This is a ground-breaking study in the historical semantics and
pragmatics of English in the 16th and 17th centuries. It examines
the meaning, use and cultural underpinnings of confident- and
certain-sounding epistemic expressions, such as forsooth, by my
troth and in faith, and first person epistemic phrases, such as I
suppose, I ween and I think.
The work supports the hypothesis that the British Enlightenment and
its attendant empiricism brought about a profound epistemic shift
in the 'ways of thinking' and 'ways of speaking' in
the English speaking world. In contrast to the modern ethos of
empiricism and doubt, the 16th and 17th centuries were dominated by
an ethos of truth and faith, which manifests itself in (among other
ways) the meanings and usages of epistemic expressions for
certainty and confidence. The study is firmly based on evidence
from texts and collocations in the writings of the day.
The study is conducted using the framework of the Natural Semantic
Metalanguage (NSM), an approach to semantic explanation developed
by Cliff Goddard, Anna Wierzbicka and collaborators. This book can
introduce this approach to readers who are unfamiliar with it, as
well as show how it can open new horizons in historical
The primary audience for this book is scholars and graduate
students in the fields of linguistics and English studies,
especially those interested in historical semantics, pragmatics and
discourse studies. Because of the strongly cultural focus of the
book and its drawing on non-linguistic literature, it will be of
interest to scholars and graduate students in the fields of
cultural history and the history of ideas, as well as in English
studies in a broader sense.
Helen Bromhead, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.
1;Frontmatter;1 2;Table of contents;7 3;Chapter 1. Introduction;12 4;Chapter 2. NSM and historical semantics;41 5;Chapter 3. Verily;67 6;Chapter 4. Surely;90 7;Chapter 5. Forsooth;109 8;Chapter 6. By my troth, in truth;133 9;Chapter 7. By my faith, in faith;161 10;Chapter 8. Methinks, I think;189 11;Chapter 9. I wot;217 12;Chapter 10. I ween;233 13;Chapter 11. I suppose;255 14;Chapter 12. I trow;274 15;Chapter 13. Concluding remarks;291