Ladylikeness and Sociolinguistic Submission in Late Medieval English Society: Gender-based Use of Negation in John Paston I and Margaret Paston

  • Juan Manuel Hernández Campoy
Keywords: historical sociolinguistics, language and gender, submissiveness, uniformitarian principle, statistical validity, representativeness


As is widely known, Historical Sociolinguistics studies the evolution of languages in their social, historical and cultural context. During the last forty years, the study of the relationships between language and gender has been one of the most important and best publicised areas of sociolinguistic research. Such research, carried out both synchronically and diachronically, has shown differences in gender-based patterns of sociolinguistic behaviour between current and past societies. The aim of this paper is to show the results and conclusions from a historical sociolinguistic study correlating the factor of gender with linguistic features such as mood and polarity in a married couple of the Paston family (John Paston I and Margaret Paston), from one of the most important linguistic corpora of late medieval English (the Paston Letters). Although their statistical validity and representativeness cannot lead to generalisation, the analysis does allow us to detect some tentative differences in the sociolinguistic behaviour of men and women in late English medieval society that might be reflected in interpersonal epistolary communication. Both social and linguistic extrapolations are inevitable, implying the ways in which language may reflect and help to maintain social attitudes towards women and men.

Author Biography

Juan Manuel Hernández Campoy
Universidad de Murcia