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Book Information


Title: Rhythmic Grammar
Subtitle: The Influence of Rhythm on Grammatical Variation and Change in English
Written By: Julia Schlüter
Series Title: Topics in English Linguistics 46

This groundbreaking book highlights a phonological preference, the
Principle of Rhythmic Alternation, as a factor in grammatical variation and
change in English from the early modern period to the present. Though
frequently overlooked in earlier research, the phonetically motivated
avoidance of adjacent stresses is shown to exert an influence on a wide
variety of phenomena in morphology and syntax.

Based on in-depth analyses of extensive electronic databases, the book
presents 20 exemplary studies from different structural categories. Among
them are much-debated as well as novel issues, including the double
comparative worser, 'predicative only' a- adjectives, variant past
participles, the placement of the degree modifier quite, the order of
conjuncts in binomials, the negation of attributive adjectives and sentence
adverbs, variable adverbial marking, the use or omission of the infinitive
marker, and the a- prefix before - ing forms. The studies provide
qualitative and quantitative evidence of the importance of rhythmic
alternation in synchronic variation as well as diachronic change, without
neglecting interactions with a set of competing functional tendencies.
Thus, the book contributes essential aspects to the description and
explanation of the phenomena considered, calling for a fundamental revision
of current thinking about the interface between phonology and morphosyntax.
In addition, the empirical findings are brought to bear on theoretical
discussions of more general interest, yielding a critical assessment of the
merits and limitations of two nonmodular linguistic theories: Optimality
Theory and spreading activation models. The latter type is developed into a
comprehensive conception integrating functional factors such as the
Principle of Rhythmic Alternation in an overarching framework for language
variation and change.

The wide range of subject areas covered makes the volume essential reading
and a source of inspiration for linguists with interests as diverse as the
phonology-morphosyntax interface, English grammar, the history of English,
functional linguistics, Optimality Theory, as well as neuro- and

Julia Schlüter is Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the University of
Paderborn, Germany.


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Publication Year: 2005
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Review: Read the review
BibTex: View BibTex record
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Historical Linguistics
Linguistic Theories
Subject Language(s): English
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Format: Hardback
ISBN: 3110186071
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: xi, 393 pages
Prices: U.S. $ 132.30
Europe EURO 98.00