On “shapelings” and “childlings”: a linguistics approach to the emergence of new cultural borders between the unborn and the new-born child in EME (1500-1700)

Paloma Tejada-Caller


This contribution aims at exploring the emergence of early-age stereotypes in Early Modern England from a Cultural Linguistics approach to Age Studies, using the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary as a corpus. Results demonstrate that during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries a new intersubjective conceptualization of embryos and new-borns emerged in English, confirming a more general social perception of the child as an autonomous human being. Moreover, the combined analysis of newly created synonyms for both embryos and infants in Early Modern English (EME) seems to suggest the existence of a temporary cultural understanding of infancy, later failed by the preponderance of science over subjective perceptions. Under this EME construal the current borders separating the unborn and the new-born seem to have been remapped.



Early Modern English; Age Studies; childhood; Cultural Linguistics; lexicon

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18172/jes.4502

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