Universiteit Leiden

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Sociolinguistics and Discourse Studies

Language use in historical context

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 varies not only across contexts (e.g. geographical regions, communicative settings), but also across time. Situations of historical multilingualism, for instance, bring up questions of language choice, language shift and linguistic change induced by language contact. 

Our research into the history, structure and use of languages such as Arabic, Dutch, English, French, Hebrew and Russian is broadly situated in the fields of usage-based linguistics and historical sociolinguistics, including the social history of languages. We analyze languages in their historical context, making use of qualitative and quantitative, corpus-linguistic methods, as well as computational models.  

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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