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Mon Jun 15 2009

Review: Historical Linguistics: Gotti, Dossena & Dury (2008)

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        1.    Elizabeth Canon, English Historical Linguistics 2006, vols. 1-3

Message 1: English Historical Linguistics 2006, vols. 1-3
Date: 15-Jun-2009
From: Elizabeth Canon <>
Subject: English Historical Linguistics 2006, vols. 1-3
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EDITORS: Gotti, Maurizio; Dossena, Marina; Dury, RichardTITLE: English Historical Linguistics 2006, vols. 1-3SERIES: Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 295-297PUBLISHER: John Benjamins Publishing CompanyYEAR: 2008

Elizabeth Bell Canon, Department of English, University of Wisconsin at La Crosse

SUMMARYThis three volume set highlights selected papers presented at the fourteenthInternational Conference on English Historical Linguistics in Bergamo, Italy,21-25 August 2006. Volume 1: Syntax and Morphology is organized diachronicallyin two parts: Old and Middle English, and Early and Late Modern English. Volume2: Lexical and semantic change is presented in two parts: Pragmatic andstylistic choices, and Lexical and semantic change. Volume 3: Geo-HistoricalVariation in English is a compilation of papers relating to the main topic, or''the way in which different geographical varieties have manifested themselvesthrough time, whether in similar or different social contexts, registers andtext types'' (ix). Each volume begins with a common forward, and an introductionspecific to the volume's topic; both written by the editors.

Volume 1: Syntax and Morphology, Part I: Old and Middle English presents ninepapers arranged in chronological order. The first paper, ''The balance betweensyntax and discourse in Old English'' by Ans van Kemenade, Tanja Milicev and R.Harald Baayen explores what they call ''a novel approach to Old English wordorder.'' Do certain discourse strategies determine the word order in a languagethat is more flexible than Present Day English (PDE)? The authors examine theposition to the left of certain adverbs. The conclusion is ''there is a highlysignificant correlation between the specificity of NP and the presence of adiscourse antecedent.''

The second paper, ''The Old English copula weorðan and its replacement in MiddleEnglish'' by Peter Petré and Hubert Cuyckens explains the transition from the useof weorðan to becuman (PDE become) by examining collocates in a speciallyconstructed corpus. The conclusion drawn is that the collocational preferencesexhibited by the two verbs sealed the fate of weorðan.

''Verb types and word order in Old and Middle English non-coordinate andcoordinate clauses'' by Kristin Bech looks at the progression of English from averb-second to verb-medial language. The study is based on a corpus of textsselected by the author. Bech concludes that ''it may be deduced that word orderis not only determined on the basis of syntactic rules, but is also related tothe information content of the sentence.''

''From locative to durative to focalized? The English progressive and 'PROGimperfective drift'' by Kristin Killie begins with an explanation of PROGimperfective drift, followed by a summary of her methods, data and analysis, andsummary and discussion. Using data from the historical section of the HelsinkiCorpus and 6 additional ME texts, Killie concludes that, ''the clearest result ofthis corpus study is the finding that the English progressive has becomeincreasingly focalized: while only twenty-eight percent of the OE progressivesare focalized, sixty-one percent of the Early Modern English progressives are.''

''Gender assignment in Old English'' by Letizia Vezzosi looks at formal gender andits relationship to semantic roles. Gender assignment is examined according tothe typical [animate] vs. [inanimate] criteria, but also expanded semantic roles– for instance, agent vs. patient, and degree of individuality. As the need forgrammatical gender distinction wanes, how are the categories affected? Theconclusion drawn by Vezzosi is that ''gender deviance in no way signals thedisintegration of the category, but represents a special circumstance in whichthe basic function of gender marking becomes more visible, thanks to theweakening of the formal nominal inflectional system.''

''On the position of the OE quantifier eall and PDE all'' by Tomohiro Yanagi is acorpus study of the Catholic Homilies by Ælfric. The paper argues that ''thequantifier eall is base-generated as the head of the Quantifier Phrase (QP) andselects an NP as its complement.'' The ordering of the quantifier + pronoun wasexamined and the results indicated a far more frequent occurrence of pronoun +quantifier than the inverse. The question of why such a distribution patternwould occur was left for another study.

''On the post-finite misagreement phenomenon in Late Middle English'' by RichardIngham and Kleanthes K. Grohmann deals with the Early Modern English(EModE)/Late Middle English (LME) incidence of singular verb + plural subject.The study found that ''misagreement almost always arose with a postfinitesubject, and co-occurred in texts allowing null impersonal subjects.'' Is themisagreement structurally determined? The conclusion is that the writers of thestudied texts were influenced by dialectal features common in the Londonvernacular of the day.

