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Corpus-based Studies of Diachronic English

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Edited By Roberta Facchinetti and Matti Rissanen

Corpus-based studies of diachronic English have been thriving over the last three decades to such an extent that the validity of corpora in the enrichment of historical linguistic research is now undeniable. The present book is a collection of papers illustrating the state of the art in corpus-based research on diachronic English, by means of case-study expositions, software presentations, and theoretical discussions on the topic. The majority of these papers were delivered at the 25 th Conference of the International Computer Archive of Modern and Medieval English (ICAME), held at the University of Verona on 18-23 May 2004. A number of typological and geographical varieties of English are tackled in the book: from general to specialized English, from British to Australian English, from written to speech-related registers. In order to discuss their tenets, the contributors draw on corpora and dictionaries from different centuries, including the most recent ones; hence, they testify to the fact that past and present are so strongly interlocked and so inextricably entwined that it proves hard – if not preposterous – to fully understand Present-day English structure and features without turning back to the previous centuries for an in-depth knowledge of the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of the current state of the art.

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HELENA RAUMOLIN-BRUNBERG Leaders of Linguistic Change in Early Modern England1 1. Introduction This chapter is part of my research project ‘Language change and the individual’, which focuses on the different ways people behave under ongoing linguistic change. My research topics include general issues such as the longitudinal study of the linguistic behaviour of individuals (Raumolin-Brunberg 2005a) and more specific questions like the leadership of linguistic changes. My material consists of Late Middle and Early Modern English personal correspondence. Despite problems such as limited quantity and uneven representativeness, diachronic data have an advantage over synchronic material in offering the depth of time that longitudinal analyses require. The leadership of linguistic change is a complex phenomenon (Labov 2001: 323-411), and I will restrict my analysis to the following three questions: (1) Is it possible to trace the leaders of a particular change on the basis of what we know about the social trajectory of this shift? (2) Were there people who could be characterized as innovative in their linguistic behaviour in general; in other words, did the same people lead several changes? (3) In what types of social networks did the leaders live? This study deals with three morphological changes: the introduction of the object pronoun YOU2 into the subject function, the replacement of the suffix -TH by -S in the indicative third person 1 The research reported here was supported in part by the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence funding for the Research Unit for Variation and Change in English...

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