Professor Emeritus

Nils-Lennart was educated at Stockholm University and Yale University. He received a Ph.D. from the former in 1976 with a dissertation entitled The English Modal Auxiliaries: A Stratificational Account. Since then he has worked at Lund University as Research Fellow, 1977; at Stockholm University as Research Fellow, Docent, and Senior Lecturer, 1978-1991; and at the University of Trondheim / NTNU as Professor of English Linguistics 1991-2000. Since 2000 he is Professor of English Linguistics at Stockholm University, where he teaches courses on English syntax, the history of the English language, and Old and Middle English.


His major research project aims at producing a new text edition of the Middle English twelfth century homily collection Ormulum (written by the Augustinian canon Orm from Lincolnshire), based on a new transcription of the existing manuscripts (Bodleian Library, MS Junius 1: Orm’s holograph; Lambeth Palace Library, MS 783: a seventeenth century copy of parts of the text, including parts which have subsequently been lost from Junius 1). Orm’s original text (before he executed a series of changes, deletions and additions, partly in order to normalize his linguistic expressions) will be reconstructed as far as possible. The manuscripts were scrutinized on location in 1997 and again in 2002. With the support of a generous grant from the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) in 2003, a complete set of high-resolution digital colour images of the manuscript pages were acquired from the Bodleian Library. Computer enhancement of these images has made it possible to determine the precise wording of a number of passages of erased text which could not be made out from direct inspection of the manuscript pages. The project will ultimately result in an electronic text edition which contains a diplomatic, as well as a critical, edition of Orm’s original and final versions of the text, stored as hypertext. Meanwhile, a printed critical edition of the text is also being prepared. In parallel with the production of the text edition, the text will also be investigated as a witness to linguistic variation in early Middle English, with special reference to recently discovered forms and constructions in Orm’s original (non-normalized) version of the text.

During the period 2011–2013, work on the Ormulum will concentrate on a survey of the Latin sources of the homilies and the ways in which Orm integrated the ideas from his Latin source texts into his own Middle English text; this work is sponsored by a grant from the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet). Where earlier scholars sought for Latin sources for entire homilies in the collection, the analysis in this project will be more fine-grained and operate at a lower textual level, searching the database Patrologia Latina for Latin correspondences to individual fits (text passages) or parts of fits in the Ormulum. Pilot studies (2007a,d) have shown that Orm was capable of working within a range of techniques from more or less direct translation to an intricate mosaic-like combination of fragments from various Latin sources yielding a coherent Middle English text. 

For more information about the project, please refer to its new (as of December 2014) website: The site is best viewed with Google Chrome.

Among other research interests over the years may be mentioned J.R.R. Tolkien’s use of linguistic variation in his works of fiction, the historical development of topicalization in English, and Old English syntax.


Selected publications:

2013. ‘Orrmulum: Genre membership and text organisation’. In Of butterflies and birds, of dialects and genres: Essays in honour of Philip Shaw, ed. by Nils-Lennart Johannesson, Gunnel Melchers and Beyza Björkman, 77–89. Stockholm: Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis.

2012. ‘“Rihht alls an hunnte takeþþ der. /Wiþþ hise 3æpe racchess”: Hunting as a metaphor for proselytizing in the Ormulum’. In The Use and Development of Middle English: Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Middle English, Cambridge 2008, ed. by Richard Dance and Laura Wright, 231–242. Bern: Peter Lang.

2010 b. ‘“Þonne hate we hine morgensteorra”: On verb complementation in Old English’. English Historical Linguistics 2008. Volume I: The history of English verbal and nominal constructions, ed. by Ursula Lenker, Judith Huber and Robert Mailhammer, 11–28. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 

2010 a. ‘Bring on the leprawns´. Review of Dimitra Fimi, Tolkien, race and cultural history : from fairies to Hobbits. Palgrave Macmillan 2009. English Today 26.60–61.

2008 c. ‘Icc hafe don swa summ þu badd: An Anatomy of the Preface to the Ormulum’. SELIM: Journal of the Spanish Society for Medieval English Language and Literature 14.107–140.

2008 b. ‘“Þurrh be33ske. 7 sallte tæress”: Orm’s Use of Metaphor and Simile in the Exegesis of John 1:51’. Selected Papers from the 2006 and 2007 Stockholm Metaphor Festival, ed. by Nils-Lennart Johannesson and David C. Minugh, 85–94. Stockholm Studies in English 103. Visby: ab.

2008 a. ‘An Anatomy of Metaphors and Exegetical Statements in Medieval Homiletic Writing’. Selected Papers from the 2006 and 2007 Stockholm Metaphor Festival, ed. by Nils-Lennart Johannesson and David C. Minugh, 21–27. Stockholm Studies in English 103. Visby: ab.

