This article addresses childhood as a culturally constructed life-stage in sixteenth and seventeenth century Britain from a Cultural Linguistics or Ethnolinguistics approach. Intended as a language-centred contribution to the interdisciplinary field of Age Studies, this lexicographical study intends to prove that a new modern intersubjective conceptualization of childhood emerges in English during the period under consideration, confirming what historians have called the “discovery of childhood”. Using the Oxford English Dictionary and the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary as data sources, a corpus of 103 new words and word senses appearing during the Early Modern English period and associated with the five ‘child’ meanings listed as [person] was compiled and analysed through a purposely-created chart of 24 parameters. Quantitative and qualitative results obtained verify the corpus as a coherent set of terms providing cumulative evidence of a clear change in the perception and conceptualization of childhood, arguably organized around what we have called anchoring words.
Apr 29, 2021