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Aug 11, 2011 - amples in Samuel Pepys (1), John Evelyn (1), Aphra Behn (4), and John. Locke (2).14 A slightly richer harvest is to be reaped from the drama ...

095711 Chevalier_Honegger_095711 Chevalier_Honegger Titelei 08.11.11 16:05 Seite 1

Sarah Chevalier and Thomas Honegger (eds.) Words, Words, Words: Philology and Beyond Festschrift for Andreas Fischer on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday

095711 Chevalier_Honegger_095711 Chevalier_Honegger Titelei 08.11.11 16:05 Seite 2

Andreas Fischer

095711 Chevalier_Honegger_095711 Chevalier_Honegger Titelei 08.11.11 16:05 Seite 3

Sarah Chevalier / Thomas Honegger (eds.)

Words, Words, Words: Philology and Beyond Festschrift for Andreas Fischer on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday

095711 Chevalier_Honegger_095711 Chevalier_Honegger Titelei 08.11.11 16:05 Seite 4

Bibliografische Information der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek verzeichnet diese Publikation in der Deutschen Nationalbibliografie; detaillierte bibliografische Daten sind im Internet über http://dnb.d-nb.de abrufbar. Cover illustration: Beowulf by Anke Eißmann Picture of Andreas Fischer by David Werner

We would like to thank the following institutions and foundations for their support: Dr. Wilhelm Jerg-Legat Hochschulstiftung der Universität Zürich Zürcher Universitätsverein © 2011 Narr Francke Attempto Verlag GmbH + Co. KG Dischingerweg 5 · D-72070 Tübingen Das Werk einschließlich aller seiner Teile ist urheberrechtlich geschützt. Jede Verwertung außerhalb der engen Grenzen des Urheberrechtsgesetzes ist ohne Zustimmung des Verlages unzulässig und strafbar. Das gilt insbesondere für Vervielfältigungen, Übersetzungen, Mikroverfilmungen und die Einspeicherung und Verarbeitung in elektronischen Systemen. Gedruckt auf chlorfrei gebleichtem und säurefreiem Werkdruckpapier. Internet: www.francke.de E-Mail: [email protected] Druck und Bindung: Hubert & Co, Göttingen Printed in Germany ISBN 978-3-7720-8435-5

Table of Contents Sarah Chevalier & Thomas Honegger Introduction


List of Publications by Andreas Fischer


Dieter Bitterli Two Old English Prose Riddles of the Eleventh Century


Lukas Bleichenbacher Discourse about Diglossia Swiss German and Standard German in the Newspapers


Margaret Bridges Verbal Duelling on the Beach: Cultural Translation and the Agonistic Vocabulary of Kyng Alisaunder


Hans-Jürgen Diller Discourse, Matrix and Genre in Historical Semantics: ofermōd and emotion


Udo Fries Melancholy Accidents in Early English Newspapers


Andreas H. Jucker “What’s in a name?” Names and Terms of Address in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet


Dieter Kastovsky Recursiveness in Word-Formation Grammatical, Conceptual and Typological Factors


Hans-Peter Naumann English Keywords in Old Norse Literature


Pam Peters Emergent Conjunctions


Ursula Schaefer Romance Suffixation in the History of English New Ways of Solving an Old Problem


Daniel Schreier Words and the New Englishes Borrowing as Evidence of Contact and Ancestral Effects


Annina Seiler The Function of the Sword-Hilt Inscription in Beowulf


Gunnel Tottie On the History of try with Verbal Complements


Richard J. Watts The Black Death and the Development of English A Tale of Two Archives


Hans-Jürgen Diller

Discourse, matrix and genre in Historical Semantics: ofermōd and emotion

Abstract The usefulness of two categories, discourse and genre, for historical semantics is explored. After a plea for a rather narrow definition of discourse (Foucault 1972:48 [French original 1969:67]: “discourses create the objects of which they speak”) and a rather loose definition of genre (Biber 1989:5–6: “text categories readily distinguished by mature speakers”), it is claimed that discourse, supplemented by Hacking’s (2000) concept of matrix, is useful diagnostically, whereas the usefulness of genres is primarily heuristic. The claim is substantiated in two exemplary analyses: the first brings the concepts of discourse and matrix to bear on the much-debated meaning of ofermōd in the Old English Battle of Maldon, while the second demonstrates, against Dixon (2003), a nonor pre-discursive use of emotion.


