University of Leicester
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The language of Thackeray with special reference to the novels and tales.

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posted on 2015-11-19, 09:00 authored by Kenneth Charles. Phillipps
This thesis is a study of the language, and to a lesser extent the style, of Thackeray, chiefly as these appear in the novels and tales. The aim and method are similar to those of G. L. Brook in The Language of Dickens. Brook states in the Preface to his book that the two-fold aim is to help in the understanding of both the history of the English language and the novels of Dickens'. Much the same is attempted in this study of Thackeray. Consistent with this aim, my method, again following that of Brook, is the examination of words, phrases etc., in so far as they differ from present usage, or in so far as they are especially characteristic of the author I have studied. Clearly, in the first chapter on Style, the emphasis is on the particular characteristics of the language of the novelist; whereas the second chapter, on Regency English in the Victorian period, has more to say about changes that occurred in the language during Thackeray's lifetime (l8l1-63). A third chapter on Slang discusses substandard language used by characters in the novel. There is little attempt at etymology (the etymology of slang is often exceedingly problematical); I am more concerned with the role of slang in the narrative. This third chapter is concerned with particular words, whereas the fourth, on Register, deals with levels of conversation generally, as well as with the novelist's diverse methods of representing speech. There is a section on Grammar, Word-formation and Lexis; largely from the point of view of the historian of language, though the novelist's special contributions to the vocabulary of English are also listed. A sixth section, again following the example of Brook, is concerned with Regional Dialects, and the way in which the novelist represents these, whether faithfully or, at times, facetiously. The seventh chapter is especially concerned with the English of Henry Esmond, considering the characteristics of the pastiche language of that novel, and how far there are elements of anachronistic Victorian English in what purports to be a narrative of the reign of George II. Here both of Brook's aims are illustrated: salient differences between eighteenth and nineteenth century English appear, but Thackeray's particular skills as an archaizer can also be demonstrated. An eight chapter on Proper Names is included to sample and savour the novelist's unequalled gift in wittily appropriate nomenclature; and a concluding one on Modes of Address is modelled on an article on such addressives in the novels of Trollope by George Watson (see Bibliography). It is concerned to illustrate the more formal, and accordingly more varied modes of address in Victorian times.


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University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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