The Sociopragmatics of Stance

Community, language, and the witness depositions from the Salem witch trials

image of The Sociopragmatics of Stance

Anchored in historical pragmatics, historical sociolinguistics, and corpus linguistics, this book weaves together a powerful narrative of the significance of stance marking in the history of English. Focusing on the community of practice that developed during the witch trials in Salem (Massachusetts) in 1692–1693, it showcases how witnesses and the recorders of their ca. 450 depositions deployed linguistic features to signal the evaluation of experiences with alleged witchcraft, the intensification of those experiences, and the sources of the witnesses’ knowledge. The resulting stance profiles for groups of depositions, witnesses, and recorders highlight varying strategies of claiming, supporting, and boosting the importance of the evidence and the role of the witnesses within the community of practice. With its innovative focus on sociopragmatic variation in a historical community, the book demonstrates the essential contribution of synchronic-historical research to the analysis, description, and theorization of stance and historical English more broadly.


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