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I am a doctoral student of English linguistics at the English department of Uppsala University. I am in my third year of the programme and have completed the majority of my coursework, bar one course. My research interests are historical pragmatics and historical linguistics in general. In addition to my coursework, I have completed a research proposal for my thesis. I am currently preparing my first chapter, on methodology and material, for presentation at seminar. My doctoral defence is scheduled for May, 2012.
The title of my doctoral thesis is “For God’s Sake!” Casual oaths in Early Modern English, in which I investigate the use of oaths in Early Modern English. Oaths are swearwords which are classified into three categories: secondary interjections, which are sudden outbursts of emotion (e.g. O God!), asseverations, which affirm or reinforce another statement (e.g. by my life), and imprecations, which invoke evil or misfortune on the addressee (e.g. God damn you). Elements of the Christian religion often occur in the semantic content of oaths (see the above examples), although other kinds of semantic content are also found, such as disease (e.g. a pox on you), clothes and articles worn around the body (e.g. by these gloves, by this sword), human values (by my troth), human concepts (e.g. vengeance!) and things existing in nature (e.g. by skies and stones).
Oaths appear in many forms, although a particularly common one is preposition + (demonstrative/possessive) + noun (e.g. by God, by my life, upon my soul). Factors such as proscription against oaths in the period influenced the coining of euphemistic and corrupted forms, which can appear unusual to the modern eye, such as sblood and udsbud (both from by God’s blood), odso (from by God’s soul) and zoones (from by God’s wounds). The Corpus of English Dialogues 1560–1760 (CED) makes up the largest part of my material, although I will also use the Shakespeare Corpus to discuss one of my research questions.
In my study I discuss several research questions, e.g. does the frequency distribution of profane versus non-profane oaths change over the Early Modern period and is there a correlation between the change and the profane or non-profane content of oaths? How are oaths distributed across the text types of the CED? Is there a correlation between the proscriptive measures taken against oaths in the Early Modern period and the distribution patterns of oaths? Is there a difference between the use of oaths by men and women? And does Shakespeare’s use of oaths differ to his contemporaries’ use of oaths?
In my research proposal, I carried out a pilot study based on around 219 examples (I have now collected almost 2000). In this pilot study, I discussed the distribution of profane and non-profane oaths across the five time periods of the CED. In this issue, I expect the slow progression from a primarily religious society towards a mainly secular one to be a factor influencing the distribution of oaths, specifically that there will be fewer profane oaths and more non-profane oaths in the later periods. Other possible factors are fashion, as well as proscriptive measures against profane oaths.
I also have five years experience of teaching English as a Foreign Language. My first post was at The South London School of Language, London, which provides English courses for foreign students, and my second was at the Folkuniversitetet, Uppsala. I have taught at a range of levels, from beginners to intermediate and advanced.
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