"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more
To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.
This volume provides a new perspective on the evolution of the special language of medicine, based on the electronic corpus of Early Modern English Medical Texts, containing over two million words of medical writing from 1500 to 1700.
The loss of Negative Concord (NC) has long been attributed to external
factors. This study readdresses this issue and provides evidence of the
failure of certain external factors to account for the observed decline and
ultimate disappearance of NC in Standard English. A detailed study of
negation in Late Middle and Early Modern English reveals that the process of
the decline of NC was a case of a natural change, preceded by a period of
variation manifested in the obtained S-curves for all the contexts studied.
Variation existed not only on the level of the speech community as a whole
but also within individual speakers (contra Lightfoot, 1991). A close study of
n-indefinites in negative contexts and their ultimate replacement with
Negative Polarity Items (NPIs) in a number of grammatical environments
shows that the decline of NC follows the same pattern across contexts in a
form of parallel curvature, which indicates that the loss of NC is a natural
process. However, this study reveals that the decline is not constant across
time and thus the Constant Rate Hypothesis (Kroch, 1989) does not, in that
respect, fully account for this change. Context behaviour suggests an
alternative principle of linguistic change, the Context Constancy Principle. A
Context Constancy Effect is obtained across all contexts indicating that the
loss of NC is triggered by a change in a single underlying parameter setting.
Accordingly, a theory-internal explanation is suggested. N-words underwent a
lexical reanalysis whereby they acquired a new grammatical feature [+Neg]
and were thus reinterpreted as negative quantifiers, rather than NPIs. This
lexical reanalysis was triggered by the ambiguous status of n-words between
[±Neg] and thus between single and double negative meanings. This change
is treated as a case of parameter resetting as this lexical reanalysis affected
a whole set of lexical items and can thus economically account for the
different observed surface changes.