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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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A P P E N D I X A Additional Materials Susan Hockey writes, “In simple terms statistics are used for two purposes. One is to create a description of the data and the other is to make predic- tions” (115). The original purpose of this study was to establish a subjunctive fingerprint for the polemical works of William Tyndale that could be used in subsequent studies as a test of authorship. The software employed in this study produced statistical data for the corpus, and for each text separately. Because of this, I was able to look at statistical data that corpus linguists typically use in studies of stylometrics and attribution. When separated, one of the texts, The Practice of Prelates, did not seem to present the same statis- tical numbers as the other two. The differences were not formally addressed in the body of this study for two reasons: Scholars have never questioned the authorship of this text, and the statistical differences between the texts are not consistent. I include them in this appendix, and in chart form in Appen- dix B, in the interest of full disclosure and to suggest the opportunity for fur- ther research. Hockey lists three tests typically used for assigning authorship: Word length, type/token ratio1, and sentence length (117). The test of mean word length revealed that all three Tyndale texts were the same–4 letters per word. Since the text lengths varied, I looked only at the standardized type/token ratios for each text...

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