Referential terms and expressions in eighteenth-century letters: A case study on the Lunar men of Birmingham

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The main aim of the article is to explore how interpersonal relations and social roles influence the form and function of person-referential terms in the Late Modern English letters written by, to, and about three members of the Lunar Society of Birmingham. The article discusses whether Levinson’s (1992) concept of social deixis can be implemented by using referential terms and also explores how distance/proximity, as well as authority, influence referential usage. Since most terms used show no great variation in form, the key findings concern the different functional aspects of nominal reference. The analysis shows, for one, that the use of addressee- and self-oriented reference in particular seems to be determined by socio-contextual aspects of appearance, attitude, and authority.


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