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Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication

Ed. by Piller, Ingrid

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Social stratification and patterns of code-switching in Early English letters

Arja Nurmi1 / Päivi Pahta2



Citation Information: Multilingua - Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication. Volume 23, Issue 4, Pages 417–456, ISSN (Online) 1613-3684, ISSN (Print) 0167-8507, DOI: 10.1515/mult.2004.23.4.417, July 2005

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The study deals with multilingualism in a historical perspective, focusing on code-switching between English and other languages in letters written in fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century England. The data is drawn from the Corpus of Early English Correspondence, a large electronic tool designed for historical sociolinguistic research. A related database containing background information on the writers makes it possible to apply the framework of correlational sociolinguistics. While testing the relationship of code-switching with many social variables, the study concentrates on social stratification. The analysis shows clear correlation between the writers' social rank and their code-switching behaviour both in terms of quantity and quality. Other interlinked variables such as gender and education are also significant. The study also confirms that for a full understanding of the phenomenon, microlevel analyses of idiolects and interpersonal relations are needed.

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English Text Construction, 2014, Volume 7, Number 1, Page 18

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