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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton January 1, 2013

Letter-writing as a communicative practice - polyphony in Finnish emigrant letters in the 19th century

Taru Nordlund


This paper discusses the correspondence between Finnish emigrants living in North America and their families and friends at home in Finland. This correspondence dates from the latter part of the nineteenth century, and concerns the first generation of emigrants. Sending and receiving letters in nineteenth-century Finland can be understood as a communicative practice of the local community, because letters were written collectively, and a literate person typically acted as a scribe in the community. Even reading and receiving a letter was a collective act of hearing. Linguistically, the collective nature of letter-writing is reflected in the different manifestations of polyphony in the texts. This article will focus on the polyphony of the immigrant correspondence, analysing who are allowed to have a voice of their own, and how the different voices are reconstructed in the letters. This analysis will focus particularly on conveying polyphony through the use of person marking in Finnish.

Received: 2013-02-19
Revised: 2013-08-14
Accepted: 2013-08-16
Published Online: 2013
Published in Print: 2013

© Faculty of English, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland, 2013

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