Introduction, mainly on discourse and matrix

It is a commonplace that meaning depends to a large extent on context, both linguistic and extra-linguistic. Among contexts, the kinds of text in which linguistic units tend to occur form a special group, and it is on these that this paper will concentrate (‘linguistic units’ includes both lexemes and constructions). The two most prominent ‘kinds of kind of’ text are discourse and genre. Discourse is more fashionable but has become “wideranging and slippery” (Taylor 2001:8), and “it is hard to see how we could avoid the proliferation of discourses until there were as many as words in the dictionary” (Burr 2003:175). And there is no sign that proliferation will stop there! We find, for instance, “[d]iscourses [plural!] of ‘lone’ motherhood”, including a “counter-discourse” (Carabine 2001:271), Burr (2003:65) refers to “fox-hunting discourses”, which she sub-divides into a “pro-” and an “anti-fox-hunting discourse”. Such distinctions may be overly delicate, but they highlight an important point which some German scholars tend to neglect, perhaps owing to the influence of Habermas. In the French and Anglo-Saxon traditions discours and discourse are very different from discussion. A discourse is not just a publicly conducted debate with opposing opinions, but a set of statements or assertions which support each other. Habermas (German original


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1981) conceives of Diskurs as a negotiation of concepts and their definitions, where the best argument will (or at any rate should) win and where power (ideally) plays no part. In this respect, Foucault’s discours is the direct opposite. It exercises power, and the individuals participating in it (who empirically do make it into a debate) are of little or no account (Hacking 2004). In this paper I shall argue that discourse is potentially a powerful diagnostic category in historical semantics while genre is, above all, heuristically useful. At the same time, I will plead for a more rigorous definition of discourse and a highly flexible definition of genre, as proposed by Biber (1989:5–6): genres are “text categories readily distinguished by mature speakers.” I will illustrate my argument with two vastly different and historically distant examples: Byrhtnoth’s ofermōd in the Old English Battle of Maldon, and the establishment of emotion (as opposed to passion) in the post-medieval period. A moment’s reflection will tell us that Foucault’s notion of discours is highly intractable material for historical semantics. The primary material used by historical semanticists will be words and word-groups in texts, as they are now available in large computer-readable corpora, a fair number of them in the public domain. If you are interested in the denotations or connotations of words like fox, vixen, hunt, etc., you will be equally interested in the pro-fox-hunting discourse and in the anti-fox-hunting discourse. You may even look at texts or utterances which take no position pro or anti. Above all, you can take your evidence from a corpus which has been compiled with no view to either pro- or anti-fox-hunting. This is not how the discourse analyst will, or even can, proceed (cf. Busse and Teubert 1994:14–18; Maset 2002:195f.). The discourse analyst has to start with a “pre-understanding” (Gadamer, German original 1960) of where the meanings which he or she wants to study are most likely to be created. Discourse analysts will also work with corpora, but they will usually compile their corpora ad hoc, from textual universes which they expect to be rewarding. A highly popular source is media texts and interviews. From what has been said so far discourse analysis does not look like a promising method for historical semantics. But there is one aspect of discourse which the historical semanticist cannot ignore without serious risk. That aspect is part of Foucault’s definition of discours and has nothing to do with Habermas. It is also relatively unimportant in the Critical Discourse Analysis which is associated with names like Norman Fairclough (1989), Teun van Dijk (1998), and Siegfried Jäger (1999).

