Volume 13, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1566-5852
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9854
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Wray (2002) distinguishes three main functions of formulaic language relating to processing, interaction and discourse marking. In this paper, we show that Wray’s analysis of the functions of formulaic language also applies to historical letter-writing in a corpus of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Dutch letters. Discourse is marked with formulae indicating the text type or the text structure. Interaction is covered by intersubjective formulae communicating health, greetings, wishes for renewed contact, as well as Christian-ritual formulae. The processing function is operationalised in terms of literacy and writing experience, assuming that the use of prefabricated formulae reduces the writing effort. Therefore, we expect less-experienced letter-writers to use more formulae than more-experienced writers. We will show that less-experienced writers are indeed more likely to use epistolary formulae, and conclude that Wray’s “reduction of the speaker’s processing effort” in online speech production, also applies to written seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Dutch.


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