25.3202, Diss: English; Historical Ling: Marcus: 'An Investigation into the Language and Letters of Bess of Hardwick (c.1527 - 1608)'

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LINGUIST List: Vol-25-3202. Tue Aug 05 2014. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 25.3202, Diss: English; Historical Ling: Marcus: 'An Investigation into the Language and Letters of Bess of Hardwick (c.1527 - 1608)'

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Date: Tue, 05 Aug 2014 16:12:04
From: Imogen Marcus [imogenmarcus at gmail.com]
Subject: An Investigation into the Language and Letters of Bess of Hardwick (c.1527 - 1608)

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Institution: University of Glasgow 
Program: English Language 
Dissertation Status: Completed 
Degree Date: 2012 

Author: Imogen Julia Marcus

Dissertation Title: An Investigation into the Language and Letters of Bess of
Hardwick (c.1527 - 1608) 

Dissertation URL:  http://theses.gla.ac.uk/4443/1/2012MarcusPhD.pdf

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)


Dissertation Director(s):
Jeremy J. Smith
Alison Wiggins

Dissertation Abstract:

The English language was in a state of transition during the Early Modern period, which is defined here as extending from 1500 to 1700. In particular, it is suspected that changes were taking place on the borderline between speech and writing. However, these changes have rarely been researched in a systematic way. This study investigates these changes with reference to the writing contained within a corpus of original manuscript letters from Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury (known as Bess of Hardwick), c.1527 to 1608. 
Manuscript letters are an excellent data source to use in order to investigate the changes taking place on the borderline between speech and writing during the Early Modern period because the writing contained within them has a different, possibly closer, relationship to speech than the writing contained within other kinds of text dating from the period. However, the use of manuscript letters as data sources is not straightforward because the notion of authorship is complex. In particular, letters can be holograph or scribal. 
In order to address this authorship issue, this study marries techniques from the fields of palaeography and historical 
pragmatics. Following an introduction, it is divided into two analytical parts. Part 1 outlines how a specially-designed scribal profiling technique was used to identify Bess’s holograph handwriting, and the handwriting of five of her scribes in a corpus of her manuscript letters. Part 2 then outlines how four lexical features, namely AND, SO, FOR and BUT, were identified as salient discourse-organizational devices within the prose of Bess’s holograph letters. Part 2 then presents four case studies that compare the discourse function of these four lexical features in the six hands identified in Part 1. Having identified how these features pattern in the letters, Part 2 compares the results of the case studies with previous studies, and draws conclusions about linguistic change in the period.
The study’s original contribution to knowledge is therefore threefold. Firstly, it showcases a reliable, replicable scribal-profiling methodology that can be assessed and critiqued on its own terms. Secondly, it shows how it is possible to successfully combine a sensitivity to the complex nature of Early Modern English manuscript letters with effective qualitative analyses of the language contained within them. Thirdly, with the findings produced by the four case studies, the thesis offers significant and important contributions to the fields of historical linguistics, manuscript studies and literary scholarship. The study also has implications for the editing of Early Modern English texts, the study of women’s history and letter-writing, and for biographical studies of Bess of Hardwick more specifically.






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