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University of Helsinki Faculty of XXX

Socio-cultural Reality and Language Practices in Late Modern England


Contact information:

Mail: Department of English, P.O.Box 24, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland.

Email:, (for Pahta).


The Socio-cultural Reality and Language Practices (SoReaL) research project was funded by the University of Helsinki in 2005-2007, and completed its work in 2008. Our aim was to study the interface of language and socio-cultural reality in England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. We refer to ourselves as a research constellation, in that we are a group of equal researchers pursuing similar goals, working both individually and in various combinations. While the formal project is over, the work continues.

Social Roles and Language Practices in Late Modern English (2010)

The SoReaL team organised a workshop called "Social roles and language practices in Late Modern English" at the 3rd Late Modern English conference in Leiden. The volume of proceedings came out in July 2010:

Social Roles and Language Practices in Late Modern English, ed. by Päivi Pahta, Minna Nevala, Arja Nurmi and Minna Palander-Collin. (Pragmatics and Beyond NS 195.) Amsterdam: Benjamins.


"Language practices in the construction of social roles in Late Modern English" by Päivi Pahta, Minna Palander-Collin, MInna Nevala and Arja Nurmi.

"Mr Spectator, identity and social roles in an early eighteenth-century community of practice and the periodical discourse community" by Susan M. Fitzmaurice.

"How eighteenth-century book reviewers became language guardians" by Carol Percy.

"'if You think me obstinate I can't help it': Exploring the epistolary styles and social roles of Elizabeth Montagu and Sarah Scott" by Anni Sairio.

"Reporting and social role construction in eighteenth-century personal correspondence" by Minna Palander-Collin and Minna Nevala.

"Preacher, scholar, brother, friend: Social roles and code-switching in the writings of Thomas Twining" by Arja Nurmi and Päivi Pahta.

"The social space of an eighteenth-century governess: Modality and reference in the private letters and journals of Agnes Porter" by Arja Nurmi and Minna Nevala.

"Building trust through (self-)appraisal in nineteenth-century business correspondence" by Marina Dossena.

"Good-natured fellows and poor mothers: Defining social roles in British nineteenth-century children's literature" by Hanna Andersdotter Sveen.

Said about the volume:

This is a trailblazing volume. Too often do studies in historical linguistics adopt social (or other) theories of yesterday. But here we have cutting-edge research on social roles, identities and practices applied innovatively to historical data, leading to new insights – not just about Late Modern English but also about the dynamics of language, social phenomena and change – and lighting the way for future research.
Jonathan Culpeper, Senior Lecturer, English Language and Linguistics, Lancaster University

This collection of uniformly strong studies brings a contemporary, sophisticated understanding of social roles, positions and identities to historical written texts, and so raises new and exciting questions on the ways in which writing, early on, became a vehicle for articulating more than ideas and stories - how writing became an instrument for endorsing, questioning and challenging the social order.
Jan Blommaert, Professor of Language, Culture and Globalization, Director, Babylon Center, Tilburg University

Adopting a research model from the social sciences, this volume offers a challenging new framework for the study of Late Modern English writings both from the public and the private domain. Uniquely in the context of historical sociolinguistics, the papers included offer important insights into the interrelationship of different social roles adopted by Late Modern English writers and their language use. Each paper provides the reader with an intriguing case study, showing convincingly that data from older stages of the language, despite obvious limitations as deriving from the written medium, are in fact very good data when approached with a research model that takes these limitations into account through consistent and systematic embedding in the context in which the texts were originally conceived.
Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade, Professor of English, Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Leiden University Centre for Linguistics