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Passive Voice in American Soap Opera Dialogue
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Languages, Department of English.
2015 (English)In: Studia Neophilologica, ISSN 0039-3274, E-ISSN 1651-2308, Vol. 87, no 2, p. 152-170Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study makes use of a large amount of 21st-century corpus material in order to examine a number of differences between the be-passive and the get-passive in contemporary American English. Previous studies on 20th-century material have indicated a decline in the use of the more frequent and more formal be-passive and an increase in the frequency of the rarer get-passive, especially in written American English. The present study is based on the Corpus of American Soap Operas; this corpus may be seen as an attempt at representing spoken language, which makes it a new departure point for the study of passive voice in English. Frequencies for the two constructions are tracked across the first decade of the century, and the number of true passives is estimated based on manually examined subsets. The differences between central be- and get-passives are discussed in terms of semantic preferences, colloquialization, and stylistic prescriptivism. Since prescriptive influence is assumed to be a factor in the use of passive voice, other indicators of prescriptivism (relativizer which, pied-piping of wh-relativizers) are also examined.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala Univ, Stockholm, Sweden., 2015. Vol. 87, no 2, p. 152-170
Keyword [en]
passive voice, be-passive, get-passive, adversativity, grammaticalization, colloquialization, prescriptivism, American English
National Category
Languages and Literature
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-265941DOI: 10.1080/00393274.2015.1049831ISI: 000362089200002OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-265941DiVA, id: diva2:866932
Available from: 2015-11-04 Created: 2015-11-04 Last updated: 2018-02-21
In thesis
1. Passive voices: be-, get- and prepositional passives in recent American English
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Passive voices: be-, get- and prepositional passives in recent American English
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of the thesis is to shed light on the use and development of passive voice in American English. Empirical, corpus methods are employed in order to examine the syntactic, semantic, and stylistic preferences of three English passive constructions across time and genre in American English. The corpus data span the years 1870–2010 and come from genres of widely varying formality. The three passive constructions investigated in this thesis are:

  1. The canonical be-passive, as in she was sent home.
  2. The informal, relatively infrequent get-passive, as in she got sent home.
  3. The typologically rare prepositional passive, as in she was sent for.

In Article 1, the frequency of be- and get-passives in very recent, speech-like material suggests both colloquialization and prescriptivism as influences on the language. The results indicate little difference between the two passives except in terms of frequency, highlighting the importance of comparing get-passives to a control group of be-passives.  In Article 2, data from the TIME Magazine Corpus indicate that get-passives may have been continuing to grammaticalize over the 20th century in terms of situation-type preferences. Article 3, which encompasses a longer diachronic span across more genres, lends further support to the continuing grammaticalization of get-passives, and offers two additional indicators:  decreased use with human subjects, and increasing acceptability with a range of past participles. Finally, the study of prepositional passives presented in Article 4 constitutes an empirical investigation of earlier theories against a control group of non-prepositional passives. The findings suggest diachronically stable differences along a range of features, including the thematic roles conferred on the passive subject-referent, supporting earlier claims about affectedness and perceptual salience of subject in prepositional passives.

The overall findings of the thesis highlight differences and similarities in three kinds of passive, and nuance our understanding of what passive voice is by using empirical methods to refine intuitive theories. The results regarding the use and development of the passives across time period and genre offer insight into the intertwined nature of mechanisms relating to language change, such as prescriptivism, colloquialization, and grammaticalization.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Department of English, 2018. p. 67
Keyword
passive voice, get-passive, prepositional passive, corpus linguistics, American English, historical syntax, adversativity, situation type, thematic role, affectedness, prescriptivism, colloquialization, grammaticalization
National Category
Specific Languages
Research subject
English
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-342405 (URN)978-91-506-2682-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-04-20, Geijersalen, Engelska parken, Thunbergsvägen 3, Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2018-03-28 Created: 2018-02-21 Last updated: 2018-04-03Bibliographically approved

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Schwarz, Sarah

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