Sociolinguistic coverage of The Helsinki Corpus

The parameters giving sociolinguistic infor­mation on the authors are of importance mainly for the later sections of the corpus. These parameters apply from Middle English on.

The parameters define the age (in twenty-year age groups) and social status (on a simple high/professional/other scale) of the authors. In describing correspon­dence, private and official, attention has been paid to the relationship between the sender and the receiver, coding it as “intimate” or “distant”. The writer and the addressee may be ranked as “equal”, or the letter may be addressed to a person in a higher (“up”) or lower (“down”) social position. All official letters are “distant” by definition and those by core family members, "intimate". A wife's letter to her husband, children's letters to parents and all letters to the king or queen by his/her subjects are coded as “up”, two members of the gentry are “equal”, and so on.

The intended readership of scientific and instructive writings, has been coded as either “professional” or “non-profes­sional”. The level of the formality of the text has been defined mainly on the basis of the discourse situation. Sermons, trial records and official correspondence have been coded as "formal" and private correspondence and comedy as "informal". The latter label has also been applied to Early Modern English light fiction, which is intended for the entertainment of the reader.