Where couldst thou words of such a compass find?: an investigation into Milton’s neologisms in the OED in relation to his contemporaries

Roberts, Ellen Frances (2020). Where couldst thou words of such a compass find?: an investigation into Milton’s neologisms in the OED in relation to his contemporaries. University of Birmingham. M.A.

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Abstract

‘It is magnificent; but is it English?’ Middleton Murry (1922: 118) asks of John Milton’s poetic language in Paradise Lost. The question surrounding Milton’s ‘unenglish’ neologisms or ‘ghost Latinisms’ has been long debated amongst literary scholars such as Leavis and Fowler (1968: 432); with the Anti-Miltonists supporting T.S. Eliot’s (1936) argument that Milton has ‘done damage to the English language from which it has not wholly recovered’. This project seeks to advance understanding about Milton’s coining of neologisms by placing such studies on an empirical footing. Through my empirical study of the neologisms attributed to Milton and his literary contemporaries in the Oxford English Dictionary, this study will use quantitative data to test existing literary claims about the linguistic properties of these neologisms.
This dissertation presents a comprehensive study of the neologisms attributed to John Milton and his literary contemporaries in the Oxford English Dictionary. The Oxford English Dictionary provides a productive way of assessing the linguistic nature of the neologisms, given the detailed etymological and lexicographical information the editors have compiled for each word. The new Oxford English Dictionary Application Programming Interface, enables this data to be extracted easily and in its entirety, compared to previous access to the dictionary.
This project aims to contribute to the understanding of the linguistic types of neologism associated with Milton. The neologisms attributed to Milton are compared with both his literary contemporaries, and the literary criticism surrounding his use of language. How are the contrasting literary perceptions relating to Milton’s use of Latinate lexis or morphemes, reflected in the Oxford English Dictionary data? This thesis argues that by contextualising Milton with his early modern contemporaries, the true novelty of his neologisms can be assessed.
The results from this thesis find that Milton’s neologisms do differ from those of his contemporaries, across their word formation, word class, rate of coining, and etymon sources. In particular, Milton is found to use a higher proportion of ‘borrowing hybrids’ in his Latin borrowing, which forms English-Latin hybrids, rather than direct borrowings from Latin. Methodologically, this thesis also demonstrates the potential of the Oxford English Dictionary Application Programming Interface in linguistic research.

Type of Work: Thesis (Masters by Research > M.A.)
Award Type: Masters by Research > M.A.
Supervisor(s):
Supervisor(s)EmailORCID
Adlington, HughUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Grieve, JackUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and Creative Studies, Department of English Language and Linguistics
Funders: Other
Other Funders: University of Birmingham College of Arts and Law
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/10986

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