A Corpus Stylistic Investigation of the Language Style of Shakespeare's Plays in the Context of Other Contemporaneous Plays.

Demmen, Jane Elizabeth Judson (2012) A Corpus Stylistic Investigation of the Language Style of Shakespeare's Plays in the Context of Other Contemporaneous Plays. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Shakespeare's plays occupy a uniquely prominent position in English language and literature. Shakespeare was, however, one among a number of other successful and popular playwrights of the late 16th and early 17th centuries, and, when examined on an empirical basis, his language style has much in common with that of his peers. In this corpus stylistic study, I investigate similarities and differences between the language in Shakespeare's plays and in a range of plays by a selection of other contemporaneous dramatists. My quantitative data is extracted from an existing corpus containing Shakespeare's First Folio, and a new, specialised parallel corpus of plays from similar dates and genres written by other contemporaneous dramatists. This new corpus was constructed during the study. The corpus linguistic methods I use are simple frequency, keyness (Scott e.g. 1999, 2000) and Baker's (2011) new concept of "lockwords". Simple frequency and keyness (linguistic items occurring with comparatively low or high statistical frequency) are established corpus linguistic methods for investigating language styles in literary texts. However, as Baker (2004:349) argues, keywords highlight only the differences between texts. Similarities are also important, to contextualise differences and avoid overstating their stylistic implications. Moreover, as I show in this study, empirical evidence of similarities is of stylistic interest. It reveals preferences for language style features which Shakespeare and other contemporaneous dramatists shared, and which constitute features of the register of Early Modern English drama. I examine three types of language units in each corpus: single words, word clusters and semantic domains. I extract word and word cluster data using Scott's (1999) WordSmith Tools and semantic domain data using Rayson's (2009) Wmatrix software tools. My findings have implications for (a) the distinctiveness of Shakespeare's style, (b) the register of EModE drama and (c) methods for investigating language similarities using corpus linguistic methodology.

Item Type:
Thesis (PhD)
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Thesis (Ph.D.)--Lancaster University (United Kingdom), 2012.
?? miaapqlinguistics.medieval literature. ??
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02 May 2019 16:35
Last Modified:
17 Mar 2024 00:02