A sociolinguistics of Early Modern spelling? An account of Queen Elizabeth I's correspondence

Melanie Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article considers the potential of studying Early Modern spelling variation using a corpus-based historical sociolinguistic framework. In the first half of the paper the theoretical and methodological facets are outlined and an approach established, before the practicalities of spelling analysis are explored using a case study of the spelling system of Queen Elizabeth I. The results provide strong theoretical support for the integration of spelling into historical sociolinguistics, with Elizabeth’s background providing correlates between her education and age and her spelling practice. Whilst constrained to an idiolectal study, the analysis also suggests that the methodological difficulties attached to historical spelling are not insurmountable if certain precautions are taken in compiling a corpus. The article finds that spelling is a significant dimension of Early Modern English that warrants further, substantial investigation.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberevans
JournalStudies in Variation, Contacts and Change in English
Issue numbern/a
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • sociolinguistics
  • spelling
  • corpus linguistics
  • variation
  • Queen Elizabeth I
  • style


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