Refusals in early modern english drama texts: New insights, new classification

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Due to their largely non-routinized forms and their not being retrievable in com-puterised corpus searches, refusals have hitherto not been examined from a diachronic perspective. The present paper presents an inventory of refusal strategies in Early Modern English drama texts. Five comedies from two periods (1560– 1599 and 1720–1760), respectively, taken from the Corpus of English Dialogues 1560–1760 (Kytö and Culpeper 2006) were examined manually and analysed qualitatively and quantitatively. The analysis lead to an alternative classification of refusals which differs considerably from the frequently used taxonomy by Beebe, Takahashi, and Uliss-Weltz (1990). The proposed classification takes into account three levels of analysis: the propositional content of the utterance, the functional super-strategy, and the speaker’s stance. The development of refusal within the period under investigation partially matches findings regarding related speech acts that show a development towards increased indirectness (Culpeper and Demmen 2011, Pakkala-Weckström 2008, Del Lungo Camiciotti 2008).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-270
Number of pages18
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Drama
  • Early Modern English
  • Historical linguistics
  • Refusals
  • Speech acts
  • Stance

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