''Syntactic dialectal variation in Middle English'' by Cristian Suárez-Gómezfocuses on the question of whether or not relativization in Middle English (ME)dialects is affected by the same process of innovation in the northern dialectdue to Old Norse influence as opposed to the more traditional southern dialects.The conclusion drawn by the author is that, ''the tendency towards extrapositiontypical of ME are associated with southern dialects, while the North shows asimplified system of relativizers as well as a marked tendency for relativeclauses to be intraposed.''

''Particles as grammaticalized complex predicates'' by Bettylou Los puts forth theargument that, ''English phrasal verbs represent a grammaticalization, fromPhrase to Head, of a complex predicate construction [and that] [p]redicates andthe particles of phrasal verbs share a number of striking quirks: syntactically,both may appear with 'unselected objects' and , semantically, both may formidioms of which the meaning cannot be predicted from its separate parts.'' Theconclusion drawn is that EModE marks a departure of the particle verb from therestriction of combinations involving ''light'' verbs to those including otherverb forms.

Part II: Early and Late Modern English presents four papers, beginning withAmanda Pounder's ''Adverb-marking patterns in Earlier Modern English coordinateconstructions.'' Pounder attempts to clarify the role of choice in the selectionof adverbial patterns in coordinate constructions. Her findings suggest that,''there is one strongly dominant pattern, X-ly AND Y-ly. The minority patterns XAND Y-ly and X-ly AND Y are rare in written texts of the seventeenth tonineteenth centuries.'' The ultimate conclusion drawn is that choice does play arole, particularly those strategies examined: eurythmy, symmetrical concerns, orvariation of form.

'''Tis he, 'tis she, 'tis me, 'tis I – I don't know who...: Cleft andidentificational constructions in 16th to 18th century English plays'' by ClaudiaLange and Ursula Schaefer examines the distribution of 'It is me' vs. 'It is I'constructions in colloquial speech patterns in the 16th and 18th centuries.Operating on the widely-held assumption that the object pronoun constructionemerged as a colloquial form in EModE, the paper instead reveals that, ''it is Ior rather 'tis I is the general rule.''

''Emotion verbs with to-infinitive complements: From specific to generalpredication'' by Thomas Egan examines the progression of restriction governingto-infinitive complements of four verbs, like, love, hate, and prefer, over thecourse of two hundred years. The conclusion drawn is: ''In Present-day Englishthe to-infinitive in complement constructions serves just three functions. It isnow restricted to the encoding of predications in the projected-future,judgments (opinions) on the part of the subject, and general validitypredications.''

''Subjective progressives in seventeenth and eighteenth century English:Secondary grammaticalization as a process of objectification'' by Svenja Kranichbegins with a look at progressives in OE and ME, followed by the forms found asa result of Kranich's research on 17th and 18th century data from the ARCHER – 2corpus. Subjective meanings were compared with objective meanings from OE to PDEwith special attention to the process of grammaticalization. There is littlechange in the nature of the progressive until EModE, where ''the trend becomesclear that it is more and more restricted to progressive situations, i.e.,situations which are both imperfective and dynamic and hence most often oflimited duration.''

''Volume 2: Lexical and Semantic Change, Part I: Pragmatic and Stylistic Choices''presents four separate papers beginning with ''Politeness in the history ofEnglish,'' by Andreas H. Jucker. Jucker begins by highlighting the very importantdifference between the technical notion of 'politeness,' and the everyday notionby the same name. He moves on to the thou/you distinction in Chaucer's English,and then on to review the same distinction in the works of Shakespeare. Heoffers a very thorough examination of negative and positive politeness, butadmits that, ''[His] knowledge in this respect is still scattered and does notallow a clear picture.''

''The which is most and right harde to answere: Intensifying right and most inearlier English'' by Belén Méndez-Naya investigates the nature of the adjectivalheads modified by both intensifiers, and the progressive dominance of one formover the other. The conclusion drawn is that although both intensifiers becomerelatively frequent in the fourteenth century, the success of right was rathershort-lived, as its frequency decreased dramatically in the EModE period.

