Description, Evaluation and Stance: Exploring the Forms and Functions of Speech Descriptors in Early Modern English

Peter J. Grund


This article explores the form and function of “speech descriptors”. These features describe in some way what a speech event that is being represented was like, such as loudly in She said loudly that she was unhappy. Based on data from Early Modern English witness depositions, the study reveals that a number of aspects of represented speech can be described by speech descriptors and that such descriptors come in a number of linguistic forms. Prepositional phrases, adverbs, and adjective constructions are the most common forms, and speech descriptors can signal aspects of evaluation (e.g., angrily), clarification (e.g., meaning), and formulation hedging (e.g., or words to that effect), among other features. The article underscores the importance of further attention to these descriptors in order to gain a full understanding of the dynamics of speech representation in historical periods.

Full Text: PDF