The social space of an eighteenth-century governess

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Social space can be expressed by e.g. the use of modality and person reference. We discuss how variation in power and distance affects the ways an eighteenth-century governess, Agnes Porter, is constrained by her professional role, and by what linguistic means she negotiates shifts between different private and public roles. The results show that Porter’s constant efforts of self-effacement are reflected in her habit of referring more to people other than herself, as well as in her use of epistemic must and avoidance of first-person forms. Porter’s social space appears feminine, and her constrained self-expression shows not only in the use of positive adjectives but also in the overall topic of her letters and journal entries.


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