Document Type


Publication Date



This study draws on previous findings regarding adverbial clauses in relation to speaker and interlocutor gender in a corpus of current actual speaker data. Our aim is to examine those same relations in a corpus of Shakespeare’s comedies and histories. Mondorf (2004) investigated four types of adverbial clauses in a corpus of modern speech and found that the women used more causal, conditional and purpose clauses than the men, while the men used more concessive clauses. Mondorf’s explanation for this difference is that women use the three clause types that mitigate the speaker’s commitment to the truth of the proposition, while men tend to use more concessives, which strengthen the commitment. She also found that in mixed-gender conversations these trends were generally intensified. However, other analyses have indicated that these patterns do not hold across contexts. Much more research is called for to understand the localized relations among adverbial clause usage, speaker gender and context in particular settings. One question to pursue is whether we can see gendered patterns of adverbial usage in historical varieties of English. Accordingly, in this study we analyse dialogue in Shakespeare’s plays to ascertain whether Mondorf’s findings can be extrapolated to the language of these fictional speakers. The results indicate that Shakespeare generally does not use the adverbial clauses to portray the gender of the characters in ways similar to those of actual, modern speakers. Only small differences are found, regarding purpose clauses in the histories and conditional clauses in the comedies. The analysis indicates that female and male characters speak very similarly with regard to syntax, and adverbial clauses contribute to the construction of characters in very localized contexts.

Copyright Statement

© The Author(s) 2017. This document was originally published in Palgrave Communications.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.