Discourse, matrix and genre in Historical Semantics: ofermōd and emotion


According to Foucault, one of the important effects of discourses is to “create the objects of which they speak” (1972:48, French original 1969).1 A good example of the ‘object-creating’ power of discourse is La loi sur les aliénés of 1838,2 which describes not so much the criteria by which an insane person is defined as the procedure which turns an individual into a member of the class or category of insane persons. Together with the procedures which it describes and prescribes, la loi creates a social space where acts become possible which we may call acts of ‘performative categorization’: if, at the end of the appropriate procedure, a person is declared insane, his or her insanity is a social fact. A disturbing consequence of a purely procedural-performative definition is that it does not provide for the possibility of psychiatry being abused for illegitimate purposes: when a person is declared insane the question whether he or she is ‘really’ insane cannot even be asked under such a definition. Although not referring directly to la loi, Foucault (1965:269) deplores the “apotheosis of the medical personage” which is implied in the psychiatric thinking of its time. Performative categorization is closely associated with what is often called ‘social construction’. In my favourite field, the emotions, there is an important school called Social Constructionism (SC) which claims that emotions are not “invariable physiological occurrences” but “socially constructed” “discursive practices” (Stedman 2002:7; see above all Harré 1986, Lutz 1988, Abu-Lughod and Lutz 1990). Like discourse, SC has become an indiscriminately used passe-partout term which is losing precision by over-use. The most lucid analysis of the (limited) validity of SC is Hacking (2000). Hacking, a philosopher at the University of Toronto, stresses a few facts which all too often are side-lined by other practitioners of discourse analysis. (1) The objects created by discourses are not individual objects or events existing in space and time, but categories or, as Hacking prefers to say, kinds. (2) Turning individual people or acts into members of kinds requires not only the linguistic practices which we primarily associate with discourses but also authorized institutions and procedures which give a discourse its proper form. Hacking calls this ‘matrix’ rather than ‘discourse’. To illustrate, I will concentrate on one of the many examples of SC given by Hacking: the woman refugee. A woman refugee is first of all a woman who has fled her country because she found conditions unbearable. But to be recognized as a woman refugee in Canada she has to convince the relevant authorities in a prescribed procedure that those conditions are indeed unbearable by Canada’s standards. In Hacking’s own words: 1


For a convenient bibliography of Foucault (both French originals and English translations) see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bibliography_of_Michel_Foucault (last visited 30 November 2010). See http://www.ch-charcot56.fr/textes/l1838-7443.htm (last visited 30 November 2010).


Hans-Jürgen Diller The matrix in which the woman refugee is formed is a complex of institutions, advocates, newspaper articles, lawyers, court decisions, immigration proceedings. Not to mention the material infrastructure, barriers, passports, uniforms, counters at airports, detention centers, courthouses, holiday camps for refugee children. You may want to call these social because their meanings are what matter to us, but they are material, and in their materiality make substantial differences to people. (2000:10)

The ‘material infrastructure’ makes it clear that the matrix isn’t just words and linguistic practices. It emphatically includes the extra-linguistic context. I suppose the list is not meant to be exhaustive. Still, I find it a little strange that it should not contain something like an ‘authoritative text’, a law or statute regulating the status of the woman refugee and the procedures by which she can be recognized as one. It will be noticed immediately that there is an important and, I believe, necessary ambiguity in the meaning of the term: it designates two different categories. To understand the word, we have to know whether its meaning depends on a discourse (as Foucault would say) or on a matrix (as Hacking would say) – or whether it occurs in ordinary, unregimented language. Discourse and matrix, we may say, ‘officialize’ a category. This, I submit, is a frequent problem in textual interpretation, and it makes a distinction necessary which I have not yet seen in the semantic literature: that between the ‘discursive’ and the ‘intuitive’ use of a word. Intuitively the woman will be a woman refugee to everybody who has heard and believes her story. Discursively, she will be a woman refugee only after she has successfully undergone the appropriate procedure.3 English and German soccer fans will immediately think of a much handier example: Lampard’s goal against Germany during the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 was a goal intuitively, but not discursively. The woman refugee and Lampard’s goal have one important and uncomfortable thing in common: the distinction between discursive and intuitive is not so much one between words as between our use of words. The decision whether a word is used to designate a ‘discursive’ or an ‘intuitive’ category is not at all self-evident. 2.

Ofermōd and its matrix

Byrhtnoth’s ofermōd in The Battle of Maldon, line 89, one of the most discussed cruxes in historical semantics, is an eloquent witness to this claim. 3

I borrow the distinction from Murdoch (1961:1). The meaning of intuitive is related to the philosophical use of intuition (OED, sense 5) which int. al. translates Kant’s Anschauung.

