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Language Change and Variation from Old English to Late Modern English

A Festschrift for Minoji Akimoto

Series:

Merja Kytö, John Scahill and Harumi Tanabe

This collection reflects Minoji Akimoto’s concern with studies of change in English that are theoretically-informed, but founded on substantial bodies of data. Some of the contributors focus on individual texts and text-types, among them literature and journalism, others on specific periods, from Old English to the nineteenth century, but the majority trace a linguistic process – such as negation, passivisation, complementation or grammaticalisation – through the history of English. While several papers take a fresh look at manuscript evidence, the harnessing of wideranging electronic corpora is a recurring feature methodologically. The linguistic fields treated include word semantics, stylistics, orthography, word-order, pragmatics and lexicography. The volume also contains a bibliography of Professor Akimoto’s writings and an index of linguistic terms.

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TOMOHIRO KAWABATA On the Rise of but-concessive Constructions: From the Viewpoint of Grammaticalization 303

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TOMOHIRO KAWABATA On the Rise of but-concessive Constructions: From the Viewpoint of Grammaticalization* 1. Introduction It has been pointed out by some researchers that the modal auxiliary may can have a concessive reading in examples like (1a) below. (1) a. He may be a university professor, but he sure is dumb. b. He may be a university professor, but I doubt it because he’s so dumb. c. I admit that he’s a university professor, and I nonetheless insist that he’s dumb. (Sweetser 1987: 70) Unlike may in (1b) with a normal epistemic reading, here the meaning of may does not appear to fit into the standard root/epistemic dichot- omy, and has a reading which presupposes the truth of the first clause. It could be glossed, therefore, as in (1c) above, where may would be glossed as ‘I admit that,’ and but as ‘and I nonetheless.’ (Sweetser 1987: 70) Kay (1997: 51) also states that (2a) below is a kind of ‘con- struction’ in the sense of Construction Grammar, and has a concessive reading, which cannot be derived out of summing up of each compo- nent. Hence it is paraphrased as in (2b). (2) a. He may be a professor, but he is an idiot. b. Although he is a professor he is an idiot. There are other elements which can occur in much the same type of constructions. The adverb certainly is one among those. * I would like to express gratitude to my colleagues Laura Lee Kusaka and Simon...

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