Horace anew: Using the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary (HTOED) in Historical Stylistics

Silvia Pireddu


In recent years, the availability of specialised corpora for Early Modern English such as the Lampeter Corpus of Early Modern English Tracts or the Corpora of Early English Correspondence, and The Penn-Helsinki Parsed Corpus of Early Modern English has stimulated research on lexical change. The Lexicons of Early Modern English (LEME) is another tool that can be used to investigate specialised language in dictionaries, and specific genres across domains and disciplines. In 2012 Busse ‘celebrated’ the publication of the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary (HTOED) as an enormous resource for stylistics, allowing for the diachronic analysis of lexicalisation and semantic contexts and the identification of lexico-grammatical features that represent authorial or genre style.  In the Early Modern context, courtly writers used Horatian stance to address targeted groups of patrons, friends, and criticise the emerging London cultured milieu. Conventionalization was a key element in their writings. This article tests the advantages and drawbacks of using HTOED in historical stylistic analysis to discuss verse satire as a concept and a genre. Examples of Horatian epistolary satire in their English translation are examined to evaluate the kind of information that the thesaurus provides to an expert user. The research shows that HTOED foregrounds the cognitive aspects involved in the circulation of a concept, but it needs to be combined with the OED and possibly with more ample corpus investigation to provide information that can be evaluated in a qualitative stylistic framework.  

Keywords: lexicography, historical stylistics, Early Modern English, translation, Horace.

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.13133/2239-1983/14384