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SU professor to study the origins of written English

1/17/2013

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded Southern University’s Dr. David Porter funding for his research project on the origins of written English.

Porter’s research project, titled “Launching English Intellectual History: The Construction of the First English Encyclopedia at Canterbury in the Seventh Century,’’ will be at least a year-long effort, he said.

There were over 1,200 proposals sent to the NEH and Porter’s effort is one of the less than 80 chosen for funding.

His findings will tell the story of how and why the first written English vocabulary was produced at the Canterbury School in the late seventh century.

“I think this is a big feather in Southern’s cap,” Porter said, adding that last year schools such as the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) had three proposals chosen. His selection puts Southern in the same category with those much larger institutions, he said.

Porter said he was “ecstatic” that his proposal was chosen since he had applied twice before, adding that he thought the chances were slim that someone from a small state school be funded.

Porter said he will be spending 2013 conducting research for his book that may wind up being published some time in 2014 or 2015.

The most difficult part of his research will be reading and understanding ancient manuscripts that were handwritten, he said.

His completed work will be a book on what is the earliest long text in the English language, a text called The Antwerp-London Glossaries, an edition of which Dr Porter published in 2011.  In this text, produced at the first English school in Canterbury in the seventh century, many common English words found their first written form. The Canterbury school was established by two master teachers, Hadrian and Theodore. Hadrian came from North Africa on the border of Egypt and Libya, and Theodore came from Tarsus in Asia, home of the apostle Paul.

“My discovery will be news,” he said.

Porter received his undergraduate degree in English from the University of North Texas and earned a master’s and doctorate in English as a Second Language from the University of Texas at Austin.