“The whole of Bengal is in revolt”. A corpus based analysis of letters from the 1857-58 mutinies in India


Letter-writing is an ancient practice which has attracted the attention of literary scholars and historians over the centuries, since it has had a crucial role not only in facilitating the development of states and empires but also in destroying them. Specifically, the desire of exchanging and establishing information networks as well as to the complexity of feelings reflected in these texts have attracted much interest whereas the linguistic features characterising personal letters have received limited attention by corpora analysts. The purpose of this paper is therefore to extend extant research by investigating the linguistic choices made in a corpus of letters written during the 1857-1858 mutinies in India. The methodology is mixed. After a quantitative analysis of the key words, their collocations, their repeated phraseology/clusters and the clusters’ recurring concordances, the emerging data is interpreted qualitatively with the integration of discourse analysis. The findings highlight how letters can be considered a hybrid genre in which the personal, the public, the historic and the social dimensions intertwine with reciprocal influence.


DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v36p283

Keywords: Letters; corpus; mutinies; phraseology/clusters; corpus linguistics.


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