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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).

About SoReaL

The major goal of the SOREAL constellation was (1) to develop corpus-aided socio-pragmatic methodology for diachronic purposes in order (2) to understand in a diachronic perspective how socio-cultural reality and language practices are intertwined and how changes in socio-cultural reality are reflected in changing language practices. The more immediate research goal was to thematize, analyze and describe the relationship between Socio-cultural Reality and Language Practices in Late Modern England (1700-1900) with a specific focus on three partly overlapping areas: (a) communication patterns in public and private writing, (b) language-contact phenomena, and (c) micro- and macrostructures in text and discourse.

The purpose of language use is seldom only to convey objective information but rather to build, index and maintain social relationships and influence other people in various ways. This means that in communication people express their identities, ideological inclinations, social hierarchies and mutual relationships by means of language according to the expected needs of the intended audience. Our aim was to explore what kind of communication patterns emerge in various public and private settings and how these patterns change in time. The settings in focus included the language of personal letters, where e.g. social hierarchies and family relationships are constructed and expressed, and the language of advertising, where persuasive language use is of central interest. The social structure of the late modern society formed an important framework and point of reference for our research as well as the eighteenth-century ideological concept of civility of speech and writing that influenced the linguistic style of upper and middle classes. Observed changes in patterns of communication were compared with changes in these socio-cultural frameworks.

The three-year SOREAL venture focused on certain discursive practices and linguistic features that were analyzed from different perspectives using multiple research methodologies. Individual linguistic features studied included e.g. personal pronouns, modality, stance markers, social deixis, speech reporting and code-switching. All findings were mirrored against present-day linguistic practices as well as results gained from studying earlier periods in the history of English. Much of the research built on our own experience in analysing these linguistic features during earlier stages in the history of English.