From <i>ul</i> to <i>U.E.</i>
In this paper, the use of forms of address in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Dutch private letters is examined from a sociolinguistic perspective. While most research has focused on the origin and regional spread of certain forms of address, the present paper will take into account the influence of social factors (class and gender) on the basis of a unique collection of letters written by people from various sorts of backgrounds. The article shows that class determines the distribution of forms of address in the private letters of both periods, while genders only an important factor for the seventeenth century. The analysis also reveals a clear development in time, as the most frequently used seventeenth-century form of address (<i>ul</i>) is replaced by another, originally marginal form in the eighteenth century (<i>U.E.</i>).