The Gersum Project: Follow-On Funding

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic

Abstract

The vocabulary of Standard English includes approximately 600 words from Old Norse, the language of the Scandinavian newcomers who settled in Britain from the 9th to the 11th centuries (popularly known as 'the Vikings'). They tend to be everyday words (e.g. husband, skin, window; happy, ill, ugly; cast, die, scare), even personal pronouns (e.g. they), prepositions (e.g. until) and conjunctions (though). Many more terms are still used in the modern dialects of the areas where the Vikings originally settled (i.e. the so-called Danelaw; e.g. dale, fell, gowk; bain, gormless, mickle; attle, flit, laik). The Gersum Project has revolutionised the way in which we identify Norse loans in English by developing an innovative classification based on the reliability of the evidence for Norse derivation. A freely accessible online database classifying over 900 terms, a collection of essays and a series of journal articles will make our findings available to the academic community and other interested readers. We have also built a significant public engagement agenda, delivering 17 public talks, taking part in 4 radio interviews, etc. These activities have evidenced non-academic audiences' interest in the effects that the country's multicultural past has had on the English language, both at the local and national level.

With this follow-on project we aim to widen the public impact of our work by developing activities and resources that focus primarily on two sectors: education (primary and secondary school children and their teachers) and cultural heritage. We will:

1. Develop a series of online age-appropriate educational resources that will shape the way in which the lasting cultural impact of the Viking presence in England is taught in thousands of primary and secondary schools across the country. The resources will focus on present and past manifestations of Norse-derived words in English in general and the northern dialects in particular, with special emphasis on the North-West Midlands (the area where the texts included in the Gersum corpus originate). The resources will include written content, audio recordings by speakers from different dialectal areas, video recordings of lectures by the Gersum Team and other experts, interactive activities and downloadable resources that can be used in the classroom. Recent changes in the History A-level curriculum of the OCR examining board, where the prominence of this topic has significantly increased, underpin the timeliness of these resources.

2. Establish focus groups with teachers and examination board members, a teacher panel and training sessions in the use of the resources. Collaborating with the relevant stakeholders throughout the project and having the support of various educational organisations will enable us to create relevant and engaging resources that can be widely publicised and used.

3. Train York Archaeological Trust's (YAT; our project partner) front-of-house staff (particularly those working at the JORVIK Viking Centre) in topics concerning the Vikings and their presence in England, with particular focus on their linguistic impact. Need for training has arisen as a result of JORVIK's closure from 2015 to 2017 because of flood damage and subsequent staff changes. We will also provide YAT with a staff training manual for future use and linguistic information for their virtual learning environment.

4. Hold two family days at St Mary's Creative Space (Chester), in conjunction with Cheshire Record Office, and YAT's Barley Hall (York), respectively, as part of the nationwide Being Human festival, where visitors of all ages will be invited to explore the rich linguistic heritage of these dialectal areas through a series of activities aimed at different ages, including arts and crafts, storytelling and public lectures. The data and feedback that we gather during these days will further help the development of our educational resources.

Planned Impact

Our project aims to generate significant cultural and financial impact in relation to the two sectors whose interests are at the core of our work (education and cultural heritage) and to the general public:

1. Education sector: our educational resources aimed at primary and secondary school pupils will support the teaching of courses about the English language (dialectal variation and diachronic change) and British history (Anglo-Scandinavian contacts during the early Middle Ages). They will provide teachers with materials that facilitate the delivery of well-informed and engaging lessons and will invite pupils to develop their knowledge further through self-study. The resources will aim to increase the pupils' interest in these subjects and hence their uptake in GCSE and A-Level courses, and, subsequently, at degree level, a particularly welcome outcome at a time when Arts and Humanities subjects are struggling to recruit students. Given the user numbers reported for the Pearson apps aimed at primary school pupils that the Gersum Team helped develop, and the fact that over 4,000 secondary schools in the country follow the OCR History and the AQA and Edexcel English Language A-Level courses, these resources will help shape the way in which these topics are taught across the country. Furthermore, by engaging teachers from over 30 schools in our focus groups, teacher panel and teacher training sessions, our work will contribute to the teachers' own professional development, a requirement for promotion.

