Mary Astell's words in A Serious Proposal to the Ladies (part I), a lexicographic inquiry with NooJ

3 Dec 2014  ·  Hélène Pignot, Odile Piton ·

In the following article we elected to study with NooJ the lexis of a 17 th century text, Mary Astell's seminal essay, A Serious Proposal to the Ladies, part I, published in 1694. We first focused on the semantics to see how Astell builds her vindication of the female sex, which words she uses to sensitise women to their alienated condition and promote their education... Then we studied the morphology of the lexemes (which is different from contemporary English) used by the author, thanks to the NooJ tools we have devised for this purpose. NooJ has great functionalities for lexicographic work. Its commands and graphs prove to be most efficient in the spotting of archaic words or variants in spelling. Introduction In our previous articles, we have studied the singularities of 17 th century English within the framework of a diachronic analysis thanks to syntactical and morphological graphs and thanks to the dictionaries we have compiled from a corpus that may be expanded overtime. Our early work was based on a limited corpus of English travel literature to Greece in the 17 th century. This article deals with a late seventeenth century text written by a woman philosopher and essayist, Mary Astell (1666--1731), considered as one of the first English feminists. Astell wrote her essay at a time in English history when women were "the weaker vessel" and their main business in life was to charm and please men by their looks and submissiveness. In this essay we will see how NooJ can help us analyse Astell's rhetoric (what point of view does she adopt, does she speak in her own name, in the name of all women, what is her representation of men and women and their relationships in the text, what are the goals of education?). Then we will turn our attention to the morphology of words in the text and use NooJ commands and graphs to carry out a lexicographic inquiry into Astell's lexemes. read more

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