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‘Ye whom the charms of grammar please’

Studies in English Language History in Honour of Leiv Egil Breivik

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Edited By Kari Haugland, Kevin McCafferty and Kristian A. Rusten

This collection of articles by colleagues and students of Leiv Egil Breivik presents studies within both core and peripheral areas of English historical linguistics. Core topics covered include the development of existential there and related phenomena, word order, the evolution of adverbials, null subjects from Old to Early Modern English, pragmatics and information structure and aspects of discourse. Contributors also address the emergence of new syntactic constructions in the past and present, language contact and aspects of style in Early Modern English letters and medical texts. The ideological discourses of children’s dictionaries and medieval letters of defence are also explored.
The essays are all empirical studies, based on a wide range of corpora (both historical and contemporary) and applying theoretical approaches informed by Systemic-Functional Grammar, grammaticalization theory, dependency grammar, historical linguistics, sociolinguistics and corpus linguistic methods. Issues of methodology, statistics and corpus construction and annotation are also addressed in several contributions.
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Gisle Andersen: The double copula revisited

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← 118 | 119 → GISLE ANDERSEN

The double copula revisited

1 Introduction

An intriguing new phenomenon in the grammar of English is the emergence of what has been called the ‘double’ or ‘reduplicative copula’ (Shapiro 1993, Tuggy 1996, Andersen 2002, Shapiro & Haley 2002), that is, sentences of the type illustrated in (1).

(1)

The truth is is that people are in the middle of all these things (COCA1 SPOK 1995 ABC_Brinkley).

In the first study to note this phenomenon, Bolinger (1987) assumes that it is not more than two decades old and considers it to be a general feature of American English (AmE). Tuggy (1996: 714) regards it as ‘utilized by some speakers of American English’ but views it as ‘doubtless limited in its geographical distribution’ within AmE. In later studies the emergence of the double copula has been attested in British English (Andersen 2002), as well as in Australian and New Zealand English (McConvell 1988), and Shapiro and Haley (2002: 305) describe it as ‘a widespread feature of contemporary speech’. Bolinger (1987: 39) observes that, unlike other recent innovations, it has not been subjected to extensive prescriptivism but ‘has slipped past the wardens of correct usage’. This may be because it is not regularly associated with any stigmatized social group; on the contrary it ‘can be found in all walks of life’ (Bolinger 1987: 39), and among the reported users are politicians ← 119 | 120 → like George W....

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