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Self-reference and mental processes in early English personal correspondence: A corpus approach to changing patterns of interaction

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Chapter Summary

This paper explores linguistic variation and change in the way letter writers position themselves in their letters, the focus being on gentlemen’s self-reference (I) in sixteenth- and eighteenth-century personal correspondence. Self-reference is understood as a linguistic feature relevant to the identity and interpersonal functions of language. The aim is to identify broad changes in patterns of self-reference, using corpus tools, in the data extracted from the Corpus of Early English Correspondence and the Corpus of Early English Correspondence Extension. The results indicate that self-reference and self-referential mental processes increased from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. It is suggested that this development may relate to increasing stance marking and involvement observed in the history of English from 1650 onwards, particularly as self-referential mental expressions often serve interpersonal functions.



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