Change in Contemporary English: A Grammatical Study

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The aim of this series is to provide a framework for original studies of English, both present-day and past. All books are based securely on empirical research, and represent theoretical and descriptive contributions to our knowledge of national and international varieties of English, both written and spoken. The series covers a broad range of topics and approaches, including syntax phonology, grammar, vocabulary, discourse pragmatics, and sociolinguistic, is aimed at an international readership.

Based on the systematic analysis of large amounts of computer-readable text, this book shows how the English language has been changing in the recent past, often in unexpected and previously undocumented ways. The study is based on a group of matching corpora, known as the 'Brown family' of corpora, supplemented by a range of other corpus materials, both written and spoken, drawn mainly from the later twentieth century. Among the matters receiving particular attention are the influence of American English on British English, the role of the press, the 'colloquialization' of written English, and a wide range of grammatical topics, including the modal auxiliaries, progressive, subjunctive, passive, genitive and relative clauses. These subjects build and overall picture of how English grammar is changing, and the linguistic and social factors that are contributing to this process.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Review of the hardback: 'CCE suggests a number of issues that will no doubt inspire much research in the future, not only in English, but in any language for which electronic corpora are available over a fifty- to hundred-year period. … Regardless of any limitations of the corpora, the authors have developed a rigorous methodology for tagging, quantifying and analyzing electronic corpus materials, and revealing the multifactorial nature of change in use.' Elizabeth Closs Traugott, English Language and Linguistics

'… the studies collected in this volume are very valuable for the analysis of ongoing language change. The observations of these very detailed descriptions of language use and variation in the second half of the twentieth century across the two major written varieties of English will - together with, for example, the quantitative data and qualitative analyses of the Longman Grammar … certainly be a highly welcome basis for further investigations into ongoing grammar change in English.' Ursula Lenker, Anglia

'… this is a masterly book, no doubt the standard treatment of its subject for years to come. In an exemplary fashion it combines a meticulous attention to detail and empirically sound documentation with a fundamental interest in the nature and causes of syntactic change, and it provides far-reaching insights on both levels.' Edgar W. Schneider, English World-Wide

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521867221
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 11/30/2009
  • Series: Studies in English Language Series
  • Pages: 370
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Geoffrey Leech is Emeritus Professor of English Linguistics in the Department of Linguistics and English Language at Lancaster University.

Marianne Hundt is Professor of Linguistics in the Department of English at the University of Zürich.

Christian Mair is Professor of English Linguistics in the Department of English at the University of Freiburg.

Nicholas Smith is Lecturer in the School of English, Sociology, Politics and Contemporary History at the University of Salford.

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Table of Contents

List of figures x

List of tables|xiv

Preface xix

Abbreviations and symbolic conventions xxv

1 Introduction: 'grammar blindness' in the recent history of English? 1

1.1 Grammar is more than an arbitrary list of shibboleths 1

1.2 Grammatical changes: proceeding slowly and invisible at close range? 7

1.3 A frame of orientation: previous research on recent and ongoing grammatical changes in English 16

1.4 Conclusion 22

2 Comparative corpus linguistics: the methodological basis of this book 24

2.1 (Computer) corpus linguistics: the Brown Corpus and after 24

2.2 Comparable corpora and comparative corpus linguistics 27

2.3 The methodological basis of comparable corpus linguistics 31

2.4 Stages of investigation 33

(A) Rationalize the mark-up of the corpora 33

(B) Undertake annotation of the corpora 33

(C) Use search and retrieval software to identify and extract recurrent formal features in the corpus 34

(D) Refine the comparative analysis 34

(D1) Derive difference-of-frequency tables 35

(D2) Derive difference-of-frequency tables from inter-corpus comparisons 36

(D3) Undertake further categorization of instances of features found in the corpora 36

(E) Further qualitative analysis, examining individual instances, or clusters of instances, in both corpora 37

