This paper explores patterns of interaction in late sixteenth-century personal letters. Self-mention (I) and addressee inclusion (you vs nominal title) are studied quantitatively and qualitatively in the letters of Norfolk gentleman Nathaniel Bacon and his correspondents to see how social relationships are mutually constructed. The results suggest that Bacon used more first- and second-person pronouns with his inferiors and equal family members than with his superiors, style-shifting to “humiliative” discourse when writing to social superiors, and to “friendly” discourse when writing to inferiors. Noblemen writing to Bacon employed somewhat similar patterns, but Bacon’s inferiors seemed to be more mixed in their usage. It is argued that differences in educational background and consequent repertoires of stylistic literacy may explain such differences.
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