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Approaching Language Variation through Corpora

A Festschrift in Honour of Toshio Saito


Edited By Shunji Yamazaki and Robert Sigley

This book is a collection of papers using samples of real language data (corpora) to explore variation in the use of English. This collection celebrates the achievements of Toshio Saito, a pioneer in corpus linguistics within Japan and founder of the Japan Association for English Corpus Studies (JAECS).
The main aims throughout the collection are to present practical solutions for methodological and interpretational problems common in such research, and to make the research methods and issues as accessible as possible, to educate and inspire future researchers. Together, the papers represent many different dimensions of variation, including: differences in (frequency of) use under different linguistic conditions; differences between styles or registers of use; change over time; differences between regional varieties; differences between social groups; and differences in use by one individual on different occasions. The papers are grouped into four sections: studies considering methodological problems in the use of real language samples; studies describing features of language usage in different linguistic environments in modern English; studies following change over time; and case studies illustrating variation in usage for different purposes, or by different groups or individuals, in society.


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SHUNJI YAMAZAKI Comparing Adjective Comparison across Genre and Time in Standard Varieties of Modern English - 203


SHUNJI YAMAZAKI Comparing Adjective Comparison across Genre and Time in Standard Varieties of Modern English 1. Introduction1 The comparison of adjectives has attracted the attention of both grammarians and historians of the English language. Numerous studies in this area have attempted to determine rules or tendencies in the choice of inflectional or periphrastic comparison, and also to identify the factors that may affect the choice of either comparison. However, many of these studies have lacked precise numerical information and descriptive adequacy. Only recently have corpus-based studies begun to improve this situation, and a number of hypotheses have been put forward concerning what factors determine the choice of inflectional -er comparison versus periphrastic more + Adj. comparison. A quantitative analysis of adjective comparison in English language from a historical perspective suggests that periphrastic comparison marked the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives in Old English, and after the periphrastic forms first appeared in the 13th century, by the start of the 16th century they had become as frequent as they are now (Kytö 1996, Kytö/Romaine 2000). Previous findings suggest that disyllabic adjectives in the 18th century were not as clear-cut as monosyllable or multi-syllable adjectives, though disyllabic adjectives preferred periphrastic comparison (Kytö/ Romaine 2000, Suematsu 2004). Bauer’s (1994) corpus-based survey of differences between current American and British English provided one starting point; quantitative analyses were subsequently performed to 1 I would like to express my gratitude for audience feedback, and especially for detailed comments from Geoffrey Leech, at the...

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