Discourse, matrix and genre in Historical Semantics: ofermōd and emotion


As will be remembered, it is ofermōd which makes the English leader yield “too much land” to the Vikings who have landed on a small islet off the coast near Maldon. Gneuss (1976) gives a very full survey both of the translations of the word by modern scholars and of its use in Old English texts. His conclusion was widely accepted for a long time: in every other case ofermōd clearly means ‘pride’ or ‘proud’, to assume a different meaning in the case of Maldon 89 would be literally special pleading. Gneuss admits that the other occurrences come from religious writings, whereas Maldon, while certainly a Christian poem, is not a religious one. In Gneuss’s view, however, this is not a compelling counter-argument. In its time Gneuss’s interpretation found general assent.4 Halbrooks (2003:236), however, finds this agreement “extraordinary considering Gneuss’s own guardedness concerning his conclusions.” Gneuss’s view might be called a ‘weak genre’ view of historical semantics: it accepts that the genre context can make a difference to the meaning of a word (cf. Diller 1986; Diller 2009 for some Old English examples), but when a word is frequent in some genres and rare in others, it would be unwise to postulate a separate sense or meaning for the genre(s) with few occurrences – even if some “semantic discomfort” (Lewis 1967:1) remains. The weak genre approach may be heuristically sound, but it is insufficient to settle a doubtful point of interpretation. Against this approach I would ask, in the spirit of the ‘discourse’ or ‘matrix’ approach, not: how should we translate ofermōd, but: what kind of thing is it, and what makes it the kind of thing it is? The answer is not as clear as in the case of the recognized woman refugee or the given goal. Recognizing a woman refugee and giving a goal are performative utterances or acts which are possible by virtue of the matrix within which they take place. A person becomes a woman refugee and a goal becomes a goal because a person in authority has declared them such in an appropriate situation, or more technically, because the respective acts are ‘felicitous’ (Austin 1962). They are felicitous because the corresponding discourse has created the categories which they apply. As the juridical discourse and the discourse of soccer create the categories of refugee woman and goal, so the discourse of Christian ethics has created the categories of vice and sin, enabling persons in authority to subsume individual acts or attitudes under these categories and thus to create social facts. Readers of The Battle of Maldon are faced with the question: is ofermōd in line 89 used in a sense that is germane to that discourse? Ofermōd is a frequent translation of Latin superbia, a core concept in the discourse of traditional Christian ethics. That discourse also has kindmaking powers. More accurately: the ethical discourse of the Roman 4

See Halbrooks (2003) for a survey of scholarship after Gneuss.


Hans-Jürgen Diller

Catholic church is embedded in a matrix which enables performative acts very much like giving a goal or recognizing a woman refugee. Important components of the matrix are the office of the priest, the physical structure and location of the confessional, the ritual and penances which the penitents have to accept and which categorize them as sinners – within a subtly graded hierarchy of sins and sinners. Evidence of this matrix is to be found, above all, in the penitential literature.5 The penances and the authority to impose them are anchored in an ensemble of texts which form the discourse of traditional Christian ethics in a narrower sense and in which concepts like vice and sin are defined. Prominent in this discourse are writers like ‘Saint’ John Cassian (ca. 360–435) with his De institutis coenobiorum et de octo principalium vitiorum remediis (420x429)6 and Pope Gregory I, the Great, with his Moralia in Iob (591 at the latest; cf. Greschat 2005:26). The debate about the sins has been treated very fully by a literary historian (Bloomfield 1952). Bloomfield wrote of course long before our notions of discourse or matrix were developed, his subtitle refers to a ‘religious concept’, and the book describes various traditions articulating that concept. It now has to be shown that the concepts of discourse and matrix can contribute something to the understanding of Maldon 89 that Bloomfield’s ‘religious concept’ cannot contribute. First of all, there is the distinction between ‘vice’ and ‘sin’. That distinction is not applied consistently in the medieval discourse on sin but, simplifying somewhat, we may say that a vice is a mental condition, while a sin is an individual act prompted by that condition in a given situation. The practice reflected in the penitentials is primarily concerned with sins, but the penalties which they impose require of course a grounding in the vices as defined in the theoretical discourse. Theologically, a vice is an ailment of the soul. The remedia against these ailments occur already in the title of John Cassian’s work (see above), and ch. xxvii of Book XII is headed “Expositio vitiorum, quae per morbum superbiæ generantur.” [“A description of the faults which spring from the sickness of pride.”]7 John Cassian treats superbia in the last, twelfth book of De institutis but he insists that the spirit of pride is the beginning of all sin (“origine tamen et tempore primus est” [PL 45, coll. 421f.]). In the same 5



See, int. al., Wasserschleben (1851, repr. 1958), McNeill and Gamer (1938), Bieler (1963), and Frantzen (1983). “Although never formally canonized, St. Gregory the Great regarded him as a saint.” (Catholic Encyclopedia, loc. cit. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03404a.htm, last visited 21 November 2010). The x between the figures means that the work was composed some time between 420 and 429; a hyphen, by contrast, would mean that its composition was begun in 420 and ended in 429. De institutis and its English translation are best accessed through http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Cassian (last visited 20 November 2010).

