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The distinctiveness of Quaker prose, 1650-1699: a corpus-based enquiry

Roads, Judith (2015)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Abstract

This study ascertains what is recognisably distinctive about seventeenth-century Quaker prose compared to other contemporary varieties of prose, and identifies characteristic features of that style. By compiling and investigating through corpus analysis techniques a collection of texts from a wide range of authors, I reveal key elements of the language through quantitative methods not previously applied to this subject. The study is not genre-based nor is it a literary investigation of a single author. The corpus is unusual in comprising texts by many different people within the same community of practice, demonstrating a remarkable uniformity of style and discourse.
Typical stylistic features include a speech-like informal register, idiosyncratic syntax and sentence length, and I suggest reasons why Quakers developed this sociolect. In key Quaker lexis I found unexpected frequencies and usage, including findings that differ from assertions in the critical literature. Corpus analysis provides new insights into early Quakerism as well as establishing a new mode of research. My findings clarify understanding of early Quaker writing, experience and practice, dispelling some present-day misconceptions.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Mason, Oliver and Thompson, Paul and Adlington, Hugh
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
Department:School of English, Drama, American & Canadian Studies, Department of English
Subjects:PE English
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:5938
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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