An investigation into the language and letters of Bess of Hardwick (c. 1527-1608)

Marcus, Imogen Julia (2012) An investigation into the language and letters of Bess of Hardwick (c. 1527-1608). PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The English language was in a state of transition during the Early Modern period, which is defined here as extending from 1500 to 1700. In particular, it is suspected that changes were taking place on the borderline between speech and writing. However, these changes have rarely been researched in a systematic way. This study investigates these changes with reference to the writing contained within a corpus of original manuscript letters from Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury (known as Bess of Hardwick), c.1527 to 1608.

Manuscript letters are an excellent data source to use in order to investigate the changes taking place on the borderline between speech and writing during the Early Modern period because the writing contained within them has a different, possibly closer, relationship to speech than the writing contained within other kinds of text dating from the period. However, the use of manuscript letters as data sources is not straightforward because the notion of authorship is complex. In particular, letters can be holograph or scribal.

In order to address this authorship issue, this study marries techniques from the fields of palaeography and historical pragmatics. Following an introduction, it is divided into two analytical parts. Part 1 outlines how a specially-designed scribal profiling technique was used to identify Bess’s holograph handwriting, and the handwriting of five of her scribes in a corpus of her manuscript letters. Part 2 outlines how four lexical features, namely AND, SO, FOR and BUT, were identified as salient discourse-organizational devices within the prose of Bess’s holograph letters, before presenting four case studies that compare the discourse function of these four lexical features in the six hands identified in Part 1. Having identified how these features pattern in the letters, Part 2 compares the results of the case studies with previous studies, and draws conclusions about linguistic change in the period.

The study’s original contribution to knowledge is therefore threefold. Firstly, it showcases a reliable, replicable scribal-profiling methodology that can be assessed and critiqued on its own terms. Secondly, it shows how it is possible to successfully combine a sensitivity to the complex nature of Early Modern English manuscript letters with effective qualitative analyses of the language contained within them. Thirdly, with the findings produced by the four case studies, the thesis offers significant and important contributions to the fields of historical linguistics, manuscript studies and literary scholarship. The study also has implications for the editing of Early Modern English letters, the study of women’s history and letter- writing, and for biographical studies of Bess of Hardwick more specifically.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PE English
Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > Z004 Books. Writing. Paleography
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Supervisor's Name: Wiggins, Dr. A.E.
Date of Award: 2012
Depositing User: Ms IJ Marcus
Unique ID: glathesis:2012-4443
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 16 Jul 2013 14:24
Last Modified: 03 Aug 2018 08:22
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