2. Cultural heritage sector: our resources and two family days will draw attention to (and consequently, help increase the use of) the breadth of materials held by local and national institutions (primarily, the Cheshire Record Office and the British Library) for the study of past and current sociohistorical and linguistic topics which are of academic and public interest. The York Archaeological Trust (YAT), our project partners, will further benefit from our work in a number of ways: (i) by helping the Gersum Team to establish teacher focus groups, a panel and training sessions, they will strengthen and widen their existing links with local schools and, through them, the local community; (ii) the printable resources specifically linked to visits to the JORVIK Viking Centre, the linguistic information that will complement YAT's existing educational resources in their own virtual learning environment and the links to our educational resources, our training of between 10 and 20 of their front-line staff and production of a training manual for future use, and the family day to be held at YAT's Barley Hall, will all contribute to attract more visitors to their (physical and virtual) sites, thus boosting their income generation and, ultimately, facilitating the survival of this independent charity.

3. General public: the two family days, which will include hands-on activities, storytelling and public talks, will help redress views on linguistic 'correctness' and regionalism by highlighting the rich linguistic heritage of the northern dialects; this work will also have a positive impact on feelings of self-worth and the linguistic identity of the speakers of these dialects. Moreover, our training of YAT's staff will have a direct effect on visitor experience. With approximately 500,000 visitors per year, their sites are pivotal centres for the promotion of public understanding of the Scandinavian (and, more widely, sociohistorical) heritage of Yorkshire and Britain more generally.

In order to monitor the impact of our work, we will gather feedback from different sources: evaluation forms at the two family days; testimonials from teachers about the impact of our educational resources, and from YAT about our training and future uses of the training manual; and statistical information on the use of various parts of the Gersum website.

