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Gender and the Formation of Modern Standard English

A Socio-Historical Corpus Study with Early Modern English in Focus


Urszula Okulska

The study examines the influence of gender on several long-term changes between 1500 and 1710 with an aim to assess the power of this variable in the formation of Present-Day Standard English. It projects the findings of contemporary sociolinguistics onto the history of English to check whether it was women, as some contemporary research might indicate, who were main trendsetters in the Early Modern English period and propagators of language innovations that have finally shaped the structure of Present-Day Standard English. The research builds a bridge between contemporary and historical sociolinguistics in that it incorporates five recent hypotheses explaining gender-conditioned variation to probe fifteen morpho-syntactic alterations of the 16 th –18 th centuries. The parameters are tested against the level of gender-marking from the perspective of specific socio-economic transformations of the time. As a corpus-based project, the analysis joins micro- and macro-scale methodologies with qualitative and quantitative approaches to the data processed. The source material are Early Modern English informal writings, such as letters and diaries, from the Helsinki Corpus of English Texts.
Contents: Gender – (Historical) Sociolinguistics – Helsinki Corpus – Early Modern English – Syntax – Morphology.