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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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5 The Tyndale Corpus 29


C H A P T E R 5 The Tyndale Corpus 5.1 The Parable of the Wicked Mammon, 1528 That faith the mother of all good works justifieth us, before we can bring forth any good work. —William Tyndale, The Parable of the Wicked Mammon The Parable of the Wicked Mammon was the first of Tyndale’s published polemical texts, and the first book to which he signed his name. It was writ- ten and published in Antwerp. This big, busy, bustling city gave Tyndale the cover he needed to work in secret on his ‘heretical’ texts. It was also a city with a vibrant printing industry that, while exercising reasonable caution, wasn’t afraid to publish Protestant texts. Moynahan writes the following, “Antwerp printers published work in Dutch, English, French, Spanish, Ital- ian, and Latin, and in the biblical languages, Greek and Hebrew. They were the leading printers of English language books, outstripping the small Lon- don printing trade” (132). In the introduction, Tyndale explained why he never signed his name to any works he previously published by saying, “I followed the councell of Christe whiche exhorteth men to do their good deeds secretly and to be content with the conscience of welldoing” (1). He tells of being forced by circumstance to use the services of an indiscrete man named William Roye. As an exile and a hunted heretic, discretion was para- mount to survival for Tyndale. Roye published a book that was full of “scur- rilous doggerel attacking [Bishop] Tunstall...

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