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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Progressive in Modern English: A corpus-based study of grammaticalization and related changes Add Dissertation
Author: Svenja Kranich Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Freie Universität Berlin, B.A. English Linguistics and Literature
Completed in: 2008
Linguistic Subfield(s): Historical Linguistics; Morphology; Syntax; Text/Corpus Linguistics;
Director(s): Ilse Wischer
Klaus Dietz

Based on a detailed analysis of the occurrences of the progressive form in the British part of ARCHER-2 (a corpus of historical English registers, version 2, covering the period 1600-1999), the thesis discusses the development of the English progressive within the Modern English period. The development is understood as a process of (secondary) grammaticalization, as the construction be + v-ing evolves from a rather infrequent construction which partly conveys aspectual meaning and partly merely emphasis to a grammaticalized expression of progressive aspect, which in some contexts is obligatory in PDE. This development is characterized by a variety of accompanying changes, concerning e.g. frequency, spread through diverse genres, different linguistic contexts, as well as changes in function.

The work is organized as follows: after an outline of the research question and the methodology (chapters 1 & 2), an overview of the literature on the meaning of the progressive in present-day English is provided (chapter 3), which shows that this question is by no means uncontroversial. Chapter 4 sketches the development of the progressive up to the 16th century. Chapters 5 to 8 all provide an overview of previous studies, highlighting still open or controversial questions, and then present the results of the ARCHER-2 corpus analysis to evaluate and/or rectify previous findings. Chapter 5 deals with changes in frequency and genre distribution as well as sociolinguistic variation, chapter 6 with the linguistic contexts of the progressive (e.g. voice, tense, subject type), chapter 7 with the functions of the progressive. Chapter 8 discusses the question in how far the changes discussed in the preceding represent evidence for grammaticalization and for subjectification.

Next to many detailed results on the progressive in Modern English, the study provides some results of more general impact. It thus shows that the grammaticalization process is not necessarily accompanied by a more and more balanced distribution of the grammaticalizing construction across linguistic contexts. The progressive thus undergoes its main increase in those areas where it has always been most common, e.g. with animate/agentive subjects, and with activity and accomplishment predicates. These results highlight that one should always take the function of a construction into account (e.g. the expression of progressive aspect is associated with dynamic situations which are generally acted out by animate agents) and not expect that paradigmatic extension of a construction means that it should become equally common in all forms. A similar point must be made concerning genre distribution.

The study further shows that the functional development of the progressive is very complex. On the one hand, the aspectual function becomes the dominant function and overall, more subjective meanings (e.g. emphasis) lose in importance, decreasing in frequency. On the other hand, a new subjective meaning, the interpretative function, arises. Thus, the grammaticalization process is partly accompanied by objectification (or de-subjectification), partly by subjectification. One may suggest, however, that the emergence and rise of the interpretative function of the form represents an idiosyncratic development of English, while the overall decrease of subjective meanings in the course of the grammaticalization of the aspectual function points to a more general trend. As a construction evolves more clear-cut grammatical meanings in the course of secondary grammaticalization, prior, more speaker-based meanings become possible in fewer and fewer contexts: after all, for a construction to convey subjective meaning, the speaker must be free to choose it, which in the late stages of grammaticalization, where obligatorification often takes place, tends to be rarely the case.