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The Way a Language Changes

How Historical Semantics Helps Us to Understand the Emergence of the English Exchequer

Ulla Kypta

The article argues that it is not only useful to study the changing meanings of concepts, but also to analyze the way these concepts changed their meaning over time. As a case study, I analyze the transformation of the language of the earliest surviving accounts of the yearly auditing process in England, the pipe rolls from the twelfth century. The language changed gradually and continually, without guidance or a plan. It is highly likely that the language was learned while the pipe rolls were written. Thus, the clerks could easily close their circle. This led to a strong sense of belonging and self-consciousness, which can be affirmed by other contemporary sources, and which laid the foundation for the accounting procedures that became a long-lasting organization.