This paper investigates the formal and functional dimensions of reported discourse in sixteenth-century correspondence. It focuses on how letter-writers report the utterances – spoken, thought and written – of high-status sources (namely, the king or queen), in order to assess how the early modern reporting system compares with the present-day equivalent. The early modern values of authenticity, verbatim reporting and verbal authority are examined. The results taken from the Parsed Corpus of Early English Correspondence (PCEEC) suggest that early modern writers prefer to present royal language using indirect reports with semi-conventionalised linguistic features that clearly mark the authority of the source. Only an elite few, associated with the Court, use direct speech. The paper suggests that reporting practices distinguish between speech and writing, with the latter showing nascent signs of anxiety over verbatim reporting. I argue that these trends arise from the larger cultural shift from oral to written records taking place throughout the early modern period.
Parsed Corpus of Early English Correspondence (PCEEC)
. (Text version) 2006 Compiled by Terttu Nevalainen, Helena Raumolin-Brunberg, Jukka Keränen, Minna Nevala, Arja Nurmi and Minna Palander-Collin, with additional annotation by Ann Taylor. Helsinki: University of Helsinki and York: University of York. Distributed through the Oxford Text Archive.
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