Volume 14, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1874-8767
  • E-ISSN: 1874-8775



Language has the capacity to create fictional worlds and to describe real-life social structures. In this paper, we explore gendered social structures in a corpus of nineteenth-century children’s fiction. We describe these structures in terms of the frequent nouns that are used to label people in the texts of the corpus. Through a bottom-up categorisation of these nouns into four groups, we find, in line with previous studies, textual evidence of a society that is unequal and that is divided into a private and a public sphere. Our study focuses in particular on mothers, the most frequent character type in children’s fiction. The representation of mothers includes abstract qualities, such as a mother’s love, as well as concrete behaviours, such as mothers taking their children into their arms. Both types of qualities contribute to the depiction of mothers as an anchor point for the private sphere.

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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): corpus stylistics; gender; general nouns; norms; Victorian literature
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