The Language of Prayer: A Qualitative Linguistic Analysis of PrayerForm & Function Open Access

Leydecker, Connor D. (2014)

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Religion and language are two foundational features of human culture. Around the world, almost every society has some form of religious and linguistic practice. At the interface of language and religion is prayer. Despite the pervasiveness of these phenomena, from an academic, especially a linguistic perspective, prayer has been understudied. Rather than examining a specific religion or language, this project explores the patterns in the linguistic manifestations of prayer in the Emory University community.

The purpose of this study is to explore the concept of prayer as a linguistic phenomenon. Through a qualitative lens, this paper explores the language of prayer in both form and function. Recordings and interviews were conducted in order to gather empirical evidence about behaviors and ideas involving prayer in the Emory University community. The data collected supports a linguistic conception of prayer that endures across religions, cultures, and languages. Prayer is conceptually defined by its linguistic functions, not its linguistic form, as a process of agency negotiation.

Table of Contents

Chapter One: Introduction 1

Chapter Two: Literature Review 9

Chapter Three: Research Methodology 17

Chapter Four: Form of Prayer 22

Chapter Five: Functions of Prayer 48

Chapter Six: Summary 67

Exhibit A: Interviewee Profiles 71

Exhibit B: Interview Question List 73

Exhibit C: Selected Interview Transcription Excerpts 74

Exhibit D: Selected Religious Service Transcription Excerpts 91

Exhibit E: Linguistic Prayer Structure Analyses 120

Exhibit F: Illustration of Different Conceptions of Prayer in Different Languages 121

Works Cited 122

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