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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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3 The History of the Subjunctive Mood 9


C H A P T E R 3 The History of the Subjunctive Mood There has always been more uncertainty among scholars regarding the nature and definition of mood than about any other of the so-called properties. ―A.G. Kennedy, Current English A discussion of the subjunctive mood cannot begin without a clear under- standing of the nature of modality. In his book, Introduction to Early Modern English, Manfred Görlach writes, “Modality expresses the speaker’s attitude to the propositional content of a statement.” In English, there are three types of grammatical modality, or mood: Indicative mood used in statements of fact, imperative mood used in commands; and subjunctive mood. The sub- junctive is arguably the least understood of the three, as the path of its history is not as straight. Elizabeth Closs Traugott defines the subjunctive mood as the following: “Subjunctive’ is a verbal inflection associated with such prop- erties as potentiality, contingency, hypothesis, conjecture, unreality, exhorta- tion, prohibition, wishing, desiring. Strictly speaking, [the subjunctive] signals the attitude of the speaker” (Traugott 98). In a more syntax-based definition, Wayne Harsh writes that “The subjunctive mood […] is formal opposition shown by verbal inflection or syntactic contrast indicating (1) the relationship(s) between one verb in the sentence and another verb structure expressing wish, command, desire, etc., and (2) that the speaker or writer is thinking in terms of non-fact or modification of fact, as distinct from fact (indicative mood) or command (imperative mood)” (Harsh 13). The historical path of the subjunctive...

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