Macquarie University
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Speaking to their audiences: a sociohistorical linguistic look at interactional language and women's novels, France and England, 1670-1770

posted on 2022-03-28, 23:41 authored by Laura Gale Ruch
"Using principles mainly from interactional sociolinguistics and sociohistorical linguistics, this study has examined fourteen epistolary novels by French and English women, from 1670 to 1770, for language that 'speaks to' audiences in an interactional way. A primary objective was to investigate whether women's novels specifically foster relationships via language use. Five categories of such interactional language emerged: Addressing Audiences with T/V Personal Pronouns, Omission of Openings and Closings in the Letters, Activating Common Ground, Signalling Storytelling, and Invitations to Engage. While the first two categories suggest distinctions between usage in the French and English works, the last three shift the focus to the question of audience position. This shift highlights that the 'participants' in these 'conversations' are engaged not only in the narrator-to-audience and character-to-character relationships identified by Halliday as occurring in fiction, but also in a blended audience position that may allow the external reading audience to 'adopt the mantle' of letter recipient or to otherwise share the letter recipient's 'relationship' with the stories. Not all of the novels offer this third relationship. Some of the novels firmly position the external reading audience as 'outsider', not only to the stories but also to the relationships depicted in them. This finding reflects an apparent development in the genre of epistolary novel, one that codifies distinctions between this genre and that of simply writing letters that are not entirely 'real'. In turn, these findings led not only to links with Bakhtin's theory of the multi-languaged novel but also Habermas' theory regarding the private and public spheres in the period. In fact, this approach to the interactional language of novels may allow pathways to operationalize further research in those directions, and to consider whether there are differences between the relationships fostered via language in novels by women and men." -- Abstract.


Table of Contents

ch. 1. Introduction: Examining language that 'speaks to' audiences in a collection of women's novels -- ch. 2. Initial theoretical framework: interactional sociolinguistics, sociohistorical linguistics and other organizing principles -- ch. 3. Meta-linguistic environment: language in the period -- ch. 4. Interim developments: growing the theory and pointing toward conclusions -- ch. 5. Core components: the novels and the language categories -- ch. 6. Samples and findings, Part 1: Addressing audiences with T/V personal pronouns -- ch. 7. Samples and findings, Part 2: Omission of openings and closings in the letters -- ch. 8. Samples and findings, Part 3: Activating common ground -- ch. 9. Samples, Part 4: Signalling storytelling -- ch. 10. Samples, Part 5: Invitations to engage -- ch. 11. Conclusions: the novels, 'speaking to' language, women and other 'big picture' considerations -- Works cited.


Bibliography: pages 241-245 Submitted in (partial) fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Sociology, 2012.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Sociology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Sociology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

John Lechte

Additional Supervisor 1

Marea Mitchell

Additional Supervisor 2

Judith Lattas


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Laura Gale Ruch 2012




1 online resource (xiii, 245 pages) illustrations

Former Identifiers

mq:27982 2066005