Performing identities and interaction through epistolary formulae

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This article studies the exchange of correspondence between Finnish emigrants and their close relations in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The main goal of the article is to describe how the linguistic and social identities as writers are constructed in these letters on the basis of both the written standard and the resources available in spoken Finnish. One focus of the analysis is on epistolary formulae that cannot be seen as empty or non-analyzable elements. The meanings of these constructions are negotiated in the global context of nineteenth-century Finnish society, as well as in the local interaction and power relations between the writer and the addressee(s). This article discusses historical sociolinguistics ‘from below’, and aims to contribute to the topical discussions in sociolinguistics and anthropological linguistics, especially concerning the fact that social styles not only reflect social meanings, but also construct them.


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