The medieval cookery recipe as a text type

An exemplary analysis

Seminar Paper, 2006

15 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Problems in designation: What is a text type?

3 The cookery recipe as a text type

4 Linguistic features of the cookery recipe: An exemplary analysis
4.1 Two fifteenth-century cookery books (~1420)
4.2 Liber cure cocorum (~ 1430)
4.3 A Proper Newe Booke of Cokerye (16th century)

5 Conclusion

6 Bibliography


Textlinguistics can be described as a linguistic discipline that investigates language on a wider level than formally usual. Discussing the text as a whole system derives from the conclusion that "linguistic investigations cannot be limited to the classic disciplines of phonology, morphology, syntax and lexicology" (Görlach 2004: 3).

In attempt of a diachronic research of text types a synchronic analysis should be given precedence. What are the characteristic features of the text type? What is its function? What are its restrictions? Examples of the same period might help to get a comprehensive notion of the text type in question.

Having established the linguistic elements characterizing the text type, one can start out a diachronic investigation. Its development and the reasons for change or stasis have to be examined and set into context. Examples of the text type from different points in the history of the language need to be compared with each other. The development of a text type through time requires a close look at textual traditions and how the text type and its authors were influenced throughout time (Jucker 2000: 103). Nevertheless one must not forget that due to the limitation of examples it is impossible to depict a complete evolution of a text type.

Making a start, I will deal with different terms designating the text type as a linguistic category and the way a text type is defined. This can only be done in an exemplary manner, as there has been such an amount of unlike positions. In addition, I shall elucidate what makes up the cookery recipe in particular. In what follows this paper contains the analyses of four examples, the focus being placed on their linguistic features. The excerpts chosen originate from the late Middle English to early Modern English period and are taken from collections including a large number of recipes. Finally, I will sharply go into finding out whether the cookery recipe is evolutionally stable or discontinuous.

1 Problems in designation: What is a text type?

The text type is defined as "a specific linguistic pattern in which formal/structural characteristics have been conventionalized in a specific culture for certain well-defined and standardized uses of language …" (Görlach 2004: 105). The idea of textlinguistics is to categorize texts into different genres or text types. The distinction is based on the analysis of internal and external features as well as the function of the text.

Two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. The term text type appears to be more frequently used in the linguistic context while genre relates stronger to the literary genre. Comparing literature concerning the text type discussion it becomes clear that the two terms are constantly overlapping. Most of the scholars mention the problem, explaining why they chose a certain set of terms and how they are going to use it throughout their papers. Görlach even states that there has "apparently not been an agreement about terms and definitions in the English scholarly tradition" (2002: 17). Jucker, who distinguishes between the two terms, uses text type for "specific theoretical categories that are established […] on the basis of internal features such as the occurrence or frequency of certain linguistic elements" (2000: 102) and genre for

categories for which conventional labels […] exist in the language […and which are…] generally established on the basis of external features such as their function or the relation between the writer and the addressee 2000: 102).

The delimitation Jucker tries to make shows that it is not only hard to distinguish between the two expressions but might lead to the assumption that there are difficulties even to distinguish among different varieties of text types or genres.

A third expression that seems to be problematic in definition occurs in the discussion. Biber defines text type as antonymic to register, register being regarded as "a general cover term for all language varieties" (Biber 1994, quoted from Diller 2001: 17). Görlach classifies both registers and dialects as varieties of a language, while register is being used as a generic term including text type/genre among others, here again used interchangeably (Görlach 2004: 101).

These examples illustrate the difficulties finding a clear term definition. One might say that these problems reflect the attempts of a delimitation among particular text types. Krause (2000: 31) holds the specific features of linguistic communication responsible for these complications, which lead to a vagueness in the designation of texts and text types. Since it is of crucial importance to investigate both internal and external features of a text, but to decide for a term as well, I prefer to stick to text type, including features that might relate to genre, too.


Excerpt out of 15 pages


The medieval cookery recipe as a text type
An exemplary analysis
University of Cologne  (Englisches Seminar)
Einführungsseminar Sprachwissenschaft B: Middle English
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ISBN (eBook)
File size
405 KB
Einführungsseminar, Sprachwissenschaft, Middle, English
Quote paper
Eva Tüttelmann (Author), 2006, The medieval cookery recipe as a text type, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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