The Construction of a Period Dialect

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Adrian Pablé

The Construction of a Period Dialect. The Language of Arthur Miller's The Crucible and its Sources

ISBN 978-3-88476-943-0, 196 S., kt., € 22,50 (2007)

(FOKUS - Linguistisch-Philologische Studien, Bd. 32)

Writers of historical fiction often 'periodize' their characters' speech. Some of them rely exclusively on previous models of archaicized language, while others embark on linguistic research themselves. Arthur Miller's period dialect in The Crucible (1953), his celebrated play about the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692, is a prime example of this reconstructive approach to language. This study considers three sources which inspired Miller's remarkable seventeenth-century New England dialect in significant ways - William Shakespeare, the Salem Witchcraft Papers and Eugene O'Neill - and documents Miller's skills in exploiting the language found in these sources for his own artistic purposes. It also attempts to assess to what extent Miller's period idiom agrees with present-day linguistic evidence on Colonial American English.


"This book shows Pablé's solid expertise in both historical linguistics and literary criticism and underlines the value of combining linguistic and literary analysis in the study of literature. It is to be hoped that this book will encourage more research based on a similar combination of linguistic and literary aspects."

Matti Rissanen, Journal of Historical Pragmatics 11.2 (2010)

"Pablé shows persuasively and in great detail how Miller exploited diverse donor sources from various periods to construct a New England dialect in his play The Crucible."

Erik Redling, ZAA: Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik 57.1 (2009)