Discourse, matrix and genre in Historical Semantics: ofermōd and emotion


vein Gregory, quoting Scripture, defines superbia as the root of all evil: “Radix quippe cuncti mali superbia est, de qua, scriptura attestante, dicitur: Initium omnis peccati superbia (Eccl[esiasticus] 10, 15).” [“The root of all evil is pride, of which it is said by witness of Scripture: For pride is the beginning of sin.” (Sirach 10, 13)]8 In the Vulgate this verse is preceded by verse 14: “Initium superbiae hominis apostatare a deo.” [“The beginning of pride is when one departeth from God.” (Sirach 10, 12)], which is a constant theme with countless variations in the Moralia (Baasten 1986, esp. ch. 1). It will also be important for the understanding of Maldon 89. The archetype of superbia is Lucifer, the fourth chapter of Cassian’s twelfth book is headed: “Quod ob superbiam Lucifer ille de archangelo factus est diabolus.” (PL p. 187, coll. 425ff. [How by reason of pride Lucifer was turned from an archangel into a devil.]) Lucifer’s rebellion as described in the Old English poem Genesis shares many features with John Cassian’s account. It is clearly a ‘departing from God’: God realizes that Lucifer is ofermōd (adj.) in l. 262, and in ll. 271f. he is described either as the “angel of ofermōd” or as uttering “words of ofermōd”.9 In those words he claims to have more power and strength than God (ll. 269-70). He also plans to build himself a throne which will be higher than God’s (ll. 273-4). The Old English Genesis is not discourse in the sense that a category is ‘created’. But the narrative illustrates the essential features by which the ethical discourse of the medieval Church defines that category. It is an important point in what Bloomfield calls a tradition and, we may add in passing, it is a classic example of that ‘status violation’ which the new science of the sociology of the emotions regards as a human universal and as the chief antecedent of wrath (Kemper 2006): by raising himself above God he would violate God’s ‘status’.10 Human superbia will appear on a smaller scale than Lucifer’s, but both share the essential feature as identified by Gregory: “[…] pride is a dangerous elation […] in which the proud fail to recognize their true relationship with God or other men. In regard to God, they consider themselves to be on the same level with God, instead of ‘under him’” (Baasten 1986:19). Turning now to The Battle of Maldon, it is clear that Byrhtnoth is not guilty of this “dangerous elation”. The speech which is prompted by his 8



The transmission history of Ecclesiasticus is extremely complex. Because the medieval church knew only of a Greek not a Hebrew version, it is regarded as ‘apocryphal’ by the churches of the Reformation; to the Roman Catholic church it is ‘deuterocanonical’. Since 1896 more and more portions of the Hebrew original have come to light (Deissler and Vögtle 1985:947). The Latin quotations are from Colunga and Turrado (1959), English translations from the Polyglot Bible. Titles like “Sirach”, or “Jesus (Ben) Sirach” are due to an ascription in the Epilogue. “feala worda gespræc / se engel ofermodes.” (Doane 1991:209 and commentary on p. 260). All line references are to this edition. For a more extensive discussion of status violation see Diller (forthcoming).


Hans-Jürgen Diller

ofermōd could even be read as an intended contrast to Lucifer’s illusion of self-sufficiency: ‘Nu eow is gerymed: gað ricene to us guman to guþe. God ana wat hwa þære wælstowe wealdan mote.’ (Scragg 1981, lines 93-95) ‘Now a path is opened for you: come quickly against us, men at war. God alone knows who will control the battlefield.’ (Scragg 2006:143)

