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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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9 Conclusion 79

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C H A P T E R 9 Conclusion Computer assistance does not bring pure objectivity to text analysis. It is evident that intuition is involved at several stages: which features to study, how delicately to code, how to interpret the findings. It has long been widely recognized that stylistic statistics merely provide quantitative evidence whose significance can be assessed only by experience and common sense. —Michael Stubbs, Text and Corpus Analysis The data presented in the previous chapter are the result of what must be considered a very primitive computer-based analysis. More tests will pro- duce more results. Certainly, the nature and usage of the subjunctive mood has been studied and reported on in other research projects, including those presented in previous chapters. The use of the subjunctive mood as a marker of authorship, style, etc. is tricky business. The complication of interpreting degrees of meaning be- tween one category and the next within the umbrella of subjunctive usage makes recreating such a study very difficult. As Kennedy said (and I para- phrase. See quote at Chapter 2 opening), the subjunctive mood is a source of great controversy and disagreement. However, at a period in the history of the English language when its usage was waning, it can be a useful tool in indicating stylistic tendencies of any given author. For researchers of Tyn- dale, Early Modern English, or the present-day legacy of Tyndale’s English on the biblical register, an objective, quantified study of subjunctive forms in his original...

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