Optimality Theory Modelling of the Use of Capital and Small Initial Letters: An Example Analysis of the English Texts around 1730

Autor(en): Grueter, Majana
Stichwörter: capitalization; early modern period; Language & Linguistics; Linguistics; optimality theory; orthography; syntactic and semantic criteria for capitals
Erscheinungsdatum: 2009
Volumen: 28
Ausgabe: 2
Startseite: 203
Seitenende: 230
Based on the view that orthography is a means of reader orientation, this article examines the role of capitalization in a sample of English early modern texts. The format of optimality theory provides the instrument for an in-depth analysis of the use of capital letters, as well as an adequate method of describing the variation within the texts. The default criteria for capitals are of syntactic character, whereas semantic constraints prohibit majuscules. Several aspects of grammar and meaning play a part in the evaluation of different spellings, distinguishing between automated processes (lower ranked constraints) and claims of semantics and the lexicon (higher ranked constraints). This article exemplifies the analysis with a short excerpt from an 18(th) century novel and illustrates the three parts of my approach: first, the division of the text into its constituents; second, an evaluation of the capitalization on the basis of syntactic and semantic criteria, and eventually the representation in an optimality theory tableau. Together, these steps help to establish a profile of the text which pinpoints the specific hierarchy of the different constraints.
ISSN: 07219067
DOI: 10.1515/ZFSW.2009.025

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