2007 d. ‘The four-wheeled quadriga and the seven sacraments: on the sources for the “Dedication” of the Ormulum’. Bells Chiming from the Past: Cultural and Linguistic Studies on Early English, ed. by Isabel Moskowich and Begoña Crespo, 227–245. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

2007 c. Stæfcræft: An Introduction to Old English Syntax. Stockholm: Dept of English, Stockholm University.

2007 b. ‘Quenya, the Black Speech and the Sonority Scale’. Arda Philology 1.24–31.

2007 a. ‘Orm’s relationship to his Latin sources’. Studies in Middle English Forms and Meanings, ed. by Gabriella Mazzon, 133–143. Studies in English Medieval Language and Literature 19. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

2006 b. ‘Bread, Crumbs, and Related Matters in the Ormulum’. Selected Proceedings of the 2005 Symposium on New Approaches in English Historical Lexis (HEL-LEX) , ed. by R. W. McConchie, Olga Timofeeva, Heli Tissari, and Tanja Säily, 69–82. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.

2006 a. ‘To don uss tunnderrstanndenn: an examination of the use of infinitive complementation after causative DON in the Ormulum’. “These things write I vnto thee ...Essays in honour of Bjørg Bækken, ed. by Leiv Egil Breivik, Sandra Halverson, and Kari E. Haugland, 153–162. Oslo: Novus Press.

2004. ‘The etymology of rime in the Ormulum’. In Worlds of Words. A tribute to Arne Zettersten, ed. by Cay Dollerup. Nordic Journal of English Studies 3.61–73.

2000 b. ‘On the time-depth of variability: Orm and Farmon as h-droppers’. Language Structure and Variation, ed. by Magnus Ljung, 107–119. Stockholm Studies in English 92. Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell International.

2000 a. The Ormulum (electronic edition, demo version) (here).

1998. ‘Three New Words in the Ormulum’. Notes and Queries N.S. 45.416–420.

1997 b. ‘The Speech of the Individual and of the Community in The Lord of the Rings’. News from the Shire and Beyond, ed. by Peter Buchs and Thomas Honegger, 11–47. Zurich: Walking Tree Publishers.

1997 a. ‘Overwriting, deletion and erasure: exploring the changes in the Ormulum manuscript’. Journal for English Studies in Norway 2, vol. 2:21–29.

1995. ‘Old English versus Old Norse Vocabulary in the Ormulum: the Choice of Third Person Plural Personal Pronouns’. Studies in Anglistics, ed. by Gunnel Melchers and Beatrice Warren, 171–180. Stockholm Studies in English 85. Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell International.

1994. ‘Subcreating a Stratified Community—On J.R.R. Tolkien’s Use of Non-standard Forms in The Lord of the Rings’. In Nonstandard Varieties of Language. Papers from the Stockholm Symposium, 9–11 April, 1991, ed. by Gunnel Melchers and Nils-Lennart Johannesson, 53–63. Stockholm Studies in English 84. Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell International.

1990. ‘Consistency and Change in Old English Topicalization’. Studier i Modern Språkvetenskap, N.S. 9.22–47. Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell International.

1989. ‘Subject topicalization in Ælfric’s homilies’. Instead of Flowers. Papers in Honour of Mats Rydén on the Occasion of his Sixtieth Birthday, August 27, 1989, 109–121. Umeå Studies in the Humanities 90. Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell International.

1987. ‘Topic Marker Selection in Late Middle English’. Studier i Modern Språkvetenskap, N.S. 8.46–52. Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell International.

1986. ‘Be þam þe þu ær tealdest: On the Use of Marked Topics in Old and Middle English’. Proceedings from the Third Nordic Conference for English Studies, ed. Ishrat Lindblad and Magnus Ljung, 113–124. Columbia, S.C.: Hornbeam Press.

1984 b. ‘A Mirror of the Soul—On the Indexical Function of Gollum’s Speech’. Studier i Modern Språkvetenskap, N.S. 7.65–90. Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell International.

1984 a. ‘Oh gracyous god my harte it burstes: On the Historical Development of Unmarked and Marked Topics in English’. The Eleventh LACUS Forum 1981, ed. by Robert A. Hall, Jr., 432–446. Columbia, S.C.: Hornbeam Press.

1982 b. ‘Studier i Tolkiens språk. I. Solidaritet och makt, intimitet och förakt – om bruket av thou i The Lord of the Rings’. Arda 10.1–12.

1982 a. ‘On the Use of Postmodification in English Noun Phrases’. The Eighth LACUS Forum 1981, ed. by Waldemar Gutwinski and Grace Jolly, 187–195. Columbia, S.C.: Hornbeam Press.