Words for MAN in the Transmission of Piers Plowman.
“The present paper is a study of a single lexical set, words for ‘man, (male) person,’ in the scribal transmission of Piers Plowman. The aim is to study, with focus on a specific group of words, the behavior of Middle English scribes with regard to lexis; a task, which it is held here, is a necessary pre-requisite for any larger-scale survey of lexical distribution in Middle English” (375). Stenroos’s study examines the instances of the following synonyms for “man” in versions of PPl: berne, freke, gome, lede, renk, segg, wye. The study does not draw very firm geographical conclusions other than to suggest that burn and wye are predominantly of western usage at this time, and that renk and segg are not well known among the scribes of PPl. Stenroos also observes that in case of ambiguity, most scribes, with the exception of about a half dozen who privilege sense, have the tendency to preserve alliterative patterns, and choose substitutions that fit both sense and prosody.