Factors of Intra-Speaker Variation in Nineteenth-Century Lower-Class Writing

Schiegg M (2018)

Publication Language: English

Publication Type: Journal article, Original article

Publication year: 2018


Book Volume: 119

Pages Range: 101-120


Research on intra-speaker variation is scarce within the field of historical sociolinguistics, particularly with regard to German data. This paper examines whether the major approaches of modern sociolinguistics in this area, namely attention to speech, audience design, and speaker design, can be applied to the analysis of historical material. The paper focuses on a comparative analysis of eleven letters written between 1891 and 1905 by a mentally ill day-labourer at the southern German psychiatric hospital of Kaufbeuren. The combination of qualitative and quantitative methods for the examination of two graphemic variables provides evidence for all three factors of stylistic variation. In addition, the deterioration of the writer’s health appears to give rise to language change in his later letters; and this change is shown to be highly statistically significant. The paper thus offers new perspectives on the analysis of intra-speaker variation in historical data in particular and for language history ‘from below’ in general and demonstrates the need to re-evaluate the linguistic competence of lower-class writers of the past.

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How to cite


Schiegg, M. (2018). Factors of Intra-Speaker Variation in Nineteenth-Century Lower-Class Writing. Neuphilologische Mitteilungen, 119, 101-120.


Schiegg, Markus. "Factors of Intra-Speaker Variation in Nineteenth-Century Lower-Class Writing." Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 119 (2018): 101-120.

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