LINGUIST List 8.901

Wed Jun 18 1997

Books: English Lang Studies

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <annlinguistlist.org>


Additional information on the following books, as well as a short backlist of the publisher's titles, is available at the end of this issue.

Message 1: New Book: English Linguistics

Date: Sun, 15 Jun 1997 18:34:18 +0200 (MEST)
From: Christoph Eyrich <eyrichzedat.fu-berlin.de>
Subject: New Book: English Linguistics

 Johan Elsness

 THE PERFECT AND THE PRETERITE IN CONTEMPORARY AND EARLIER ENGLISH

 1997. 23 x 15,5 cm. XVII, 432 pages 
 Cloth DM 248,-/approx.\ US\$ 177.00
 ISBN 3-11-014686-X
 Topics in English Linguistics 21

 Mouton de Gruyter * Berlin * New York


In this study the author discusses various theories that have been put
forward to account for the choice between the present perfect and the
preterite in expressions of past time in English. The distribution
between the two verb forms is examined in a varied corpus consisting
of more than 13,000 recorded verb forms, a little more than half of
them from present-day English (British and American, spoken and
written), the rest from earlier English all the way back to Old
English. The analysis of the contemporary corpus is supplemented by
elicitation tests carried out with British and American informants. It
is argued that in the present-day language the alternation between the
two verb forms is determined above all by the presence or absence of
temporal adverbials and other contextual factors, considerations to do
with current relevance playing only a subsidiary part. While many
other writers have assumed that the rapid advance of the present
perfect that took place in earlier English has continued up to the
present day, investigation of the historical corpus shows that this
advance has been arrested within the Modern English period, to the
extent that the present perfect now seems to be losing ground to the
preterite, especially in American English. An explanation is offered
of why the development in English is so radically different from that
observable in French, German and many other languages.

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