Discursive (re)construction of “witchcraft” as a community and “witch” as an identity in the eighteenth-century Hungarian witchcraft trial records

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This paper provides a qualitative historical (socio)pragmatic analysis of records of three eighteenth-century Hungarian witchcraft trials using a socio-cognitive model of discursive community and identity construction. I aim to describe how the general social and legal context of witchcraft became situated and interpreted in the actual witchcraft trial records from the delegated officials’ perspective. I argue that in the analysed records, the officials did not simply apply a codified definition of “witchcraft”, but they discursively (re)constructed “witchcraft” as a community and “witch” as the defendants’ identity. Thus, from the officials’ perspective, discursive community and identity construction established a relationship between the general context of witchcraft and the actual witchcraft trials. In order to reconstruct this process, I investigate the linguistic constructs by which the delegated officials actively created “witchcraft” and the defendants’ “witch” identity as mental constructs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-234
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Historical Pragmatics
Issue number2
Early online date1 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2018


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