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Linguistic devices coping with death in Victorian obituaries

Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses
Publicaciones Universidad de Alicante
Publication Date
  • Obituarios
  • Muerte
  • Estrategias Lingüísticas
  • Metáfora
  • Metonimia
  • Hipérbole
  • Sociedad Victoriana
  • Irlanda
  • Siglo Xix
  • Linguistics


Given that obituaries constitute a breeding ground for the proliferation of different means of coping with death, it is my purpose in this paper to provide an overview of the main linguistic devices used in a sample of Irish Victorian death notices and analyse to what extent such devices have a social purpose. In this regard, I consider the obituary as a socially oriented practice whose main function is carried out via a wide range of praising and consolatory devices, such as metaphors, metonymies, hyperboles or mitigating apology expressions, among others. The results obtained support the idea that obituaries go beyond the limits of a mere announcement of a death and faithfully represent the social attitude and conventions towards mortality. In fact, nineteenth-century death notices primarily served a social purpose, acting as a medium through which families could demonstrate their place in society, being the degree of linguistic elaboration parallel to the social status of the deceased.

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