(F) Functional interpretation of findings 37

2.5 Further details and explanations of the stages of investigation 37

2.5.1 (B) Annotation 37

2.5.2 (C) Search expressions in CQP 38

2.5.3 (D1) Frequency across genres and subcorpora 40

2.5.4 (D2) External comparisons 43

2.5.5 (D3) Further categorization of instances found in the corpora45

2.5.6 (E) Further qualitative analysis 47

2.5.7 (F) Functional interpretation of findings on all levels 49

2.6 Conclusion 50

3 The subjunctive mood 51

3.1 Introduction 51

3.2 The revival of the mandative subjunctive 52

3.2.1 Overall developments of the mandative subjunctive 53

3.2.2 Is the mandative subjunctive losing its formal connotations? 57

3.3 The were-subjunctive 61

3.3.1 The were-subjunctive: diachronic development 64

3.3.2 The were-subjunctive: a recessive formal option? 66

3.4 Revival and demise of the subjunctive? An attempt at reconciling apparently contradictory developments 67

3.5 Summary and conclusion 69

4 The modal auxiliaries 71

4.1 The declining use of the modal auxiliaries in written standard English 1961-1991/2 71

4.2 The changing use of the modals in different genres and subcorpora 73

4.3 The changing use of the modals in spoken vs written corpora 76

4.4 The core modals and competing expressions of modality 78

4.5 Shrinking usage of particular modals: a more detailed examination 79

4.5.1 The modals at the bottom of the frequency list: shall, ought to and need(n't) 80

4.5.2 The semantics of modal decline: may, must and should 83

4.6 Conclusion 89

5 The so-called semi-modals 91

5.1 Auxiliary-lexical verb gradience 92

5.2 Overall changes in frequency of semi-modals 98

5.3 Further evidence for grammaticalization? Phonetics and semantics 105

5.3.1 Phonetic reduction and coalescence: gonna, gotta and wanna 105

5.3.2 Signs of abstraction and generalization (semantic weakening) 107

5.4 The ecology of obligation/necessity 114

5.5 Conclusion 116

6 The progressive 118

6.1 Introduction 118

6.2 Basic and special uses of the progressive 119

6.3 Historical background 120

6.4 Overview of recent distribution patterns 122

6.4.1 Distribution in written BrE and AmE 122

6.4.2 Distribution in contemporaneous BrE speech and other registers 124

6.5 Present progressive active 127

6.5.1 Quotations and contracted forms 128

6.5.2 Stative verbs 129

6.5.3 Subject type and reference 130

6.5.4 Special uses 131

6.6 The progressive passive 136

6.7 The progressive in combination with modal auxiliaries 139

6.7.1 Modal auxiliary + be -ing 139

6.7.2 Will + be -ing 139

6.8 Summary and conclusion 141

7 The passive voice 144

7.1 Introduction 144

7.2 The be-passive 148

7.3 The get-passive 154

7.4 The mediopassive 158

7.5 Summary and conclusion 164

8 Take or have a look at a corpus? Expanded predicates in British and American English 166

8.1 The state of the art 167

8.2 Hypotheses 170

8.3 Defining the variable 173

8.4 Results 174

8.4.1 Stylistic variation 174

8.4.2 Diachronic variation 175

8.4.3 Regional variation 175

8.5 Summary 179

9 Non-finite clauses 181

9.1 Introduction: long-term trends in the evolution of English non-finite clauses 181

9.2 Changes in non-finite clauses I: case studies of individual matrix verbs 186

9.2.1 Help + infinitive 187

9.2.2 Prevent/stop + NP + (from) + gerund 193

9.2.3 Start and stop in catenative uses 195

9.2.4 Want to 199

9.2.5 Assessing the speed of changes 201

9.3 Changes in non-finite clauses II: statistical trends in the tagged corpora 201

9.4 Conclusion 204

10 The noun phrase 206

10.1 Parts of speech: an overall survey 207

10.2 Nouns and noun sequences 211

10.2.1 Common nouns 212

10.2.2 Proper nouns, including proper nouns as acronyms 212

10.3 Noun sequences and other juxtapositions 214

10.3.1 Noun + common noun sequences 216

10.3.2 Noun sequences with plural attributive nouns 219

10.3.3 Sequences of proper nouns 221

10.4 The s-genitive and the of-genitive 222

10.4.1 The s-genitive 223

10.4.2 The of-gentive 224

10.5 Relative clauses 226

10.5.1 Wh- relative clauses 228

10.5.2 That relative clauses 229

10.5.3 Zero relative clauses 231

10.5.4 Pied-piping vs preposition stranding 231

10.6 Summary and conclusion 233

11 Linguistic and other determinants of change 236

11.1 The functional and social processes of change 236

11.2 Grammaticalization 237

11.3 Colloquialization 239

11.3.1 Contracted negatives and verb forms 240

11.3.2 Not-negation vs no-negation 241

11.3.3 Questions 242

11.3.4 Other plausible grammatical signs of colloquialization 243

11.3.5 Punctuation 244

11.3.6 Problems and issues concerning colloquialization 245

11.4 Densification of content 249

11.5 Americanization? 252

11.5.1 'Americanization' in relation to other trends 256

11.5.2 'Americanization' and sociolinguistic globalization 258

11.6 Other trends 259

11.6.1 Democratization: ironing out differences 259

11.6.2 Language prescriptions 263

11.6.3 Analyticization? 264

11.7 Conclusion 267

Appendix I The composition of the Brown Corpus 273

Appendix II The C8 tagset used for part-of-speech tagging of the four corpora 276

Appendix III Additional statistical tables and charts|281

References 314

Index 335

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