Letter Writing and Language Change outlines the historical sociolinguistic value of letter analysis, both in theory and practice. The chapters in this volume make use of insights from all three 'Waves of Variation Studies', and many of them, either implicitly or explicitly, look at specific aspects of the language of the letter writers in an effort to discover how those writers position themselves and how they attempt, consciously or unconsciously, to construct social identities. The letters are largely from people in the lower strata of social structure, either to addressees of the same social status or of a higher status. In this sense the question of the use of 'standard' and/or 'nonstandard' varieties of English is in the forefront of the contributors' interest. Ultimately, the studies challenge the assumption that there is only one 'legitimate' and homogenous form of English or of any other language.
Anita Auer is Full Professor of English Linguistics at the University of Lausanne. Daniel Schreier is Full Professor of English Linguistics at the University of Zurich. Richard J. Watts is a former Full Professor of English Linguistics at the University of Bern, now retired.
1. Setting the scene, letters, standards and historical sociolinguistics Richard J. Watts; 2. Assessing variability and change in early English letters Juan Manuel Hernandez-Campoy and Juan Camilo Conde-Silvestre; 3. Private letters as a source for an alternative history of Middle New High German Stephan Elspass; 4. Language in print and handwriting Tony Fairman; 5. Heterogeneity vs homogeneity Marianne Hundt; 6. Emerging standards in the colonies, variation and the Canadian letter writer Stefan Dollinger; 7. Linguistic fingerprints of authors and scribes Alexander Bergs; 8. Stylistic variation Anita Auer; 9. English aristocratic letters Susan Fitzmaurice; 10. Early nineteenth-century pauper letters Mikko Laitinen; 11. A non-standard standard? Exploring the evidence from nineteenth-century vernacular letters and diaries Barbara Allen; 12. Archaism and dialect in Irish emigrant letters Lukas Pietsch; 13. Assessing heterogeneity Lucia Siebers; 14. Hypercorrection and the persistence of local dialect features in writing Daniel Schreier; 15. Epilogue: where next? Anita Auer, Daniel Schreier and Richard J. Watts; References; Index.
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