"The vsual speach of the Court": investigating language change in the Tudor family network (1544-1556)

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This paper considers how micro-level analysis can enrich our understanding of macro-level processes of language change, using a case study of the Tudors. It explores how language use in the Tudor family network relates to the role of the Court in the supralocalisation of innovative forms during the sixteenth century. Using an original corpus of correspondence and other autograph writings, I conduct a comparative analysis of the language of Elizabeth Tudor with her siblings, parents and caregivers. The findings suggest that Elizabeth’s siblings, Mary I and Edward VI, were progressive in changes localised at the Court, but that Elizabeth’s caregivers and peripheral kin may have influenced Elizabeth’s uptake of non-Court-based changes. Using Network Strength Scores to represent the social experiences of Elizabeth and her nearest kin, it appears that Elizabeth’s changing position within the Court network, from a peripheral to more central member, may have played a part in the Court’s catalyst effect for the supralocalisation of innovative forms, and the emergence of an overtly prestigious “norm” in Early Modern English.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153–188
JournalJournal of Historical Sociolinguistics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2015