Universiteit Leiden

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Sociolinguistics and Discourse Studies

Historical sociolinguistics

When researching languages in historical context, our goal is to understand the nature of linguistic variation in the past, and explain the extent to which the socio-cultural context of bygone times contributed to shaping linguistic variation and change.

The form and function of languages vary not only across contexts (e.g. geographical regions, communicative settings), but also across time. 

Our research into the history, structure, and use of Germanic and Romance languages such as Dutch, English, Latin, French, and Russian is situated in the fields of usage-based linguistics and historical sociolinguistics, including the social history of languages. We are interested in investigating how language varies and changes within (historical) individuals and communities, how standard language varieties were established, and how situations of historical multilingualism bring up questions of language choice, language shift, and linguistic change induced by language contact. To address these questions, we rely on archival material as well as historical (diachronic) corpora, using qualitative, quantitative, as well as computational methods.  

Research topics include

  • the language of ‘ordinary’ language users as found in egodocuments (private letters and diaries)
  • the dynamics between individual language use and community-level language change
  • historical multilingualism and contact-induced change
  • standardisation; the language of education and the influence of language norms on language use
  • language as a token of intimacy (at the level of individuals and small networks)

We welcome applications by prospective PhD students in all these areas.

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