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Academic Paper

Title: Measuring the success of prescriptivism: quantitative grammaticography, corpus linguistics and the progressive passive
Author: Lieselotte Anderwald
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Institution: Christian-Albrechts-Universit├Ąt zu Kiel
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics; Syntax; Text/Corpus Linguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: This article connects the quantitative study of grammaticography with a more traditional corpus-linguistic investigation of the progressive passive. Based on a careful analysis of over 250 grammars of English published during the nineteenth century in Britain and the US, I will try to answer the question whether prescriptivism has had any influence on purported differences between British and American English in the rise of the progressive passive. This article will argue that text-type sensitivity is the overriding factor determining the occurrence of the progressive passive in the nineteenth century, rather than national differences between British and American English. Prescriptive comments during the nineteenth century did not influence developments in American English significantly. However, during the 1950s modern-style prescriptivism can be shown to have massive effects on American newspaper language. Combining quantitative historical grammaticography and corpus-linguistic studies can thus extend our insights into the factors that influence language change.


This article appears IN English Language and Linguistics Vol. 18, Issue 1.

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