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Webster New World College Dictionary says both spellings, seigniorial / seignorial, are correct. I chose the latter because I got more Google hits for it. (I too was surprised that the question was closed too early before all this interesting discussion.)
Kim's spelling - at least my Concise Oxford dict. does. I would also ask that questions of this nature are not closed so quickly particularly where there are issues to sort out. There must be a reason, for instance, why my sources refer to 'honour courts' - before just dismissing things out of hand, it is always worth asking whether things were specific to a country or state or even particular lordship in some cases. I, too, was expecting to find seignorial (and spelt that way) to be the answer. But I felt duty bound to report on what I did, in fact, find. As a historian myself, I know how important it is to check and corroborate facts and sources, and as linguists we should all know this, too.
I can see where Helen's dictionary is coming from: the Herrschaftsgerichte would also rule on questions of honour, therefore they were also - but not exclusively - functioning as honour courts.
Another sample of the tasks of a Herrschaftsgericht: "Das Herrschaftsgericht Krombach übte die Distrikts- und die Ortspolizei sowie die volle bürgerliche Gerichtsbarkeit aus, unterstand jedoch der Aufsicht des Landgerichtes (ä.O.) Kaltenberg. (Quelle: Historischer Atlas von Bayern. [Altlandkreis] Alzenau. München 1968. Seite 123 bzw. S. 186)."
I believe the spelling is seigniorial, not seignorial. And please don't close your question so quickly. This one deserved to be kept open to allow folks to contribute to the discussion. There are issues that should still be discussed, such as whether seigniorial and manorial are actually synonymous for Hofgericht and that we may need another term for Herrschaftsgericht as indicated here:
Das Herrschaftsgericht übte die obere Gerichtsbarkeit aus; niedere Gerichtsbarkeiten standen den Gerichtsherrschaften Greifenberg, Kempten und Wetzikon zu. Aus dem frühen Mittelalter stammten ausserdem noch die vier Hofgerichte von Dürnten, Mönchaltorf, Wald und Fischenthal sowie die Dingstatt Binzikon, zu der sieben Dörfer gehörten. Das Herrschaftsgericht verdrängte indessen zusehends die Hofgerichte.
The above texts refer to the term in this way, so I am persuaded, though it was not what I expected it to be, i must admit.
-------------------------------------------------- Note added at 16 mins (2009-02-08 13:47:47 GMT) --------------------------------------------------
Another example, albeit English:
Lordship, Knighthood and Locality: A Study in English Society, C. 1180-1280
by Peter R. Coss
This book is a study in the evolution of English society between c. 1180 and c. 1280. It deliberately avoids any over-concentration upon the country, arguing that this approach tends towards anachronism and distortion. Instead, it emphasises the locality, bearing in mind that the presence of a territorial lordship and an honour court might help to shape local identity. The argument of the book proceeds by means of a detailed analysis of the honour and locality of Coventry, concentrating upon the nature of lordship and upon the social and economic fortunes of knights, free tenants and local administrators, and the relationships between them. A further dimension is added by the existence of an important seignorial borough at the centre of the locality. The book therefore not only explores the role of the town in the evolution of the knightly class, but also examines more broadly the relationship between town and country in this period. Following this analysis the book turns to a broader consideration of the fortunes of the knightly class in the Warwickshire region and to the issues surrounding the evolution of knighthood in general. Thus it makes a significant contribution towards our understanding of the origins of the English gentry. http://www.powells.com/biblio?isbn=9780521520058
Helen Shiner United Kingdom Local time: 07:51 Specializes in field Native speaker of: English PRO pts in category: 93