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The Use of Modal Expression Preference as a Marker of Style and Attribution

The Case of William Tyndale and the 1533 English "Enchiridion Militis Christiani</I>


Elizabeth Bell Canon

Can an author’s preference for expressing modality be quantified and then used as a marker of attribution? This book explores the possibility of using the subjunctive mood as an indicator of style and a marker of authorship in Early Modern English texts. Using three works by the sixteenth-century biblical translator and polemicist, William Tyndale, Elizabeth Bell Canon establishes a predictable preference for certain types of modal expression. The theory of subjunctive use as a marker of attribution was then tested on the anonymous 1533 English translation of Erasmus’ Enchiridion Militis Christiani. Also included in this book is a modern English spelling version Tyndale’s The Parable of the Wicked Mammon.


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2 Computational Analysis of Texts 5


C H A P T E R 2 Computational Analysis of Texts My study of three polemical texts attributed to the 16th-century author, Wil- liam Tyndale, is a corpus-based inquiry. Many researchers have used corpora to gain an understanding of various linguistic aspects of any given body of work. These studies may produce a better understanding of: • grammatical features based on naturally-occurring examples • semantics, or meaning of a given word, phrase, etc. • stylometrics • attribution Some of the most trusted names in linguistics have employed corpora in their work. Jespersen, and Quirk, for example, assembled a corpus and re- viewed it looking for examples of particular grammatical types (See Meyer 11). Harsh used a corpus of samples taken from texts which he intended to analyze. What makes my study different from theirs is the use of the com- puter to make the counts more reliable and to produce related statistical data which can further illuminate the result of the initial search. 2.1 The Nuts and Bolts of a Computer-Assisted Corpus Analysis There are certain ingredients present in all computer-assisted analyses of corpora. The first is the text itself. At the risk of stating the obvious, the text and its format are of crucial importance to the integrity of the study. It must not be an image document, but an electronic one. Hockey writes, “the term ‘electronic text’ is used specifically to mean a transcription of a text, rather than an electronic or digital image of it” (1). It must be searchable,...

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