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, while micro-level analyses with philologically well-argued smaller 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.

Key words

  • Sociolinguistics
  • Language practices
  • Language change
  • The history of English language



Minna Nevala (UTA)

Arja Nurmi (UTA)

Turo Hiltunen (UH)

Päivi Pahta (UTA, head of research group)

Minna Palander-Collin (UH)

Jenni Riihimäki (UTA)

Jukka Tyrkkö (Linnaeus Universitet)



Pahta, Päivi. Demokratisaatio, mediatisaatio ja kielikäytänteet Britanniassa 1700-1950. Academy of Finland (2016-2020)



2017. Nevala Minna. “The public identity of Jack the Ripper in nineteenth-century British newspapers.” Diachronic Developments in English News Discourse. Eds. Minna Palander-Collin, Maura Ratia, Irma Taavitsainen. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 199-216.

2017. Nevala Minna, Hintikka Marianna, Vartiainen Turo (eds.) Constructing the Social Margins in Late Modern English. Special issue of Journal of Historical Sociolinguistics 3/2. Amsterdam: Mouton de Gruyter.

2017. Nurmi Arja, Rütten Tanja, Pahta Päivi (eds.) Challenging the Myth of Monolingual Corpora. Leiden: Brill.

2017. Tyrkkö Jukka, Arja Nurmi. Analysing multilingual practices in Late Modern English: Parameter selection and recursive partitioning in focus. Studies in Variation, Contacts and Change in English 18.


Forthcoming Publications

2018. Pahta, Päivi, Janne Skaffari & Laura Wright (eds.) Multilingual Practices in Language History: English and Beyond. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.