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Language Change and Variation from Old English to Late Modern English

A Festschrift for Minoji Akimoto


Edited By 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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REIJIROU SHIBASAKI On the Transition of Transitivity in English 349


REIJIROU SHIBASAKI On the Transition of Transitivity in English* 1. Transitivity: An introduction Transitivity has attracted increasing attention in cross-linguistic stud- ies, and there are various works on the theme specifically since Hopper and Thompson (1980). In their seminal work, Hopper and Thompson (1980) conduct a cross-linguistic observation of transitivity, proposing the following two-way distinction of transitivity scales in Table 1, according to which clauses are to be ranked. HIGH LOW A. Participants 2 or more participants, A and O 1 participant B. Kinesis action non-action C. Aspect telic atelic D. Punctuality punctual non-punctual E. Volitionality volitional non-volitional F. Affirmation affirmative negative G. Mode realis irrealis H. Agency A high in potency A low in potency I. Affectedness of O O totally affected O not affected J. Individuation of O O highly individuated O non-individuated Table 1. Transitivity scales (Hopper and Thompson 1980: 252). According to Dixon’s (1994) distinction, A and O are defined as follows: A refers to the more agent-like argument of a transitive verb; O refers to the more patient-like argument of a transitive verb. * This paper is part of my grant-in-aid scientific research project supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (No.18700263). Especial thanks go to Minoji Akimoto for his kind invitation to publish my study in this intriguing special volume. Reijirou Shibasaki 350 In the following pair of examples, for instance, Hopper and Thompson (1980: 253) state that (1b) is higher in transitivity than (1a) because the former example exhibits the properties...

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