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<i>ANGER</i> and <i>T&#274;NE</i> in Middle English

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Abstract

<i>Anger, t&#275;ne</i> and their derivatives in Middle English (ME) mean both &#8216;anger&#8217; and &#8216;sorrow&#8217;. This is odd from the point of view of modern psychology and modern semantics, which commonly distinguish between passive emotions like sorrow or sadness and active emotions like anger. While the meaning of ME <i>ANGER</i> has been repeatedly studied, ME <i>T&#274;NE</i> has received very little attention. The considerable overlap between the meanings of the two word families calls for an explanation of the disappearance of <i>T&#274;NE</i>. For this purpose evidence has been collected from the quotations of <i>Middle English Dictionary</i> (MED) Online and from the Innsbruck Prose Corpus of Innsbruck Computer Archive of Machine-Readable English Texts (ICAMET). The Innsbruck corpus is preferred to the Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse (CMEPV) because ME religious prose, an important site of the demise, is represented in the former corpus more fully than in the latter. While <i>T&#274;NE</i> is more frequent than <i>ANGER</i> in ME writings as represented in the <i>MED</i> quotations, this predominance is almost entirely due to its continuing use in poetry. In prose the dominance of <i>ANGER</i> is little short of complete. The semantic analysis of the two word families is based on their preferred contexts. These are distinguished by both syntactic and semantic criteria. The results suggest that the referents of <i>ANGER</i> are clearly confined to the realm of emotions, while those of <i>T&#274;NE</i> tend to vacillate between emotions and physical suffering. In conclusion, a re-analysis of the psychological and linguistic literature provides evidence that the difference between sorrow and anger is less fundamental than current taxonomies suggest.

References

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