We should also note that status violation, which is the defining feature of superbia in the medieval discourse on sin, plays no part in The Battle of Maldon. The question simply does not arise between military commanders one of whom has landed in the territory which the other has to defend. Even more important is the fact that not only the penitential matrix is absent from the poem but that its absence is not even treated as a problem. Dying in combat, Byrhtnoth has no chance of confession and penitence, and in the entire fragment there is no hint that this might damage his prospects in life hereafter. If the poet had meant to say that the orders given by Byrhtnoth for his ofermōde were motivated by superbia in the discursive sense, the dying prayer would probably have been very different. Instead of thanking God for “ealra þæra wynna þe ic on worulde gebad” (l. 174; [all the joys that I have experienced in this world], Scragg 2006:145) and trustfully asking for protection against helsceaðan (=thieves from hell) Byrhtnoth could be expected to ask forgiveness for that specific act. Byrhtnoth’s ofermōd and the ofermōd ‘created’ in the penitential matrix are two very different things and we should think at least twice before we apply the ‘discursive’ meaning to the word as it is used in Maldon. To borrow a phrase from German juridical discourse: with a probability bordering on certainty, it is not applicable. The action prompted by Byrhtnoth’s ofermōd is “unwise” (Scragg 2006:153) and “posthumously criticized by our poet” (Gneuss 1976:133), but it is not sinful. More colloquially, ofermōd in Maldon is too much of a good thing, not a bad thing in itself. In this (important) respect it differs from apparently all other instances of ofermōd. 3. Emotion and its genres The previous section was an attempt to use the categories of discourse and matrix in the elucidation of a semantic crux, i.e. the interpretation of a word occurring in a specific context. The existence of the relevant discourse

Discourse, matrix and genre in Historical Semantics: ofermōd and emotion


with its matrix was taken as given, the question was: does the word occurrence have a place in that matrix? This section will present data from the pre-history of a discourse which has been insightfully described by a theologian. Dixon (2003) has published a book with a telling title: From Passions to Emotions. The Creation of a Secular Psychological Category. Right at the beginning he claims that “the emotions did not exist until just under two hundred years ago” (Dixon 2003:1). The evidence for his claim he finds in ‘psychological discourse’, which he defines as the “tradition of systematic thought about mental life” (Dixon 2003:12). The ‘kind-making’ power of discourse is assumed rather than demonstrated in Dixon’s account; since performative categorization plays no part with him, we may say that he is using the concept of discourse in a weak sense. I will return very briefly to this problem in Section 4. Since he does not look for evidence outside that discourse it seems natural that it should have ‘created’ the emotions. That claim feeds what has been called the “fallacy of autonomous discourse” (Dreyfus and Rabinow 1982). The fallacy is at best a “professional oversimplification” of social and intellectual historians (Richter 1996:11). It is even pernicious because it mistakes the conventional for the arbitrary, a mistake which was castigated by Karl Popper as early as 1945 (2005:70) and, following him, by F. A. Hayek (1970). The category ‘emotion’ was not created; it emerged, and it did not emerge in psychological discourse as defined by Dixon, or at least not there alone.11 To counter Dixon’s claim we have to look at a massive and messy body of data which can be given some little structure only by a highly fuzzy category like ‘genre’. Biber’s definition, quoted above, underlies the divisions of virtually all language corpora; it clearly does not refer only to literary genres. Emotion does not appear in the 17th century part of ARCHER,12 and Chadwyck-Healey’s Full-Text English Poetry Database returns only one 17th century example, which uses the word in its earlier, socio-political sense.13 A certainly unexhaustive and perhaps unrepresentative search of texts in Gutenberg, Wikisource and the Online Books Page yielded only isolated examples in Samuel Pepys (1), John Evelyn (1), Aphra Behn (4), and John Locke (2).14 A slightly richer harvest is to be reaped from the drama section 11

12 13 14

Thomas Dixon has kindly drawn my attention to a more recent publication (Dixon 2006), in which he stresses the influence of medicine in establishing the category ‘emotion’. For a description of ARCHER see Biber, Finegan and Atkinson (1994); Biber (2001). In a poem by William Herbert dated 1604. S. Pepys, Diary, 17 August 1660 (sense of vomiting) http://www.gutenberg.org/files/ 4200/4200.txt; J. Evelyn, Diary, 31 May 1672, http://www.archive.org/details/ diary-