''The diachronic development of the intensifier bloody: A case study inhistorical pragmatics'' by Stefania Biscetti examines the environment in whichbloody is found in the corpus to elucidate the grammaticalization of theintensifier function of the word. Her conclusion is that bloody ''has acquiredgreater syntactic flexibility through time [... and that] the history of bloodyis marked by an increase in pragmatic scope, and its evolution as a focus marker.''

''Variation and change in the writings of 17th century scientists'' by LiloMoessner is a corpus-based analysis of six texts from the period. The researchallows Moessner to refute some earlier studies, reject some earlier claims, andconfirm claims that these texts were being written in a more abstract style thanearlier texts of the same genre. The author concludes that during the specifiedperiod, ''Science texts became less involved, more narrative, more elaborate,less persuasive, and more abstract.''

''Part II: Lexical and semantic change'' begins with ''The convergence of two needverbs in Middle English'' by Lucía Loureiro-Porto, which attempts to clarify therelationship of two distinctly different derivatives of the OE noun neod,'necessity.' Loureiro-Porto uses Force Dynamics to interpret the data from herstudy, claiming that ''Force Dynamics is the key for the interpretation of modalnecessity and, more specifically, the key for the overlapping of need v.1 andneed v.2 and their evolution, because (1) it incorporates semantic nuances notpresent in other frameworks [...] and (2) it allows us to accommodate theintermediate cases of the semantic cline of the development of these verbs.''

''Rivalry among the verbs of wanting'' by Minoji Akimoto demonstrates that, ''inthe case of desire, hope, want, and wish, desire has become archaic and formalin terms of registers; hope, want, and wish share the use of to-infinitive; andhope and wish are followed by a subordinate clause (with an indicative verbafter hope, a subjunctive after wish). In this way, while these verbs showsemantic synonymity, they form a syntactically different set of relations,tending to assume rivalry within the categories (auxiliary verbs, wanting verbs.)''

''A look at respect: Investigating metonymies in Early Modern English'' by HeliTissari examines the noun and verb, respect, and their accompanying sets ofsenses: (1) reasoning, and (2) sociability. The conclusion drawn by the authoris that, ''the whole concept of RESPECT in English could be defined in terms ofmetonymy. It resembles a hall of mirrors which invites a person to see andconsider anything that is put before the mirrors, reflecting wholes and parts,pulling their various aspects apart and putting them together.''

''Germanic vs. French fixed expressions in Middle English prose: Towards acorpus-based historical English phraseology'' by Manfred Markus examines the WestGermanic heritage in certain ME expressions. Markus found that lexical wordgroups would tend to petrify as a whole unit, thus ''many Early ME fixedexpressions have turned out to be leftovers of old patterns [and that] [j]ust aspresent native speakers, people of medieval English spoke in chunks rather thanmerely in words, more so than historical English grammar has so far taken intoaccount.''

''Latin loanwords of the early modern period: How often did French act as anintermediary?'' by Philip Durkin examines the nature and interaction ofborrowings from French and Latin during the EModE period as documented in the3rd edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED3). Of particular interest iswhat the OED3 called ''dual etymology.'' Durkin states that, ''[b]y far thecommonest pattern, although by no means the only one, is the borrowing of a wordpartly from French and partly directly from Latin, as identified through therange of senses found in each language, and through the contexts of the earlyuses of the English word.'' The conclusion drawn is that during the EModE period,borrowings into English came primarily from Latin, not French.

''Disseisin: The lexeme and the legal fact in Early Modern English'' by R.W.McConchie is an examination of disseisin (and related words) from its earliestattestation until 1200. McConchie posits that the lexeme occurred in Latintexts, and might therefore be available to speakers of ME as a borrowing orperhaps by codeswitching. The conclusion drawn by McConchie is that, ''[i]f theterms discussed here were required for legal and administrative discourse inLatin, they may also have been required in English,'' facilitating borrowing bythose in that profession.

Next is ''Was Old French –able borrowable?: A diachronic study of word-formationprocesses due to language contact'' by Carola Trips and Achim Stein. In sum, theauthors ''argued against the assumptions that in OF the active meaning wasclearly dominant and that in ME the free morpheme able explains the rise of thesuffix –able. The semantic analysis has shown that an adequate word-formationrule should account for the event structure of the base verb rather than rely onthe syntactic or semantic frame alone.''

''Women and other 'small things': -ette as a feminine marker'' by Lucia Kornexlreveals, ''a number of special traits that can only be explained as the resultsof specific conditions operative in the English system.'' The ultimateobservation is that, ''it is probably the combined operation of two seeminglycontradictory factors that gave rise to this gender-specific pattern and have[sic] secured its survival: the word-formational status that suggests itself forfemale –ette words of whatever origin and structure on account of theiremphatically stressed final element and their marked potential to adoptadditional, evaluative meanings and fuse them into complex holistic concepts.''

