Historicising corpus stylistics: keywords and collocation in William Langland’s Piers Plowman

Cordell, Jacqueline (2019) Historicising corpus stylistics: keywords and collocation in William Langland’s Piers Plowman. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This study presents a uniquely interdisciplinary survey of the language in Piers Plowman. Drawing from digital methods and theories developed in corpus linguistics, this investigation examines the relationship between linguistic form and literary function in the poem’s lexis by comparing the language contained in the text to a reference corpus of contemporary late medieval narrative poetry. This comparison reveals quantitatively-established text features and patterns that, when placed within theoretical frameworks in literary linguistics, offer a point of departure for analysing aspects of the poem’s literary style with a pivotal focus on lexis addressing themes of consumption and the law. This approach does not provide a comprehensive analysis of the linguistic features contributing to the style characterising Piers Plowman, but rather operates as a case study illustrating the analytical benefits of taking a corpus approach to the poem.

This research follows an existing tradition of corpus linguistic investigation of literary style but is groundbreaking in being the first to examine pre-Shakespearian texts written in Middle English. It builds on existing corpus linguistic theory and methods, testing their applicability to (and durability in) much more distant historical fields than generally explored in corpus stylistic investigations. Extending corpus analysis of style from early modern to late medieval English literature answers calls for further examination of style in historical texts (Short 2008: 3; Busse 2010b: 33, Bray 2014: 485), and contributes to existing frameworks and methods aimed at studying large amounts of literary discourse embedded within its appropriate historical context. In doing so, my investigation also offers an innovative exploratory approach to the study of poetry within a historical dimension.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Harvey, Kevin
Jones, Mike
Keywords: corpus linguistics, literary linguistics, Piers Plowman, William Langland
Subjects: P Language and literature > PR English literature
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of English
Item ID: 56152
Depositing User: Cordell, Jacqueline
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2019 14:52
Last Modified: 22 Jul 2021 04:30
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/56152

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