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Towards an analysis of pragmatic and stylistic features in 15th and 17th century English letters

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Chapter Summary

A special sub-corpus of 84 letters from the Innsbruck Letter Corpus (1386 to 1688) was compiled with equal amounts of male and female correspondence of the 15th and 17th centuries, so that they could be analysed contrastively in terms of both gender and time. The purpose of the paper is twofold: (1) In terms of method, it attempts to prove that normalisation is indispensable for retrieval, at least in the case of Middle English and Early Modern English. (2) As a contribution to gender studies, the paper contrasts some pragmatic and stylistic features of the language of women and men, and of the language of the 15th and 17th century. Those analysed are deictic expressions, markers of emphasis, expressions of feeling, and metamessages, as expressed in formulaic I hope, I fear, etc., and pragmatic signals of selfexpression and of appeal. The analysis reveals a few characteristic differences between the two centuries, but its main finding is that women generally show more empathy in their letters, using the channel of communication more actively, more intuitively, and more cooperatively.



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