Language, identity and community: A sociolinguistic analysis of language practice of early modern English preachers

Yadomi, Hiroshi (2019) Language, identity and community: A sociolinguistic analysis of language practice of early modern English preachers. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The present study examines the use of morpho-syntactic features in Early Modern English sermons and aims to offer fresh insights into the language variation and change in the specific genres of sermons and to discuss how micro-sociolinguistic community frameworks such as the notions of discourse community and community of practice may be effectively employed to relate the relationship between language, identity and community. The primary concern of the study is whether the religious identities of Early Modern sermon writers may be correlated with their linguistic preferences.
The Corpus of Early Modern English Sermons (CoSEME) has been specially designed and compiled for the specific research questions tackled in the study. The informants include 25 preachers who were born between 1530 and 1630, and the corpus contains 50k words of sermons ascribed to each informant (i.e. 1.2 million words in total). The informants were classified into the four communities of practice over three generations. The rationale for the use of Early Modern sermons as evidence for idiolect has been also discussed, drawing on historical sociolinguistic and pragma-philological considerations. Based on the data and analyses, I identify the following four findings.

(a) Early Modern English sermons are a valid object of enquiry with regard to micro-scopic sociolinguistic analyses. In addition, Early Modern English sermon writers are suitable for multi-layered community analyses.
(b) The use of most linguistic features in the sermons showed a distributional pattern distinct from the general pattern (i.e. letters). The result indicates that the discourse community which owned and maintained the genre gave the linguistic features positive social evaluation and ultimately the status of markers of authentic religious language mainly due to the homage to the traditional liturgical usage. Within the discourse community, linguistic maintenance rather than change was at work
(c) The linguistic preferences of Early Modern English sermon writers are greatly correlated with their Communities of Practice, which relate to writers’ behaviourial patterns and religious identity. Anti-Puritans and some Conformist Calvinists were progressive users who conformed more to the general linguistic pattern at the court, whereas other Conformist Calvinists, Moderate Puritans and Radical Puritans were conservative users who conformed more to the traditional liturgical usage. Thus, the social evaluation of linguistic features observed on the discourse community level was promoted mainly by Conformist Calvinists and Puritans.
(d) In exploring the intersection between language and identity, one needs to contextualize multiple communities which individual speakers are part of and examine the linguistic practices in such communities. Identity does not belong solely to individuals; rather, social identity arises in the interaction with others at communities as loci. How individuals contribute to and are affected by community norms may depend on the type and size of communities. Smaller communities may require more commitment of each member and hence constrain individual social behaviors more strongly. At the same time, the identity of community members in such small communities tends to be homogenous.

The study employs micro-scopic sociolinguistic community frameworks and explore historical communities and texts to offer fresh insights into the intersection between language, identity and community. The major contribution of the study is as follows: in Early Modern sermons, some linguistic features recurring in liturgical language became positively evaluated and eventually markers of authentic religious language, and the religious identities of sermon writers are reflected in their choice of linguistic features, contributing also to the process of social evaluation to varying degrees.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Historical linguistics, sociolinguistics. pragma-philology, community of practice.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PE English
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Supervisor's Name: Smith, Professor Jeremy
Date of Award: 2019
Embargo Date: 4 November 2023
Depositing User: Hiroshi Yadomi
Unique ID: glathesis:2019-75164
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 04 Nov 2019 13:14
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2022 14:20

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