Historical frame analysis
Hoaxing and make-believe in a seventeenth-century Dutch play
In this article, I am concerned with the historical dimension of frame analysis, aiming at an appraisal of the general significance of this method if applied to historical linguistic data, in particular instances of oral or written discourse transmitted from the past. In order to demonstrate how frame analysis can be employed as a means of reconstructing the multiple meaning structures of earlier cases of linguistic communication, I shall examine the opening scene of a seventeenth-century Dutch theatrical play, i.e. Constantijn Huygens’s ribald farce Trijntje Cornelis. The analysis is preceded by a brief outline setting forth some fundamental issues and dilemmas of historical pragmatics. Arguing that there are (at least) two notably distinct ways of approaching the data, I will distinguish between two types of historical pragmatic enquiry, i.e. exostructural and endostructural analysis. As to the question of how these different perspectives can be integrated, I will claim that by and large frame analysis as conceived by Goffman is an effective device. Considering that this sociological theory has its limitations too, the final section will review the extent to which, and in which ways, the application of the notions and techniques of frame analysis enhances our understanding of verbal communication in historical contexts. My analysis of Huygens’s play is thus exemplified within a wider “frame” of scientific interest.
Published online: 30 March 2001
Cited by 3 other publications
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