The lexis of money: a historical approach

Paola Tornaghi

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in libroChapter


The tie linking the English language to economy is twofold. On the one hand it is the conduit channelling international trade, on the other it has undergone changes caused by this international trade. Trade and commerce involve contact and exchange, not only of material goods but also of different realities, ideas and ways of living, and consequently terminology. The lexis of money, together with coins and coinage, becomes an extremely interesting case study, showing how English is a composite language, taking on board loans from many different cultures, most particularly Latin. Anglo-Saxon vocabulary related to money was in fact already enriched by the contact with the Romans, which had brought the circulation of Roman coins and the consequent first transition from a coinless barter society to a monetary one (Green 20002: 219). Also French, from the Normans’ rule onwards, and, to a lesser extent in this specific field, the Scandinavian languages and German contributed to its growth. Once the main stages of English monetary history have been outlined, the paper will offer a lexical and semantic analysis of some meaningful key words, selected from A Thesaurus of Old English (par. 15.01.04 Coinage, money). They will be investigated in both their literal and metaphorical meanings and contexts. Studying words and their related changes is the equivalent of studying the real situations where they are employed and the reasons for their evolution. The present analysis aims at emphasising the constant interaction between different external (historical, social, cultural) and internal (linguistic) facts, which has always characterised the English language. The result is a layered and mixed vocabulary in which perfectly merged Latin and Germanic elements coexist and make the language dynamic and most suitable for adopting, adapting and creating words. The following paper illustrates some partial results of a wider research project and focuses on words for money going back to Old English.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteA lifetime of English studies, Essays in Honour of Carol Taylor Torsello
Numero di pagine12
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2012
Pubblicato esternamente


  • History of the English Language
  • Vocabulary


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