Institut Universitaire de France)

Philip Durkin (Oxford English Dictionary), “An expanding or a fragmenting lexicon? Some possible approaches to loanwords, lexical change, and multilingual practices in Early Modern English”

Words of worlds: exporting power by importing vocabulary

11-12.40         Eastward, ho! – chair: Mylène Lacroix (Université d’Angers)

  • Anders Ingram (University of Oxford), “Arabic and Turkish in early modern English travel accounts of the Ottoman Empire”
  • Ladan Niayesh (Université de Paris), “Mortus Ali and the Sophy vs. Mahomet and the Sultan: linguistic reclaimings of Persia in early modern texts”
  • Chloë Houston (University of Reading), “‘We speak but what wee know’: translating Persia on the seventeenth-century English stage”

12.40-14.45    Lunch break

14.45-15.50    Travel, translation and European emulation – chair: Sophie Lemercier-Goddard (École Normale Supérieure de Lyon)

  • Fiona Lejosne (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3), “Translating the world into Italian: the Venetian collection of Navigationi et viaggi (1550-1559)”
  • Marina Bezzi (Universidade Federal do Amazonas), “Multilingualism and world-making in Richard Hakluyt’s editorial project in the end of the sixteenth century”

15.50-16.10    Coffee break

16.10-17.15    Words and people(s) – chair: Ladan Niayesh (Université de Paris)

  • Jyotsna Singh (Michigan State University), “Hakluyt’s books and Hawkins’ slaves: travel writing and representations of the early English slave trade – 1560-1600”
  • Sophie Lemercier-Goddard (École Normale Supérieure de Lyon), “Lost in translation: a comparative study of cross-cultural encounters in French, English and Dutch travel relations in the early modern Atlantic”

The publisher’s corner

17.30-18.30    Guy Carney (Brepols), presenting Brepols’ new series in early modern studies

Saturday, 16 November

9.15     Coffee

Particulars and universals: expanding knowledge by defining lexicons

Universality and uniformity

9.45-10.50      The language of religion – chair: Anne-Marie Miller-Blaise (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3 & Institut Universitaire de France)

  • Angela Andreani (Università degli Studi di Milano) & Daniel Russo (Università degli Studi dell’Insubria), “The role of Church history in the history of English: a terminological corpus-based analysis”
  • Susan Baddeley (Université Versailles Saint-Quentin), “Writing Catholic, translating Protestant: English translations from French in the later sixteenth century”

10.50-11.10    Coffee break

11.10-12.15    The language of philosophy – chair: Sandrine Parageau (Université Paris Nanterre & Institut Universitaire de France)

  • Fabien Simon (Université de Paris), “A universe over the Channel: the circulation of knowledge concerning a universal language between England and France in the seventeenth century”
  • Élodie Cassan (UMR IRHIM), “Bacon’s English and Latin expositions of the doctrine of idols: their common features and differences”

12.15-14.15    Lunch break

Specific lexicons

14.15-15.20    Colours and painting – chair: Rémi Vuillemin (Université de Strasbourg)

  • Armelle Sabatier (Université Paris Panthéon-Assas), “Translating the ‘American’ cochineal in Elizabethan culture”
  • Anne-Valérie Dulac (Sorbonne Université), “Miniatures in translation: words for a gentle art”

15.20-15.40    Coffee break

15.40-16.45    Latin and/as cant – chair: Agnès Lafont (Université Paul Valéry Montpellier 3)

  • Jean-David Eynard (University of Cambridge), “‘A little mint where you may coin words for your pleasure’: cant and linguistic subversion in Dekker’s pamphlets”
  • Laetitia Sansonetti (Université Paris Nanterre & Institut Universitaire de France), “‘Nemo alius explicat’: Latin in Thomas Nashe’s Unfortunate Traveller (1594)”


Mylène Lacroix, Université d’Angers (CIRPaLL)
Sophie Lemercier-Goddard, École Normale Supérieure de Lyon (IHRIM, UMR 5317, CNRS)
Anne-Marie Miller-Blaise, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3 (PRISMES) & Institut Universitaire de France
Ladan Niayesh, Université de Paris (LARCA, UMR 8225, CNRS)
Laetitia Sansonetti, Université Paris Nanterre (CREA) & Institut Universitaire de France


In the early modern period, the humanist practice of translation of sacred as well as secular texts created new readerships in the vernacular for authoritative texts, religious or classical. While the circulation of vernacular languages within Europe contributed to reshuffle hierarchies between classical languages and vernacular tongues, the role of a unified language to promote unity was highlighted at a national level in manifestos (such as Joachim Du Bellay’s Deffence et Illustration de la Langue Francoyse from 1549, itself adapted from Sperone Speroni’s Italian 1542 Dialogo delle lingue). Transmission via translation was thus not only vertical, but also horizontal, and the contacts between European languages allowed for expanding local lexicons from sources other than Latin or Greek. In England, the controversy about “inkhorn terms” – those foreign borrowings, mainly from Romance languages, which were deemed superfluous by some because Saxon equivalents already existed – is well known.

In this context, the conference will focus on the role of translation and lexical borrowing in the expansion of specific English lexicons (erudite, technical, or artisanal) as evidenced in printed texts from the early modern period. In an age of technical progress, geographic discoveries, easier communication, but also of growing interest in theorizing national literature and defining literary genres, how does multilingualism in print contribute to define specialised lexicons? What is the technical, but also the rhetorical import of the foreign words used in English texts? Are polyglot writers and speakers represented as particularly knowledgeable? Particular attention will be paid to translations (including self-translations) and to texts which feature a significant portion of non-English vocabulary in order to try and evidence potential correlations between the language used, the type of knowledge the author aims to share, the authority s/he intends to claim, and the targeted readership(s).

Possible topics of investigation include (but are not limited to):

  • moral philosophy, natural philosophy, history and politics
  • manuals of craftsmanship and treatises on arts and techniques
  • arts of rhetoric and poetry, apologies for poetry or drama
  • poetic, prose and dramatic works making use of foreign lexicons or foreign characters
  • travel narratives

Scientific Committee:

Anne Coldiron (University of Florida)
Mark Greengrass (University of Sheffield)
Ton Hoenselaars (Universiteit Utrecht)
Agnès Lafont (Université Montpellier 3 – Paul Valéry)
Sandrine Parageau (Université Paris Nanterre)