Culpeper, Jonathan and Demmen, Jane (2011) The development of play-texts: From manuscript to print. In: Communicating Early English Manuscripts. Studies in English Language . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 162-177. ISBN 978-0-521-19329-0

It is an axiom of historical linguistics, and indeed historical studies generally, that our present-day assumptions are not a reliable basis for the analysis and interpretation of language data from earlier periods. Assumptions, not just about language but any kind of human experience, help people make sense of the world in a cognitively efficient way. But those very assumptions interact with the phenomena to which they pertain, and together they change over time. Present-day assumptions form the endpoint of diachronic change. The first task for the historian is to describe earlier states of the language and its contexts, including the likely assumptions of contemporaries, and begin to understand why it is as it is. The second task is to explain the processes of change which have led to the current situation today. This paper aims to show how present-day assumptions about early modern play-texts are inappropriate or misleading. It explores how the dialogue of earlier plays was shaped by particular manuscript practices, and compares this with the dialogue of present-day plays that are shaped by the context of printing.

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