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‘Ye whom the charms of grammar please’

Studies in English Language History in Honour of Leiv Egil Breivik


Edited By Kari Haugland, Kevin McCafferty and Kristian A. Rusten

This collection of articles by colleagues and students of Leiv Egil Breivik presents studies within both core and peripheral areas of English historical linguistics. Core topics covered include the development of existential there and related phenomena, word order, the evolution of adverbials, null subjects from Old to Early Modern English, pragmatics and information structure and aspects of discourse. Contributors also address the emergence of new syntactic constructions in the past and present, language contact and aspects of style in Early Modern English letters and medical texts. The ideological discourses of children’s dictionaries and medieval letters of defence are also explored.
The essays are all empirical studies, based on a wide range of corpora (both historical and contemporary) and applying theoretical approaches informed by Systemic-Functional Grammar, grammaticalization theory, dependency grammar, historical linguistics, sociolinguistics and corpus linguistic methods. Issues of methodology, statistics and corpus construction and annotation are also addressed in several contributions.
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Merja Stenroos: Fugitive voices: Personal involvement in Middle English letters of defence


← 354 | 355 → MERJA STENROOS

Fugitive voices: Personal involvement in Middle English letters of defence

1 Introduction

This paper is a study of expressions of emotion and personal experience in letters written by two late medieval fugitives, the heretic William Swynderby and the Welsh rebel Gruffuth ap Dauid ap Gruffuth.1 It is suggested that such expressions, generally considered untypical of early letter writing, are central in what might be termed letters of defence, written by people accused of offences. Because of their strongly personal character, a study of such texts may be highly instructive in terms of late medieval literacy practices and the pragmatics of letter writing.

There has been much interest in the last decade or so in the historical study of autobiographical writings or ‘ego-documents’ (cf. Dekker 2002). This interest has, above all, to do with the personal and subjective qualities of such texts, often seen to correspond to a more ‘oral’, speech-like writing style. Two recent collections of papers, van der Wal and Rutten (2013) and Baggerman, Dekker and Mascuch (2011) deal with a range of such texts from the sixteenth century onwards, including letters, diaries and recorded first-person narratives.

The medieval period has generally been seen as a poor hunting-ground for the kind of subjectivity and orality that is sought in ego-documents. It has been suggested that the personal qualities associated with letter writing in later periods are largely missing from medieval and Early Modern ← 355 | 356...

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