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LINGUIST List 20.561

Sat Feb 21 2009

Diss: Historical Ling/Morphology/Text/Corpus Ling: Kranich: 'The ...'

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        1.    Svenja Kranich, The Progressive in Modern English: A corpus-based study of grammaticalization and related changes

Message 1: The Progressive in Modern English: A corpus-based study of grammaticalization and related changes
Date: 17-Feb-2009
From: Svenja Kranich <svenja.kranichuni-hamburg.de>
Subject: The Progressive in Modern English: A corpus-based study of grammaticalization and related changes
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Institution: Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin
Program: English Language and Literature
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2008

Author: Svenja Kranich

Dissertation Title: The Progressive in Modern English: A corpus-based study of
grammaticalization and related changes

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

Dissertation Director(s):
Klaus Dietz
Ilse Wischer

Dissertation Abstract:
Based on a detailed analysis of the occurrences of the progressive form in the
British part of ARCHER-2 (a corpus of historical English registers, version 2,
covering the period 1600-1999), the thesis discusses the development of the
English progressive within the Modern English period. The development is
understood as a process of (secondary) grammaticalization, as the construction
be + v-ing evolves from a rather infrequent construction which partly conveys
aspectual meaning and partly merely emphasis to a grammaticalized expression of
progressive aspect, which in some contexts is obligatory in PDE. This
development is characterized by a variety of accompanying changes, concerning
e.g. frequency, spread through diverse genres, different linguistic contexts, as
well as changes in function.

The work is organized as follows: after an outline of the research question and
the methodology (chapters 1 & 2), an overview of the literature on the meaning
of the progressive in present-day English is provided (chapter 3), which shows
that this question is by no means uncontroversial. Chapter 4 sketches the
development of the progressive up to the 16th century. Chapters 5 to 8 all
provide an overview of previous studies, highlighting still open or
controversial questions, and then present the results of the ARCHER-2 corpus
analysis to evaluate and/or rectify previous findings. Chapter 5 deals with
changes in frequency and genre distribution as well as sociolinguistic
variation, chapter 6 with the linguistic contexts of the progressive (e.g.
voice, tense, subject type), chapter 7 with the functions of the progressive.
Chapter 8 discusses the question in how far the changes discussed in the
preceding represent evidence for grammaticalization and for subjectification.

Next to many detailed results on the progressive in Modern English, the study
provides some results of more general impact. It thus shows that the
grammaticalization process is not necessarily accompanied by a more and more
balanced distribution of the grammaticalizing construction across linguistic
contexts. The progressive thus undergoes its main increase in those areas where
it has always been most common, e.g. with animate/agentive subjects, and with
activity and accomplishment predicates. These results highlight that one should
always take the function of a construction into account (e.g. the expression of
progressive aspect is associated with dynamic situations which are generally
acted out by animate agents) and not expect that paradigmatic extension of a
construction means that it should become equally common in all forms. A similar
point must be made concerning genre distribution.

The study further shows that the functional development of the progressive is
very complex. On the one hand, the aspectual function becomes the dominant
function and overall, more subjective meanings (e.g. emphasis) lose in
importance, decreasing in frequency. On the other hand, a new subjective
meaning, the interpretative function, arises. Thus, the grammaticalization
process is partly accompanied by objectification (or de-subjectification),
partly by subjectification. One may suggest, however, that the emergence and
rise of the interpretative function of the form represents an idiosyncratic
development of English, while the overall decrease of subjective meanings in the
course of the grammaticalization of the aspectual function points to a more
general trend. As a construction evolves more clear-cut grammatical meanings in
the course of secondary grammaticalization, prior, more speaker-based meanings
become possible in fewer and fewer contexts: after all, for a construction to
convey subjective meaning, the speaker must be free to choose it, which in the
late stages of grammaticalization, where obligatorification often takes place,
tends to be rarely the case.
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