The Grammar of Stance in Early Eighteenth-Century English Epistolary Language

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Abstract

This article explores the grammar of stance in the letters produced by a network of early eighteenth-century English writers associated with the essayist and diplomat, Joseph Addison. I conduct a corpus linguistic analysis of the relative occurrence of modal auxiliaries and lexically explicit stance expressions with the first person subject to explore the grammatical realization of speaker involvement in epistolary discourse. Examination of the kinds of grammatical constructions favored by the stance expressions indicate that verbs like think, hope, and believe appear to favor zero-marked complement clauses with first person subjects, whereas know favors wh-complement clauses. Close analysis reveals that writers deploy stance expressions in conventional as well as idiosyncratic ways in epistolary discourse.

Corpus Analysis

Language Structure and Language Use

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