Something Borrowed ...

Fri Nov 13 23:52:51 UTC 2009

        Actually, I thought that Robin's original post, while
deliberately nonresponsive to the question, gave some quite interesting
data about the kind of language that Shakespeare used.  I think that you
could get some worthwhile results with broader application of that
approach, though I suspect you would need a program to analyze passages
automatically in order to review a large enough corpus.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
Of Robin Hamilton
Sent: Friday, November 13, 2009 3:10 PM
Subject: Re: Something Borrowed ...

Um, Dave, perhaps I'd better say this -- my original post was meant as a
joke, albeit with serious elements to it.  (The data, for instance, is
legitimate.)  I see I didn't make this sufficiently clear.

> A study of the origins of words used in sonnets would be interesting
> worthwhile. (I, for one, would like to read it.) But it cannot be
> legitimately used to draw conclusions about the wider "English
> vocabulary."
> You can use it draw conclusions about the vocabulary of the particular
> form,
> and, with some caveats, about poetry in general. But that's about the
> limit.

I doubt I'd go even that far.  For one thing, when we're talking about
sonnets, we're talking about a series of temporal shifts not simply in
language but in poetic convention.  And even narrowing it down to one
in time, Wyatt and Surrey writing in the early part of the sixteenth
century, I'd seriously doubt that any observation of the language of
above the level of trivial generality, could be extended to take in the
language of the other.

Actually, there's a test case here that could be performed relatively
easily.  Wyatt and Surrey both translate Petrarch's "Amor, che nel
mio vive et regna," and the two translations could be compared.  This
tell us something interesting and significant about the two specific
in question, but you couldn't go on then to even attempt a
about either Wyatt or Surrey's sonnets as whole, since the texts are
translations in both cases, and many of the sonnets of both writers
translations.  Also Wyatt's early sonnets aren't entirely like, either
language or poetic form, his later ones.  So ...  and that's before we
go on
to considering a shift of roughly fifty years between Wyatt and Sidney

What you seem to be saying, if I'm not misunderstanding you, is that
enlarging the size of the corpus examined will lead to valid general
statements about the nature of language and poetry.  What I was trying
imply, among other things, in my original parodic post, was that simply
enlarging the corpus won't *necessarily lead to answers of any more
significance, unless carefully qualified.

Garbage in, garbage out.  A nonsensical question will generate a

When you say, "You can use [A study of the origins of words used in
[to] draw conclusions about the vocabulary of the particular form, and,
some caveats, about poetry in general,"  I simply want to reply, "No,

I'm sorry this wasn't sufficiently clear in my initial post.


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