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Democratization, Mediatization and Language Practices in Britain, 1700 - 1950 (DEMLANG)

DEMLANG produces knowledge about the interrelatedness of the sociocultural processes of democratization and mediatization and changes in language practices in Britain over a period of 250 years (1700 - 1950). The major theoretical aim is to discover the mechanisms operating in the bidirectional relationship between sociocultural change and language change.

DEMLANG investigates linguistic features that carry indexical meanings on different levels of discourse and are likely to be significant in understanding language change in relation to the sociocultural processes in focus.


The relationship of language practices and sociocultural processes will be empirically studied in public texts mediating ideologies and values, e.g. newspapers, political speeches, parliamentary records, and novels. In order to understand how linguistic resources are used in different contexts and how language practices spread, we will compare public practices with private ones evidenced in letters and diaries. The data comes from a range of corpora, varying in size from 300,000 to 35 billion words. The large corpora will be used for the data-driven tracing of changing patterns in lexis, phraseology, and syntax, while the smaller corpora with rich metadata provide detailed evidence of discourse in context.

The methods combine corpus linguistic and computational analysis with discourse analytical and sociolinguistic methods. Macro-level analyses with Big Data allow pattern identification and the discovery of statistically significant turning points. Studying the corpora make it possible to uncover the complexity of phenomena and to explain emerging, changing and declining linguistic features with the help of historical background data.

Funding source

Academy of Finland

Contact persons

Professor / Consortium PI

Päivi Pahta

paivi.pahta [at]

+358 50 318 1131