“But if the poore man speak, they say, What fellow is this?”: Language and Social Relations in Early Modern England, 1550-1750


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




In early modern England, social and linguistic change proceeded in conjunction with one another. Among the principal developments of the period was a process of social differentiation involving an expansion of the gentry, the growth of commercial and professional occupational groups, and the emergence of a much larger class of landless permanent laborers. These social-structural changes were accompanied by changes in the language of social description, notably the development of a language of “sorts of people.” These complementary processes occasioned shifts in the tenor of social relations and new attitudes regarding language and its use. This dissertation offers a history of the class politics of language in early modern England. By attending to language at the levels of ideology and everyday social practice, it explores the ways in which language facilitated the reproduction of the social hierarchy and structured the experiences of the laboring population.