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Preterite and Past Participle Forms in English 1680–1790: Standardisation Processes in Public and Private Writing
Uppsala University, Humanistisk-samhällsvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Faculty of Languages, Department of English.
2002 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The present study surveys variation and standardisation processes in the use of preterite and past participle forms in English texts included in A Corpus of Public and Private Writing (1680–1790), PPW. Quantitative and qualitative changes in the varied spelling of -ED forms of regular verbs (e.g. fixed, fix’d, fixd, fixt, and fix’t) and in the fluctuating use of preterite and past participle forms of irregular verbs (e.g. tha preterite variant forms drunk and writ and tha past participle variant forms drank and wrote) are the focus of this investigation. In this study, to show different facets of standardisation, the corpus-based evidence of usage is compared to the evidence of contemporaneous grammars, rhetoric books, and dictionaries.

The data provided by the corpus reveal that the contrasts of usage in public and private registers of writing are crucial to our understanding of variation and standardisation processes. In public writing, a tendency towards standardisation is statistically manifest in the spelling of -ED forms of regular verbs but not substantiated in the use of forms of irregular verbs. By contrast, in private writing, the varied spelling of forms of regular verbs recedes moderately, whereas the recession of variation in the use of forms of irregular verbs is prominent. In sum, an intricate complex of statistical tendencies is revealed when the corpus-based evidence is related to the variables of time, register, text type, and grammatical category. These tendencies prove that standardisation is not a monolithic process but comprises diverse and statistically distinct standardisation processes.

The study also shows that the corpus-based evidence of usage may be at variance with the evidence of precept as the register of writing was not a factor relevant to the grammatical codification of the time. This factor is nonetheless pivotal when we describe the diversity of standardisation processes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis , 2002. , 306 p.
Studia Anglistica Upsaliensia, ISSN 0562-2719 ; 120
Keyword [en]
English language
Keyword [sv]
National Category
Specific Languages
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-1852ISBN: 91-554-5254-XOAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-1852DiVA: diva2:161411
Public defence
2002-04-27, Ihresalen, SVC, Villavägen 4, Uppsala, 13:15
Available from: 2002-04-03 Created: 2002-04-03Bibliographically approved

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