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Shakespeare’s Language: Revealing Meanings and Exploring Myths


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Demystify renowned Shakespeare myths and get introduced to corpus-based methods for analysing his use of language in context.

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Debunk and discover common myths surrounding the language of William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare is a global phenomenon, yet there is actually relatively little work specifically devoted to his language, and even less deploying the latest techniques from linguistics.

On this course, you will explore Shakespeare’s language and, more generally, the language of his time.

Over four weeks, you will be introduced to “big data” corpus methods (methods that use computers to explore large volumes of language data) which you can use for your own investigations, and will explore how words and meanings pattern across plays, characters, and more.

Along the way, you will find out why various beliefs about Shakespeare’s life and language–like that he coined an extraordinary number of new words–are actually myths.

What topics will you cover?

  • The general features of the English of Shakespeare’s time, from spellings through words to grammar;
  • The nature of Shakespearean texts, including how their production affected their language;
  • How huge collections of texts can be explored by computer to highlight meanings (and in a more subtle and yet empirical way than current Shakespearean dictionaries);
  • The myths about Shakespeare’s language (e.g. that he coined an extraordinary number of new words); and
  • How fresh light can be shed on the linguistic styles of plays and characters through corpus methods.

Who is the course for?

This course is for anyone interested in Shakespeare, language, and corpus linguistics. This includes English or literature teachers and students.

What software or tools do you need?

To fully engage with this course, you will need to sign up to use an external tool called CQPWeb provided by Lancaster University. Details of how to do this will be provided during the course.

Shakespeare's Language: Revealing Meanings and Exploring Myths
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Silas Bamigbola

Certified Computer Engineer & Author, 'Lost Boys'. I believe in the influence of right information. Join me on Twitter.

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