This week’s UCREL seminar talk will be given by David Brown from Marymount University.


The Voices of Empire: Dialect and the Digital Archive


This presentation reports on a corpus study of historical literary dialect that I began while a student at Lancaster University. The research investigates patterns in the renderings of nonstandard voices, how those patterns change over time, and the ways in which such changes are implicated in evolving ideologies and anxieties related to the British imperial project. To carry out this analysis, a corpus was constructed comprised of 126 novels and plays written by British authors and published between 1770-1930. The dialogue of African diasporic, Chinese, and Indian characters was extracted and then coded for more than 200 separate lexical, morphosyntactic, and orthographic features. The identification of the patterns that are the study’s foundation employs a variety of statistical methods, and they produce a compelling picture of linguistic mimicry, its conventions, contestations, and trajectories. While the emphasis is on quantitative modeling, I will also present qualitative material in order to connect the quantitative patterns to language attitudes and racial logics that circulate in the colonial archive.



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