Sir Walter Scott's use of period language in the mediaeval and Renaissance novels.
thesisposted on 19.11.2015, 09:01 by Graham John. Tulloch
This is a linguistic rather than a stylistic study. It begins with a survey of Scott's reading in English literature to show the resources at his command. The main body of the thesis describes the basic elements of his period language. Vocabulary is dealt with first, under the following divisions: (1) obsolete and obsolescent words which Scott brought back into use (2) words from historical works which Scott returned to the wider currency of popular literature (3) a small section on words from heraldry (4) archaic words from poetry especially the Spenserian imitations with some discussion of the ballads (5) variants forms of words (6) vogue words still current in Scott's time but relatively unpopular (7) new words created to suit Scott's purposes (8) words from cant dictionaries (9) foreign words. In each section an attempt is made to suggest some of Scott's sources. After this two of the most important problems raised by Scott's use of period diction - the problems of intelligibility and historical accuracy - are discussed in some detail. The frequent use of quotation and the use of oaths and exclamations - two lesser elements of Scott's language - are next dealt with and are followed by a chapter on Scott's archaisms of syntax. The study concludes with an examination of the peculiar language of Sir Piercie Shafton, "the Euphuist", in The Monasteory Scott's qualifications for what he undertook were often extremely good (especially in the renaissance novels) but at other times less than adequate (notably in the early mediaeval novels). An extraordinary memory, a love of words for their own sale and an understanding of the way language reflects history enable him to overcome many of his disabilities. Meanwhile his concern that all should be intelligible to the common reader is matched by a considerable skill in integrating obsolete language with the English of his own day.