Recipes and food discourse in English – a historical menu

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The article provides a diachronic overview of the discourse of food on the basis of various examples of recipes and more general food related texts, from Old English to the late 20th century. After comparing lexis, syntax and discourse features, three main diachronic tendencies can be observed: first, the focus on a less and less professional audience, second, the gradual introduction of more precise measurements and more procedural detail, and third, an overall reduction in lexical complexity. In addition, some syntactical features remain universal diachronically while others, like the ellipsis of the definite article, are comparatively recent developments. Increasingly frequent is the use of “supporters” and “controllers,” sentences that directly address the reader and provide advice for problematic steps in the procedure and a means to check if these steps were successfully completed. In the most recent examples, more extraneous information, such as health advice, is added. Thus, food discourse is established as a dynamic genre with distinct linguistic developmental patterns.


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