Hans-Jürgen Diller

of LION,15 which has eleven 17th century plays using the word, giving a total of 13 occurrences, mainly but not exclusively in the psychological sense. Compared with the 132 instances of passion in the same plays, that is still modest. But even these few examples show two things: in spite of its comparative rarity emotion is well established in non-specialized language; and emotion and passion are by no means synonymous, most of the time the substitution of passion for emotion would have produced extremely awkward results. Emotion can often be replaced by words like apprehension, fear, or sorrow, not by passion. So far, I can offer only slight modifications to Dixon’s claim. The word emotion is rare everywhere, far rarer than passion. A very different picture emerges when we look at 17th and 18th century newspapers, which are accessible in the 17th–18th Century Burney Collection of Newspapers. Table 1 shows that, taking the period as a whole, there is an almost perfect balance between emotion and passion. But until 1786 there are far more uses of emotion than of passion:

before 1701 1701–10 1711–20 1721–30 1731–40 1741–50 1751–60 1761–70 1771–80 1781–90 1791–1800

emotion 2 11 35 60 77 49 165 228 396 703 1251 2977

passion 1 0 0 18 96 23 28 19 64 566 2201 3016

Table 1: 17th–18th Century Burney Collection of Newspapers


johnevelyn04dobsgoog; A. Behn, Sir Patient Fancy I, i (Works IV, 14), Agnes de Castro (Works V, 238, 248), The Dumb Virgin (Works V, 437); John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693), sect. 8, 115 (= Works IX, pp. 12, 109); http://socserv2. mcmaster.ca/~econ/ugcm/3ll3/locke/index.html). LIterature ONline http://lion.chadwyck.co.uk/ (last visited 26 November 2010).


Discourse, matrix and genre in Historical Semantics: ofermōd and emotion

The swing seems due to the launching of a single new newspaper in 1787, The World,16 which in its opening issue promises a lighter, more entertaining tone than its older rivals. The number of occurrences is far too large for a detailed analysis, especially as the optical character recognition is not always flawless. Spurious and multiple attestations would have to be eliminated before the data can be interpreted. This was done only for the years before 1711. Interestingly, the only record of passion in these years is from a murder trial report; the murder in question was committed “in the midst of” a passion.17 Emotion is commonly used in the context of verbal communication, which is well illustrated by the very first example: “I love to write without any Emotion, and as we say in cold blood.”18 Violent action is not associated with the emotions. Against Dixon’s view of emotion as a secular category another quotation is also of interest: “Religion is of that admirable frame and temper, it enflames us with a true Emotion to our great maker […].”19 This picture is re-enforced by another collection, the Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (ECCO), which has its own genre division and shows the following uses of emotion:

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Subject areas


History and Geography Fine Arts Social Sciences Medicine, Science and Technology Literature and Language Religion and Philosophy Law General Reference Total:

52 7 30 30 140 132 3 18 412

size of area (% of files)20 7.5 25.0 7.8 23.8 26.4 7.0 2.5 100.0

Table 2: Books containing emotion published 1700–10

16 17




The World and Fashionable Advertiser until November 26, 1787. Tryal of Rowland Waters Etc. (for Murthering of Sir Charles Pym, Bart) (London, England), Friday, June 1, 1688, p. 4. Present State of Europe or the Historical and Political Mercury (London, England), Monday, August 1, 1692; Issue 7, p. 313 (“A Letter written by an Officer about the Combat fought near Enguien”). Post Man and the Historical Account, Thursday, July 20, 1699; Issue 633, front page (letter from New York, dated March 21). Percentages are taken from ECCO’s “FAQ” section (last visited 15 March 2011).


Hans-Jürgen Diller

As regards emotion, the section “Religion and Philosophy” runs a close second to the only slightly smaller “Literature and Language”. A look at the first dozen texts revealed only religious and no philosophical texts. As a test of Dixon’s claim it is thus quite adequate. Even these few instances provide powerful evidence against the view that meanings are the exclusive effect of discourse. While the psychological sense of emotion is clearly in the majority there are, equally clearly, nonpsychological uses as well: (1)

[Meteors] cause an emotion, attrition, or fermentation, (like water on unslaked lime, or as Spirits of Nitre and Tartar do) which may so encrease as to become flame. (Athenian Gazette or Casuistical Mercury, August 17, 1695; Issue 10, front page, in answer to a question concerning the nature of meteors)


The disgrace of the Count d’Arcos has made some Malecontents, who excited a Popular Emotion […]. (Post Boy, Tuesday, September 16, 1701; Issue 989, front p., r.col.)


assoon [sic] as he [the King of France] had appeas’d that Emotion among his people …,” (Daily Courant, January 30, 1710; Issue 2580)

