Historical corpora: Their applicability to (socio)linguistic and cultural research


Urszula Okulska

Warsaw University


The paper focuses on the use of historical corpora in research on different systemic parameters of English in its historical development including social factors that influenced its evolution. Selected problems of the applicability of diachronic data bases will be discussed in relation to morphological, syntactic, discursive, and pragmatic aspects of English at the earlier stages of its historical development. Some sociolinguistic aspects of the variables in question will also be tackled, such as social origin, age, and sex, to show the usefulness of historical corpora for the study of external factors that impinged upon the diffusion of language change across centuries. Furthermore, large text collections emerge as an important source of data for anthropological and text linguistics, which will be demonstrated on the example of private correspondence and diaries of the Early Modern English period from the Helsinki Corpus of English Texts and the Corpus of Early English Correspondence. A systematic observation of the generic macrostructures and formal textual properties reveals the evolution of and alterations within the cultural system of values assigning new categories of the social and moral order to subsequent generations in the English history.


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