Article published in:Meaning in the History of English: Words and texts in context
Edited by Andreas H. Jucker, Daniela Landert, Annina Seiler and Nicole Studer-Joho
[Studies in Language Companion Series 148] 2013
► pp. 129–154
The role of context in the meaning specification of cant and slang words in eighteenth-century English
This paper aims to explore the ways in which context is necessary for the meaning construction and understanding of the cant lexis (“thieves’ slang”) in actual language use. Taking a historical pragmatic approach, I investigate the use of one cant term (cull) in eighteenth-century texts drawn from two electronic resources: The Old Bailey Proceedings Online and The Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO). My historical discourse analysis of cull demonstrates that context plays a dynamic role in the meaning specification of the term and that different layers of context (linguistic, textual, socio-historical, and cultural) need to be considered in relation to each other for understanding how the meanings of cull are negotiated and appropriated in real language use.
Published online: 18 December 2013