Prayers in the history of English: a corpus-based study

in English Corpus Linguistics: Crossing Paths
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Abstract

Although vernacular English prayers form a fairly important genre, especially during the Late Medieval and Early Modern periods, there are hardly any linguistic studies on them. This article investigates typical (text-) linguistic and discourse-functional properties of prayers (personal pronouns, performative formulas and pattern of address). The results suggest that prayers are – despite their unidirectional character – an interactive and performative genre, manifesting a partly idiosyncratic use of language, which does not seem to have changed very much across the centuries. The study also reveals interesting links to other genres and spheres of discourse (e.g. conversational interaction, administrative writing and personal letters).

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