A Corpus Linguistic Analysis of Dance Lexis in Eight Early Modern Manuscripts: From the Inns of Court to Drama


  • Fabio Ciambella Università degli Studi della Tuscia




This article conducts a corpus linguistics analysis on a series of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century manuscripts related to the practice of dance at the Inns of Court in London, in order to examine their possible influence on and relationship with terpsichorean lexis in early modern drama. Still considered one of the fewest – if not the only – extant indigenous proofs of the exercise of dance in early modern England before Playford’s The English Dancing Master (1651), these eight MSS have never been analysed in a single dedicated study. Six of them were transcribed and commented on by some scholars in the second half of the twentieth century, while the seventh was discovered and transcribed in 1992 and the eighth only in 2017. In fact, no thorough discussion of their linguistic peculiarities has been carried out, treating them as a dataset to be investigated through corpus linguistics software. In this article, #Lancsbox software is used to carry out a corpus linguistics analysis primarily focused on the specialized lexis of dance as it emerges from the above-mentioned manuscripts. The eight texts considered have been digitalised as part of the Skenè Digital open-access archives and then uploaded to #Lancsbox to facilitate analysis. Ultimately, this article aims to shed light on the circulation of the terpsichorean lexis in early modern drama.

Keywords: Dance; Inns of Court; corpus linguistics; manuscripts; specialized lexis; early modern theatre