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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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Notes Chapter 3 1 Although not pertinent to the development of the English subjunctive per se, a look at the Gothic paradigm might help illuminate the true Proto-Germanic history of these forms. The preterit-stem optative of the verb to be, taken from Bennett (59) is offered here for that pur- pose: sg. 1/2/3 wēsjáu wēseis wēsi dual [wēseits] pl. 1/2/3 wēseima wēseiþ wēseina 2 By “old simple subjunctive,” I believe Curme means “Proto-Germanic.” Chapter 6 1 Since the Tyndale Bible does not include verse numbers, I am including the verse numbers from the King James Version. 2 This category is problematic because of its close resemblance to imperative mood construc- tions. I have included it in reporting the Harsh data, but have excluded it from my study to avoid confusion with the imperative mood. 3 My use of the term “modal preterite” is defended later in Section 6.4. 4 Traugott writes that original inflectional subjunctives in Early Modern English “had been largely overtaken by phrases with auxiliaries like should, would, might, may – especially should” (149). She speaks of these subjunctive forms in terms of their “survival,” and I use the term “moribund” following her lead. Chapter 8 1 It is interesting to note that the subjunctive has made a resurgence in Present Day English, while should constructions have lost ground. Traugott writes, “Recently there has been a trend in American English to favor the subjunctive once more as opposed to the indicative...

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