Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

New from Oxford University Press!


Words in Time and Place: Exploring Language Through the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary

By David Crystal

Offers a unique view of the English language and its development, and includes witty commentary and anecdotes along the way.

New from Cambridge University Press!


Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases

By Peter Mark Roget

This book "supplies a vocabulary of English words and idiomatic phrases 'arranged … according to the ideas which they express'. The thesaurus, continually expanded and updated, has always remained in print, but this reissued first edition shows the impressive breadth of Roget's own knowledge and interests."

New from Brill!


The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek

By Franco Montanari

Coming soon: The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek by Franco Montanari is the most comprehensive dictionary for Ancient Greek to English for the 21st Century. Order your copy now!

New from Elsevier!


Ampersand: An International Journal of General and Applied Linguistics

Edited By R. Cann, H. Pichler, K. Van De Poel, D. van Olmen, and K. Watson

Academic Paper

Title: The Rise of an NP Premodifier in Early 20th-century English
Author: Alex Ho-Cheong Leung
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Northumbria University
Author: Wim van der Wurff
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Linguistic Field: Historical Linguistics
Abstract: It has been noted (e.g. Biber and Clark 2002; Biber 2003; Mair and Leech 2006) that contemporary English has seen an increase in the use of heavily premodified NPs:/L//L/(1) a small, quaint yesterday thing/L/(2) an even-tempered, down-to-earth Chicago native/L/(3) Sainsbury's impressive new greener-than-thou waste management initiative/L//L/Another possible NP premodifier is the combination of an easy-adjective with a to-infinitive, as in (4)./L//L/(4) an easy-to-understand book; a hard to refute argument; difficult-to-reach places /L//L/The attributive use of such sequences has so far received very little attention. It is unattested in earlier stages of the language (van der Wurff and Leung 2008) so the question arises when exactly it appeared. In this paper, we shall first track the emergence of NPs as in (4), which initial data suggest took place in the first half of the 20th century. Using a range of corpora, we shall try to pin down more precisely the date of the change and the linguistic properties of the earliest examples. We shall then use these findings to explore the possible reasons for the appearance of this type of NP premodifier. /L//L/Briefly, we shall argue that the new construction is linked to some earlier changes affecting the sequence of easy-adjective plus to-infinitive. In particular, sentences as in (5) and (6) disappeared towards the end of the 19th century:/L//L/(5) He is hard to accept change./L/(6) The book was easy to be understood./L//L/We shall propose a unified explanation for these two losses, which involves a change in the lexical semantics of easy-adjectives, which went from being able to directly characterize referents to increasingly characterising only activities. This shows up as an effect in the use of simple sentences with these adjectives and we argue that it also provides an elegant account of the appearance of NPs as in (4). The account crucially hinges on an analysis of sentences with predicative use of easy whereby – following the spirit of Kayne (2006) and the letter of Hicks (2004) – they feature a clause with a silent infinitival verb whose exact identity is semantically and pragmatically determined on the basis of the surface subject referent and the discourse situation. Before ca. 1900, beside a clausal structure associated with easy, there was also a simple structure available. When the clausal structure became dominant, the silent-verb analysis became forced, both in predicative and attributive use of the adjective. When the silent verb was spelled out in the attributive cases – subject to structural constraints of the RHHR type – , it resulted in NPs as in (4).
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Venue: University of Vigo, Spain
Publication Info: Paper at The 1st Vigo-Newcastle-Santiago-Leuven International Workshop on the Structure of the Noun Phrase in English: Synchronic and Diachronic Explorations (NP1)

Add a new paper
Return to Academic Papers main page
Return to Directory of Linguists main page