Adrian Pable adrian.pable at ENS.UNIBE.CH
Fri May 10 13:17:54 UTC 2002

Hello everybody,

is there anyone who can give me some advice on how to proceed with
the topic of my phD thesis?

My research will be focused on the PERCEPTION / REPRESENTATION OF
SPOKEN EARLY AMERICAN ENGLISH in literary texts (prose but primarily
drama), as well as movies and live enactments in heritage parks; my
primary sources are Nathaniel Hawthorne (prose), Mary E. Wilkins and
Arthur Miller (drama) and I want to compare these authors' ways of
're-createing' 17th-century colonial American in writing: what
features have been chosen by those authors to represent the language
of the past to their contemporary readership and what are the
(synchronic) factors which influence a certain
perception/representation of a language of the past (in my case early
American English). While literary texts provide useful insights into
the grammatical, lexical and orthographic aspect of  an artificial
Period Language, audio-visual media (e.g. film/live performance) also
influence the audience's perception of a language of the past on the
level of sound. What choices do Hollywood producers/directors make
when having their characters speak through actors: do they simply
talk like people from the 20th century? Here I will rely on
productions of The Scarlet Letter (1926 vs 1995) and The Crucible
(1996). Lastly I'd like to go to New England and record/talk to
first-person actors in historic villages (Plimouth Plantation: The
living Museum); which specific choices induced the responsible people
to head for a certain direction rather than another (what accents did
they choose, what archaic vocabulary, what grammatical structures,
how far were their choices limited by intelligibility, etc.)

Do you know of any works that have been done in the fields of
AUTHENTICITY-STUDIES theoretical/universal or upon any language?
Obviously my special interest is in the perception of and attitude
towards early American English (1620-1700) not as contemporaries
viewed it at the time but as people living in later centuries did!!
There must be MYTHS around as to how the first 'Americans' spoke
(e.g. Elizabethan English, like Shakespeare, they had no unified
grammar, they always addressed each other with THOU, verbs had no
inflections, their language corresponds to present-day substandards
and dialects, it is today's folk-speech etc). By studying literary
authors, directors of movies and historic sites etc. one may get an
insight into the stereotypes that 'folks' in general are subject to.
On the other hand, these people have the power to shape our ling.
awareness of how our ancestors might have spoken. I feel there should
be more around about this specific fields of FOLK
CENTURIES (which authors may have used to camouflage their pseudo
archaic language) than I have come across so far.

I thank you for any help you can give me, like giving me the names of
scholars working in this field or, more importantly, books/articles
published so far!!!

Yours sincerely,
Adrian Pablé
University of Berne, Switzerland

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