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LINGUIST List 19.59

Tue Jan 08 2008

Diss: Hist Ling/Syntax/Text/Corpus Ling: Yáñez-Bouza: 'Preposition ...'

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        1.    Nuria Yáñez-Bouza, Preposition Stranding and Prescriptivism in English from 1500 to 1900: A corpus-based approach

Message 1: Preposition Stranding and Prescriptivism in English from 1500 to 1900: A corpus-based approach
Date: 08-Jan-2008
From: Nuria Yáñez-Bouza <Nuria.Yanez-Bouzamanchester.ac.uk>
Subject: Preposition Stranding and Prescriptivism in English from 1500 to 1900: A corpus-based approach
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Institution: University of Manchester
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2007

Author: Nuria Yáñez-Bouza

Dissertation Title: Preposition Stranding and Prescriptivism in English from 1500 to 1900: A corpus-based approach

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
                            Text/Corpus Linguistics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)

Dissertation Director:
David Denison

Dissertation Abstract:

This thesis investigates the history of preposition stranding in the Modern
English period from 1500 to 1900, in close relation with the prescriptive
movement in the tradition of English grammatical thought. The aim is to
assess, or rather re-assess, the effect and effectiveness of the (late)
eighteenth-century normative tradition on actual language usage. The
methodology lies in the comparison of a precept corpus, i.e.
meta-linguistic comments, with a usage corpus, i.e. actual language practice.

On the one hand, this study provides insightful observations into the
attitudes towards and conceptualisation of end-placed prepositions in the
course of the eighteenth century, the 'age of prescriptivism'. Evidence
comes from a self-compiled corpus of observations made on this peculiar
usage as gathered from a miscellany of precept works (1700-1800). On the
other hand, this thesis traces the diachronic evolution of the use of
preposition stranding before, during and after the age of prescriptivism,
as collected in two renowned historical corpora, namely the Early Modern
English section of the diachronic part of the Helsinki Corpus (1500-1710)
and the British part of A Representative Corpus of Historical English
Registers (1650-1899).

The evaluation of the evidence from precept and the evidence from usage
sheds new light on (a) the origin of the stigmatisation of preposition
stranding (micro-level), and (b) the role of the normative tradition on
language variation and change (macro level). First, contrary to what has
been taken for granted in the literature hitherto, I demonstrate that the
proscription against ending sentences with prepositions does not go back
directly to the late eighteenth-century heyday of publication of precept
works (e.g. Robert Lowth's grammar) but to the mid/late seventeenth-century
incipient stages of the prescriptive tradition embraced with ideals of
correctness and politeness; especially, to the grammarian and rhetorician
Joshua Poole and to the literary writer John Dryden. Language change can
thus be observed as early as the early eighteenth century. Secondly, I
provide evidence to show that late eighteenth-century precepts did exert an
influence on the use of preposition stranding. The effect is manifest in
contemporaneous writings and the effectiveness extends into the early
nineteenth century. Nonetheless, it is only a temporary one, as the trends
reverse in the late nineteenth century when prescriptivism was fading away.
It is argued that the eighteenth-century normative tradition did not
trigger linguistic change but rather reinforced an existing trend.

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