Publications

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Description This Follow-On Funding project continues and expands the very successful public engagement work of 'The Gersum Project: The Scandinavian Influence on English Vocabulary' (AH/M011054/1) (2016-19), which gave rise to new opportunities to deliver impact and engage with schools, heritage organisations and the wider public. The main objectives of the Follow-On project have been to deepen and shape public understanding of the cultural influence of the Scandinavian newcomers who settled in Britain from the ninth to the eleventh centuries (popularly known as 'the Vikings'), with a particular focus on the lasting linguistic effects that their presence in early medieval England had at both a national and a local level. The significant use of Norse-derived words in Standard English (approximately 600 items) often goes unnoticed because these terms are not associated with particular conceptual areas, nor do they feature uncommon sounds, spellings or stress patterns, as tends to be the case with Latin, Greek and French loans. Moreover, a large number of Norse loans are still very strongly associated with the dialects spoken in the areas where the Scandinavians settled in the ninth century (i.e. 'the Danelaw'; broadly speaking, to the north and east of a line joining London and Chester). Public views on language are still dominated by concern for linguistic prestige and 'correct' usage, which often leads the speakers of these dialects to experience negative feelings towards their linguistic heritage. With this project, we have celebrated the linguistic and cultural heritage of the English language in general and the northern English dialects in particular, thus helping to redress views on linguistic 'correctness', prestige and regionalism. We have met these aims by collaborating with, and producing resources to be used by, (1) primary and secondary school pupils and teachers and (2) the cultural heritage sector. Since the achievements of the project fall within the spheres of public engagement and impact, they will be described in more detail under the 'Narrative Impact' section of this submission. Despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been able to produce the resources we had intended (and in the case of our training materials for JORVIK, reimagining these resources has led to them being created in an enduring, virtual form rather than as a one-off, physical event), although the roll-out of (and further consultation with teachers about) our website resources for schools has inevitably seen some delay.
Exploitation Route Our two main beneficiaries are primary/secondary schools and the cultural heritage sector. The resources we have produced for schools (described under 'Narrative Impact') will be relevant to teachers and pupils at thousands of schools across the U.K. They will support the teaching of English language (with a focus on language variation and change) and British history (particularly the eighth to eleventh century period), thus providing teachers with materials that facilitate the delivery of well-informed and engaging lessons, including at GCSE and A-level. The training videos we have produced for the JORVIK Viking Centre in York form a permanent record and will continue to be used by the centre's front-of-house staff into the future. It is hoped that staff training will directly impact on the visitor experience and hence numbers of visitors at JORVIK.
Sectors Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description This Follow-On Funding project continues and expands the very successful public engagement work of 'The Gersum Project: The Scandinavian Influence on English Vocabulary' (AH/M011054/1) (2016-19). This additional period of funding has enabled the project team to develop resources and activities which meet the multifaceted needs of primary and secondary school teachers and pupils at thousands of schools across the country regarding the cultural context of Anglo-Scandinavian England, and the linguistic outcomes of the interactions between speakers of Old English and Old Norse. These resources and activities will be presented primarily in the form of content-focused web-pages, including written materials, sound files and recorded lectures, hosted by the University of Sheffield's Digital Humanities Institute (DHI). Visitors to the site will be guided through the geographical, cultural and social contexts of surviving Norse terms and their past attestations from the Middle Ages to the present day, including in a range of well-known works of literature. Amongst many other features, the site will include an analysis of the results of a sociolinguistic questionnaire produced especially for the project, which was distributed through the Gersum project and York Archaeological Trust's social media accounts as well as at in-person events in 2019; it had more than 200 responses, which capture the current use of dialectally restricted Norse loans. Specially recorded video presentations will supplement the written materials in the website, and include key Old English, Middle English and Old Norse texts relevant to the Scandinavian presence in England and Anglo-Scandinavian interactions. This material will be accompanied by a set of interactive resources, where visitors will be engaged in linguistic games and activities. There will also be a set of printable resources to be used in the classroom and accompanying teaching guides. These resources will support the teaching of English language (with a focus on language variation and change) and British history (particularly the eighth to eleventh century period) in thousands of schools nationwide, providing teachers with materials that facilitate the delivery of well-informed and engaging lessons. They will in addition stimulate pupils' independent learning and, particularly in the areas that were heavily Scandinavianized, enhance feelings of self-worth and pride in regional heritage, shaping how primary and secondary school pupils engage with the medieval past and its effects on current cultural life. The website and its resources will be promoted by key organizations including the OCR, AQA and Edexcel exam boards; the JORVIK Viking Centre in York (via its own VLE, which is extensively used by local schools); the English and Media Centre, a charity that supports the work of secondary school teachers; and Twinkl, a website widely used by primary and secondary school teachers to access ready-made resources. The production of these materials has proven particularly challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic. All the content described above has been assembled and is being prepared for uploading to the website being created by the DHI. The completion and launch of this site have been delayed owing to the pandemic, but we are hopeful that it will go live within the first half of 2021. The focus group meetings we had planned with teachers have also been more limited than we had hoped, again owing to the pandemic (which has, of course, badly impacted teachers' time and availability). Contacts with teachers have nonetheless been maintained online, and we hope that final training and feedback sessions can be arranged once school teaching patterns return to normal. We have also collaborated closely with York Archaeological Trust's high-profile JORVIK Viking Centre. JORVIK is the only museum in the UK devoted specifically to the Scandinavian presence in Britain and Ireland, and welcomes approximately 500,000 visitors each year (in a normal year). In 2019, members of the project team ran a 'family day' at YAT's Barley Hall site in York (part of a series of events for the 2019 Being Human Festival, which also involved collaborating with the Cheshire Record Office for an event in Chester). In 2020, the Gersum Project provided linguistic and cultural training to the Viking Centre's new front-of-house staff. This training had originally been envisaged as a one-off, in-person event. Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was re-imagined as a series of video recordings, which have the advantage of forming a permanent record which YAT can use to train staff on an ongoing basis. It is hoped that staff training will directly impact on the visitor experience and hence numbers of visitors at JORVIK. This partnership with JORVIK has extended into further collaborations, including participation by the Gersum team in the inaugural 'That JORVIK Viking Thing' online event in February 2021. This event was a major success for JORVIK, attracting viewers from 61 countries and significantly increasing JORVIK's social media followings. We have been invited to continue to work with JORVIK on similar events in the future. In a testimonial letter, YAT's Head of Interpretation and Engagement confirms that collaboration with Gersum directly benefits JORVIK in a range of ways, including 'demonstrating to our audiences that JORVIK is engaging with and facilitating new academic research into the Viking period'.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description Being Human family days 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact On 16 and 17 November 2019, the Gersum project team and its collaborators held two 'family days' as part of the 2019 'Being Human Festival'. On 16 November we were in Chester, for a day of events (held at the Unity Centre; http://www.theunitycentre.org) in conjunction with the staff of the Cheshire Record Office; and on 17 November we were in York, at Barley Hall (https://barleyhall.co.uk), working with the team at the York Archaeological Trust. These events engaged audiences of all ages in a series of activities, broadly covering the history of local dialects from the Middle Ages to the twenty-first century, with a particular focus on the Norse-derived words recorded in those dialects. Both days included games, puzzles and other hands-on activities; storytelling based on 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' (featuring professional storyteller Catherine Heinemeyer and musician Tamasin Greenough Graham); and talks about the Scandinavian influence on early English language and literature by members of the Gersum team (Sara Pons Sanz and Brittany Schorn in Chester, and Richard Dance and Brittany Schorn in York). Besides a general questionnaire on the event, the audience were invited to fill in our sociolinguistic questionnaire and comment on their own linguistic use and heritage. The two events enabled visitors to further their understanding of and pride in the linguistic heritage of their local areas (we had a number of comments from visitors that the events had changed their views of the medieval past), and helped the hosting institutions showcase what they can offer to those interested in exploring the past of their local communities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://beinghumanfestival.org
 