''Volume 3: Geo-Historical Variation in English'' begins with ''The early MiddleEnglish scribe: Sprach er wie er schrieb?'' by Margaret Laing, a look at therelationship between spoken and written English with regard to the work ofindividual scribes. She writes, ''Pronunciation is an object of discovery, not apremiss.'' In other words, when examining ME with regard to written symbol –phonetic realization, the researcher must take into account the individualscribal profile.

''Essex/Suffolk scribes and their language in fifteenth-century London'' by ListerM. Matheson examines specific works by scribes from East Anglia and theircontribution to the establishment of the London standard in the fifteenthcentury. Despite the fact that they brought dialectal features to their work,''[s]uch practices must have been quite acceptable to their customers [...] andtheir unconscious influence on slowly developing standard English should not bediscounted.''

''Middle English word geography: Methodology and applications illustrated'' byMaria José Carrillo-Linares and Edurne Garrido-Anes proposes the use of lexicalmaterial in the localization of a text. The authors state that, ''even if thelexical choices can be conditioned by different factors, the global study of thelexical information together with the phono-graphological features might help tolocalise some texts more precisely.''

''Northern Middle English: Towards telling the full story'' by JuliaFernández-Cuesta and M Nieves Rodríguez-Ledesma explores in depth varieties ofME in what was the OE Northumbrian region and any features which may havesurvived into EModE. The authors conclude that, ''a considerable number offeatures of contemporary Northern dialects can be traced back to OldNorthumbrian or to innovations that appear in ME.''

''The origins of the Northern Subject Rule'' (NSR) by Nynke de Haas explores thepossibility that language contact between speakers of early English andBrythonic Celtic was the source of the aforementioned syntactic trait. Theauthor points out that, ''The NSR has the characteristics of a synthesis of theBrythonic pattern of anti-agreement,'' making a treatment of the topic worthwhile.

''Dynamic dialectology and social networks'' by Mieko Ogura and William S-Y Wangexplores the application of social network theory to the phenomenon of languagechange, concluding that ''the weaker the social bias, the greater the effects ofdifferent network structures on diffusion processes of change.''

''The Celtic Hypothesis hasn't gone away: New perspectives on old debates'' byMarkku Filppula revisits the idea that English was impacted by Celtic languagesspoken in Britain more than previously believed. Filppula strengthens theargument by pointing out that, ''the observed Celtic influences are not confinedto just one or two features, but appear to have affected several 'core' areas ofEnglish grammar.''

''On the trail of 'intolerable Scoto-Hibernic jargon': Ulster English, IrishEnglish and dialect hygiene in William Carleton's Traits and stories of theIrish peasantry (First Series, 1830)'' by Kevin McCafferty looks at the impact ofdialect prejudice on the formation of a national Irish English literature.McCafferty's conclusion is that Carleton's ''removal of marked Ulster Scotsfeatures from his peasant's speech was intended to help his portrayal ofnorthern peasant life to gain acceptance as an authentic picture of peasantIreland as a whole.''

''Exceptions to sound change and external motivation'' by Raymond Hickey exploresthe factors responsible for sound change in Dublin English. His conclusion isthat, ''Along with other historically attested cases, this current change showsthat speakers would seem to have some notion of phonological vowel space andthat they participate in changes involving sets of elements within this space.''

EVALUATIONThis three volume set is a tremendous resource for those interested in a widevariety of topics in historical English. The scholarship is largely based oncorpus studies and in most cases employs cutting-edge methodology. Because it isa compilation of conference papers, the writing lacks the coherence that a bookproduced by one author or a united group of authors would produce. In somecases, the transition from one chapter to the next is difficult to navigate. Thelayout of the material does help to alleviate confusion: The first volume dealswith papers on syntax and morphology and is organized chronologically. Thesecond volume covers change, both lexical and semantic and is further subdividedinto two parts. The third volume is a bit less focused, dealing withdialectology spread out over both time and space. All in all, the researchpresented in this collection is well worth studying and should provoke furtherinvestigation.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERElizabeth Bell Canon is Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the University ofWisconsin at La Crosse, where she teaches classes in English language andlinguistics. Her research interests include the contributions of pre-modernbiblical translators to the history of English, and the history of SouthernAmerican English.