Analyzing the order of items in manuscripts of the canterbury tales

Matthew Spencer, Barbara Bordalejo, L. I.San Wang, Adrian C. Barbrook, Linne R. Mooney, Peter Robinson, Tandy Warnow, Christopher J. Howe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chaucer's Canterbury Tales consists of loosely-connected stories, appearing in many different orders in extant manuscripts. Differences in order result from rearrangements by scribes during copying, and may reveal relationships among manuscripts. Identifying these relationships is analogous to determining evolutionary relationships among organisms from the order of genes on a genome. We use gene order analysis to construct a stemma for the Canterbury Tales. This stemma shows relationships predicted by earlier scholars, reveals new relationships, and shares features with a word variation stemma. Our results support the idea that there was no established order when the first manuscripts were written.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-109
Number of pages13
JournalComputers and the Humanities
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Canterbury tales
  • Chaucer
  • Gene order
  • Phylogenetic analysis
  • Stemmatology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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