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Social networks and language change in Tudor and Stuart London – only connect?


Place is an integral part of social network analysis, which reconstructs network structures and documents the network members’ linguistic practices in a community. Historical network analysis presents particular challenges in both respects. This article first discusses the kinds of data, official documents, personal letters and diaries that historians have used in reconstructing social networks and communities. These analyses could be enriched by including linguistic data and, vice versa, historical sociolinguistic findings may often be interpreted in terms of social networks.

Focusing on Early Modern London, I present two case studies, the first one investigating a sixteenth-century merchant family exchange network and the second discussing the seventeenth-century naval administrator Samuel Pepys, whose role as a community broker between the City and Westminster is assessed in linguistic terms. My results show how identifying the leaders and laggers of linguistic change can add to our understanding of the varied ways in which linguistic innovations spread to and from Tudor and Stuart London both within and across social networks.

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English Language & Linguistics
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