Description Cambourne talk and teacher consultation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact On 24 January 2020, Gersum RA Dr Brittany Schorn gave a 45-minute 'Student Aspirational Talk' to pupils and teachers at Cambourne Village College. The subject was the Old Norse influence on English vocabulary. The talk led to many interested questions and further discussion with pupils and teachers. Subsequent to this event, a number of teachers at Cambourne (along with teachers from elsewhere in the region) took part in consultations with Dr Schorn about the kinds of resources they would find most useful and supportive in this area of history and language teaching. These discussions have fed directly into the development of the Gersum 'Follow-on Funding' website and teachers' resources, and the teachers involved have committed to trialling the project's resources.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description JORVIK staff training 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact In 2019-20, the Gersum project team has collaborated closely with York Archaeological Trust's (YAT) high-profile JORVIK Viking Centre - a museum devoted specifically to the Scandinavian presence in Britain and Ireland. In 2020, the Gersum Project provided linguistic and cultural training to the Centre's new front-of-house staff (between 10 and 20 people) via six video recordings (three lectures and three Q&A sessions), which the Centre is now using to train its staff on an ongoing basis. (This training had originally been envisaged as a one-off, in-person event. Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was re-imagined as a series of video recordings, which have the advantage of forming a permanent record which YAT can use to train staff on an ongoing basis.) The videos deal with the linguistic features of Old English and Old Norse, the impact of Anglo-Scandinavian linguistic contact on the English language, and a series of wider topics on cultural interactions and practices. As well as project member Dr Brittany Schorn, the videos featured two further experts, who donated their time for free: historian Dr Rory Naismith (University of Cambridge), who talked about war tactics, trade and coinage; and archaeology and literature expert Dr Christina Lee (University of Nottingham), who discussed Anglo-Saxon and Viking science, religious beliefs, and burial practices. With approximately 500,000 visitors per year, YAT's sites are important hubs for the promotion of public engagement with the Scandinavian (and, more widely, sociohistorical) heritage of the local area and the whole of Britain. Staff training will directly impact on the visitor experience and hence numbers of visitors. The production of these training videos will ensure the long-lasting impact of our partnership. YAT's Head of Interpretation and Engagement, Dr Chris Tuckley, has sent a testimonial letter, confirming that collaboration with Gersum directly benefits JORVIK in a range of ways, including 'demonstrating to our audiences that JORVIK is engaging with and facilitating new academic research into the Viking period'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description That JORVIK Viking Thing: Pons Sanz talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In February 2021, Gersum Project team member Dr Sara Pons Sanz took part in the online event 'That JORVIK Viking Thing', held by the JORVIK Viking Centre in York. The event ran between 15-20 February, and welcomed viewers from 61 countries, selling 2573 tickets and significantly increasing JORVIK's Facebook, Instagram and Twitter followings. Dr Pons Sanz gave a thirty-minute online talk on 'The Integration of Norse-derived terms into English' (which has received 93 views and 152 impressions).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.jorvikvikingcentre.co.uk/whats-on/that-jorvik-viking-thing-2021/
 
Description That JORVIK Viking Thing: Schorn talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In February 2021, Gersum Project team member Dr Brittany Schorn took part in the online event 'That JORVIK Viking Thing', held by the JORVIK Viking Centre in York. The event ran between 15-20 February, and welcomed viewers from 61 countries, selling 2573 tickets and significantly increasing JORVIK's Facebook, Instagram and Twitter followings. Dr Schorn gave a thirty-minute talk on 'Gods and poets: the mythology of Old Norse literature' (which has received 108 views and 168 impressions).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.jorvikvikingcentre.co.uk/whats-on/that-jorvik-viking-thing-2021/