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Syntax, Style and Grammatical Norms

English from 1500-2000


Edited By Christiane Dalton-Puffer, Dieter Kastovsky and Nikolaus Ritt

The volume features a selection of new work presented at the 2004 meeting of the International Conference on English Historical Linguistics (ICEHL). Main conference themes reflected in this volume are: the maturation and broadening of historical corpus linguistics, a new interest in English for Specific Purposes as a diachronic phenomenon, and the role of grammar writing in the process of change. A further thematic strand of this book is the significance of functional aspects in the development of grammar and discourse, especially in domains beyond phonology and morphology. Several contributions focus on the operation of socio-pragmatic and functional factors in historically identifiable social networks, especially in the 18 th century. Apart from that there is also a strong emphasis on developments in the 19 th and 20 th centuries.


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ELENA SEOANE: Changing Styles: On the Recent Evolution of Scientific British and American English 191


ELENA SEOANE UNIVERSITY OF SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA Changing Styles: On the Recent Evolution of Scientific British and American English1 1. Introduction The aim of this paper is to try to explain a recent and ongoing change observed in scientific British and American English, namely the dramatic decrease in the frequency of the use of the passive voice. For this purpose I will briefly describe the data found (section 2), and I will provide four possible explanations for this decay (section 3). Finally, section 4 will summarise the main conclusions derived from this study.2 1 Research for this paper was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science (grant numbers BFF2001-2914 and HUM2004-00940) and the Galician Ministry of Education (grant numbers PGIDT01PXI20404PR and PGIDIT02PXIC20402PN). I would also like to express my gratitude to Teresa Fanego, Christian Mair, Päivi Pahta, John Swales, Elaine Tarone and Chris Williams for their inspiring comments and help. Furthermore this paper has profited from the comments by two anonymous referees. 2 Scientific English is too wide a concept to cover a homogeneous category of texts. In this paper I will be using “scientific genre” á la Swales (1990), i.e., scientific English is conceived of as comprising certain communicative events with identical communicative purposes, which constitute the rationale of the register, and which determine the content and style of the1genre. On a similar view, see for instance Martin (1992: 13-16) and Bhatia (1993: 13-16). 192 Elena Seoane 2. Data: The decay of the passive in scientific British...

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