Corpus-Based Network Analysis of Onomastic References in 17th-Century Grammar Writing

Quantitative studies on historical grammar writing are still sparse. Previous studies within the HeidelGram project ( have approached this issue by investigating linguistic means employed by 16th- and 19th-century grammarians when referring to other persons within their works. The present study aims to further fill this gap, by providing a corpus-based analysis of reference strategies in 17th-century British grammar writing.

Onomastic references within the 17th-century component of the HeidelGram corpus will be automatically extracted and visualized in a citation network (see White 2012). Based on concordance lines for each name-based reference, reference and author categories will be assigned. The are six reference categories, which were originally established for the 19th-century grammar data (see Busse et al. 2018, 2019, 2020), such as opinion and quotation. Similarly, there are seven author categories, which were devised when analyzing the 16th-century author references (see Busse et al. 2021), such as grammar author or political figure. The applicability of both categorizations to the 17th-century data will be evaluated via inter-rater reliability measures.

English grammars written in the 17th century were still said to be “heavily influenced by their models – grammars of Latin” (Algeo 1986, 309). Similarly, the ancient Greek and Roman literati were still considered authoritative in terms of linguistic understanding (McCarthy 2020, 24). By means of the citation network as well as the author categorization it will be possible to trace the lasting impact of ancient Greece and Rome as well as the Latinate tradition on English grammar writing.

At the same time, the increasing prevalence of printing presses in the United Kingdom yield an increasing output of English grammars (McCarthy 2020 p.23), so that an increase in references to other English grammars and grammarians may be expected.


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Busse, Beatrix, Kirsten Gather, and Ingo Kleiber. 2020. “A Corpus-Based Analysis of Grammarians’ References in 19th-Century British Grammars.” In Variation in Time and Space: Observing the World Through Corpora, edited by Anna Cermakova and Markéta Malá. Diskursmuster - Discourse Patterns 20. Berlin: De Gruyter.

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