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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>

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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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8 A Test of Authorship 71

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C H A P T E R 8 A Test of Authorship If there is a clear, predictable pattern of subjunctive use preference in the works of a particular author as has been demonstrated in the previous chap- ter, that pattern should be employable in determining authorship. As Susan Hockey writes, “whether or not linguistic habits are measurable […] is itself debatable, but various projects have shown that it is possible to characterize an author or a set of texts by linguistic fingerprints” (104). Hockey reviews several studies which attempt to employ linguistic fingerprints in the deter- mination of authorship. The most prominent include reviews of the Pauline texts and Shakespearean authorship (Hockey 119-123). Most of the studies reviewed by Hockey involve statistical analysis based on data produced by concordancer software such as word length, words per sentence, etc. Would it be possible to add a test of subjunctive preference to the list of reliable tests of style and authorship? To answer this question, a text of unknown or disputed authorship must be identified to compare with the results of the Tyndale study. 8.1 Enchiridion Militis Christiani Erasmus of Rotterdam wrote the text commonly called the Enchiridion in 1501. First written in Latin, it was meant to be a ‘handbook’ for the Chris- tian in his daily walk, hence the name. Daniell writes, “In his Enchiridion, Erasmus gives defenses by which the Christian could prepare himself for the inevitable encounters with the world and the Devil” (1994:64). It is also...

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