Happy birthday, Jane Austen!

Yesterday, if she had lived that long, Jane Austen would have turned 240. Imagine all the novels she would have been able to write! Not to mention letters …

Birthdays, it appeared, were important events in her life, as an analysis of her letters shows. Read all about it on OUP’s blog.

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The Mary Hamilton Papers available online

Letters carefully transliterated from the Mary Hamilton Papers in the John Rylands Library are freely available to any interested reader. The corpus currently stands at 161 letters dated 1764-1819 – over 70,000 words of text. The Image to Text project website displays each letter with mouse-over notes and clarifications alongside a high-quality image of the original letter, plus metadata. The site works best with Chrome or Firefox.

Mary Hamilton Papers
The content will be of interest to historians, students of Late Modern English letter-writing, and historical linguists.

For offline research, including corpus searches or systematic use of metadata, we are happy to supply a zip archive of fully compliant TEI/XML files plus a zip of plain text versions, a frequency list of word forms in the corpus and a table of word counts per letter. The corpus is for non-commercial use, is free, and is being added to each year. Please see the website for a short online registration form.

Contact David Denison and Nuria Yáñez-Bouza for further information.


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A treasure trove indeed

Not Late Modern and not English either – still, a real find, this treasure trove of undelivered Dutch letters from the 17th sentury, 2600 of them.

From what I heard on the radio yesterday, the letters will remained unopened. They will be read though, with the help of new X-ray techniques. What will they be about, and what will we be able to learn about the language of the period? Exciting news indeed.

Thanks to Carol Percy for the link.

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Jane Austen and James Stanier Clarke

If you are interested in what this satirical print has to do with Jane Austen – read the following article, which has just come out:

Tieken-Boon van Ostade, Ingrid (2015), Jane Austen’s correspondence with James Stanier Clarke, in Anglistentag 2014 Hannover, Proceedings, ed. by Rainer Emig and Jana Gohrisch. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag. 79-90.

Small hint: you will find the image in the Wikipedia entry on James Stanier Clarke. The key question is: would Jane Austen have known about its existence?

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Belle van Zuylen’s letters

The Belle van Zuylen Correspondence project is looking for volunteers to transcribe the letters (most of which are in French). Look at their blog (in Dutch) for more information.

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Periphrastic do and Colonial Lag

And since she sent me both blogposts all at once, here is Esther Spaanderman’s second one, also on the Adams Papers: “But as I speak french very imperfectly and she understands not a syllable of English I suppose she did … Continue reading

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Dont vs. don’t: early American usage?

Esther Spaanderman is the last of my students who owes us her blogposts. Here is the first one:

John Adams (Wikipedia)

A while ago, I studied periphrastic do in the letters of John Adams (1735-1826), the second president of the United States. As I was interested in colonial lag, I compared a selection of Adams’ letters to letters by a British contemporary, Horace Walpole (1717-1797). Walpole has already been the subject of other posts in this blog.

Walpole (Wikipedia)

One of the linguistic differences I observed in the writings of Walpole and Adams concerns the spelling of the contraction of do not. Adams consistently used a contracted form, whereas Walpole rarely did so. The sample of the Adams correspondence I analysed contained eighteen instances of a contraction of do not, but spelled as dont. In Walpole’s correspondence I found only two instances of the contraction, spelled don’t. According to the OED, the form without the apostrophe has been in use since the 1700s, though from the 1800s onwards it came to be was regarded as non-standard. As for don’t, the OED indicated that this form, which is now the standard, has been in use since 1600.

I noticed in the OED entry on do is that the quotations with dont mostly appear in American sources. One quotation from 1670, for example, is from the Rhode Island Historical Society Collections, and another from the Journal and letters, 1767–1774 by the American Philip Vickers Fithian. This made me wonder whether dont might be somehow associated with early American English. So far, I have been unable to find any evidence for this assumption, but perhaps readers of this blog can help me here. So please let me know if you have ever come across dont (without the apostrophe) in Early or Late Modern English texts. Would it indeed  be possible that dont is more common in American texts? Please leave a comment.

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