Analysing the Examination of Mary Roberts about Language Essay

Analysing the Examination of Mary Roberts about Language Essay

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I will be analysing The Examination of Mary Roberts (1613) with the purpose of analysing who used Cant and if it was a language or jargon. By the word jargon, I mean language, which is not official but is commonly used, also known as ‘slang’. The Examination of Mary Roberts which shows how Cant might have actually been used whereas Dekker’s piece The Vpright Cofe Canteth to the roague shows prejudice to Cant. The Act of Union (1536) stated that the English language was to be used for law and religion. Britain then went on to standardize its own English as shown by the emergence of dictionaries and grammar books thus resulting in an interest in non-standard languages such as Cant. Cant was first traced by the Old English Dictionary (OED) in a 1567 source. Cant is defined by the OED as “To speak in the whining or singsong tone used by beggars; to beg” (first introduced 1567), “To speak in the peculiar jargon or ‘cant’ of vagabonds, thieves, and the like” (introduced 1609),” To use the special phraseology or jargon of a particular class or subject” (introduced 1631). These three definitions alone show the evolution of how Cant was viewed as a rogue’s language to jargon.
The Examination of Mary Roberts is a transcribed court record - a paraphrased recording of a legal interrogation, thus meaning that only segments of oral-statement have been recorded as spoken. For the most part, where appropriate, words would be written in, as Dekker calls it, ‘upright’ English as was the standard for official documents in 1613 meaning that only words not understood were recorded as is. An example of this is “petty chapman” meaning according to OED a retail dealer (1553). However, it must be noted that words such as this might have been gener...


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...ssical Tradition,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol.34. No.2 (Apr. 1992), pp.301-330
Janet Sorensen, “Vulgar Tongues: Canting Dictionaries and the Language of the People in Eighteenth-Century Britain,” Eighteenth-Century Studies, Vol.37, No.3, Critical Networks (Spring, 2004), pp.435-454
Paul A Slack, “Vagrants and Vagrancy in England, 1598-1664,” The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol.27, No.3 (Aug. 1974), pp.360-379

Eric Wilson, “Plagues, Fairs, and Street Cries: Sounding out Society and Space in Early Modern London,” Modern Language Studies, Vol.25, No.3 (Summer, 1995), pp.1-42 (here p.22)
W. Ogwen Williams, “The Survival of the Welsh Language after the union of England and Wales: the first phase, 1536-1542,” Welsh History Review, Vol.2, no.1 (1964), pp.67-93
http://www.oed.com/ (accessed 24/12/2013)
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