In (1), emotion describes a physical phenomenon, in (2) and (3) the word is used in a socio-political sense, attested since 1579 and now obsolete (OED, s.v. ‘emotion’, sense 3). These different senses are readily understood without recourse to the concept of discourse, the syntactic microcontext provides a sufficient clue and makes historical knowledge, whether linguistic or conceptual, unnecessary for the immediate understanding. The last sentence is true of 12 of the 13 occurrences of emotion which were found in the Burney Collection before 1711. It is somewhat less true of the 13th: “Sins of infirmity” are defined as: (4)

such as proceed from a sudden Emotion of the sensitive Appetite, which by it’s violence hurries a Man to act before he has made a due Deliberation of the Matter. (British Apollo, March 16, 1710, Issue 114)

This clearly invokes a discourse in the strict, Foucauldian sense, which ‘makes’ the objects of which it speaks. ‘Appetites’, rational, natural, or sensitive, are categories postulated by St. Thomas Aquinas and established in what we may usefully call the discourse of scholastic ethics and psychology. But in our context it is important to note that it is not the ‘emotion’ that is formed by the discourse. Rather the reverse: by attributing ‘emotion’ to the sensitive appetite, the writer makes an implicit, metaphorical statement about the nature of appetites: like the populace, the ocean, the earth or the human person, they can be metaphorized as non-solid or non-

Discourse, matrix and genre in Historical Semantics: ofermōd and emotion


homogeneous masses. These few remarks must suffice to show that the category ‘emotion’ is not created ex nihilo.21 4.


This paper has dealt with two rather different tasks of Historical Semantics: placing an individual word-use in the network of contemporary practice, and drawing a (rather small-scale) map of the increasing ‘intuitive’ use of a lexical item which enabled that item to become the label of a central category in a discourse. At the beginning of Section 3 I said that Dixon uses the category of discourse in a weak sense. In the rest of the section the ‘kind-making’ power of discourse was rather neglected, and the notion of matrix was conspicuously absent. Comparing Sections 2 and 3, readers may well ask whether the two concepts of discourse have enough in common to be discussed under the same label. In partial defence, I would admit that the psychological discourse is indeed unlikely to contain performative acts like declaring a person insane, giving a goal, recognizing a woman refugee, or determining the gravity of a sinful act. This admission, though, does not deny Dixon’s claim that the substitution of emotion for passion is more than a mere change of labels. To replace one category by the other, the new category had indeed to be ‘created’ as a scientific, nontranscendental category. In the medieval discourse of Christian ethics, gluttony, lechery, avarice, wrath, sadness, sloth, vanity and pride were categorized as ‘vices’:22 they were moral as much as psychological categories. To the extent that they were adopted into modern psychological discourse, they were stripped of their moral evaluation and newly ‘created’ as new kinds. In that sense, the ‘kind-making’ power of discourse can be observed here, too. Discourse in a weak sense still seems an appropriate name for Dixon’s use of the term.

21 22

See Diller (2010) for a fuller discussion. See Cassian, V, i: gula, fornicatio, avaritia, ira, tristitia, acedia/anxietas/taedium cordis, cenodoxia/vana gloria, superbia (PL XLIX, col. 203, website page 76).


Hans-Jürgen Diller

Biographical sketch Hans-Jürgen Diller, Professor of English Language and Literature of the Middle Ages (Giessen 1969-73, Bochum since 1973, Emeritus since 1999), Visiting Professor. (‘Herder-Professur’) Jagiellonian University, Cracow, 2001. Studied English, Romance Languages and Philosophy at Universities of Kiel, Munich, Besançon and at Wesleyan University (Middletown, Conn.). PhD Munich 1963, Habilitation Göttingen 1968. Main publications: Redeformen des englischen Misterienspiels (1973, Engl. transl. The English Mystery Play. A Study in Dramatic Speech and Form Cambridge 1992), Linguistische Probleme der Übersetzung. Deutsch-Englisch (with J. Kornelius, 1978), Metrik und Verslehre (1978), English Romantic Prose (co-ed. with G. Ahrends, 1990), Unconventional Conventions in Theatre Texts (co-ed. with G. Ahrends, 1990), Chapters from the History of Stage Cruelty (co-ed. with G. Ahrends, 1994), Gewalt im Drama und auf der Bühne (co-ed. with U.K. Ketelsen and H.U. Seeber, 1997), Theatre and Religion (co-ed. with G. Ahrends, 1998), Towards a History of English as a History of Genres (co-ed. with M. Görlach, 2001). Articles chiefly on medieval drama, English metre, historical semantics, stylistics. Co-founder and co-editor of anglistik & englischunterricht (1977-99).

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