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Review of  Studies in the History of the English Language V

Reviewer: Christopher Blake Shedd
Book Title: Studies in the History of the English Language V
Book Author: Robert Allen Cloutier Anne Marie Hamilton-Brehm William A. Kretzschmar
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 23.2928

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EDITORS: Robert A. Cloutier, Anne Marie Hamilton-Brehm, William A. Kretzschmar, Jr.
TITLE: Studies in the History of the English Language V
SUBTITLE: Variation and Change in English Grammar and Lexicon: Contemporary
SERIES TITLE: Topics in English Linguistics 68
PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton
YEAR: 2010

C. Blake Shedd, English Language Center, Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey

The topics in this anthology range from an analysis of Old English spatial
prepositions to the use of quotative ‘re’ in Internet communication. The immense
span of time and topics offers a cursory glance at some of the main issues being
researched by eminent scholars in the field of English linguistics. The articles
are grouped under two headings: English Grammar and English Lexicon. The
cohesion achieved in this volume is due to the commentary/response model that
allows other authors featured in the anthology to comment on fellow scholars’
work and then allows the original author(s) to respond to the commentary. This
format enables the reader to observe dialogue among experts in the field.

The first section, “English Grammar,” begins with Elizabeth Traugott’s “Dialogic
Contexts as Motivations for Syntactic Change,” in which she analyzes the reason
for syntactic change, focusing mainly on dialogicity (the number of points of
view among speakers) as a motivation for certain changes. Beginning with a
thorough explanation of how motivation is construed (external versus internal)
and how previous scholarship has not dealt with the reasons for syntactic
change, Traugott then briefly summarizes the extant research that deals with
explaining such evolutions in use and argues that dialogicity should be
considered when attempting to describe why certain syntactic changes occur, for
example, how certain words undergo grammaticalization. ALL-clefts and WH-clefts
are offered as examples of structures born out of a dialogic context. A number
of examples are provided from early modern English to show how dialogicity works
in these texts to produce ALL-pseudo-clefts and WH-pseudo-clefts. Traugott
argues that more specific notions of why syntactic changes, like the ones she
analyzes, occur and offers ideas of future research that could be done to
determine how dialogicity is encoded. This article might be somewhat difficult
for the non-specialist.

In the second article, “Whatever Happened to English Sluicing,” Joanna Nykiel
provides a history of sluicing, a form of ellipsis involving interrogative
clauses, in different stages of English. She provides examples of sluicing in
English, German, and Old English to show how it works, and detailed data for OE
and ME sluicing (with a distinction between two types: merger and sprouting),
which she then elucidates with further examples and percentages; at first
glance, this proves rather intimidating to the uninitiated. The analysis
continues with data from Early Modern English and Late Modern English while
evidence for the change in distribution of merger and sprouting is also
explained (the two processes essentially switch places in terms of frequency as
English develops). The article concludes by offering a solution that is situated
in the relevant literature regarding deep structure, surface anaphors, and other
syntactic features.

The third paper by Olga Thomason, “Notion of Direction and Old English
Prepositional Phrases,” discusses the semantics of Old English prepositions in
regards to directionality, proximity, and opposition. Beginning with a
discussion of spatial prepositional semantics, Thomason introduces how OE
prepositions function with the accusative and dative to show location and
direction. Her initial examples raise the question of “why the preposition tō
governs the dative instead of the expected accusative” (71), to which she
responds with a discussion of the historical use of the dative and the word’s
Indo-European cousins. The examples that follow elaborate on the differing
semantics of ‘tō’ with certain cases in Old English. Thomason then takes up
‘wiþ’ to examine how it expresses directionality and how its meaning extends
from showing direction/nearness to showing emotion (in the sense of being
“against” someone or something). The argument is well exemplified and clearly
shows how the semantics of OE prepositions overlap while also showing that some
semantic fields that a preposition or case governs might be more prevalent than

The fourth essay by Sherrylyn Branchaw, “Survival of the Strongest: Strong Verb
Inflection from Old to Modern English,” provides a detailed diachronic analysis
of the mutability of English strong and weak verbs and explains why certain
strong verbs have persisted from Old English to the present-day. She begins by
narrowing the verbs she will consider by determining their frequency and
eliminating the ones not frequent or fully attested in Old English. Looking at
ablaut (internal vowel alteration of verbs to show a change in tense) series to
determine which verbs were susceptible to becoming weak, Branchaw concludes that
ablaut series with minimally distinguished vowels were more likely to become
weak (as opposed to vowel series whose constituents are more distinct) and that
other factors (like the presence of a velar in the root) affected the likelihood
of a verb becoming weak. She then presents other OE strong verbs as part of
ablaut series, examines how many verbs survived as strong, and posits why some
did not; her analysis of the verb series is based on “root shape, token
frequency, and vowel distinctness” (98). Essentially, a verb’s root shape (the
consonants of the stem and not the vowel), the number of times the verb occurred
in the OE corpus, and the distinctiveness of the ablaut pattern all play a role
in determining whether the verbs survived as strong. She concludes with a
discussion of why the changes might have occurred, especially as regards
non-native speaker influence, i.e., Anglo-Normans, and linguistic processes like

In the fifth paper, “Subject Compounding and a Functional Change of the
Derivational Suffix
ing in the History of English,” Akiko Nagano examines Old English (OE) and
Middle English (ME) noun formation in light of current theories regarding
synthetic compound nouns in present-day English (PE). She argues against
interpreting OE and ME as having a verb-object relationship (the view for
synthetic compounds in PE) and argues for interpreting them as having a
subject-verb relationship. Introducing the concept of subject compounding (SC)
in PE, Nagano analyzes the restraints of noun compounding in PE in regards to
the derivational suffix -ing and provides examples of possible SC in PE with
-ing, thus showing that subject-verb relationships do occur in PE compounds with
this suffix. She then gives examples of possible OE and ME -ing compounds and
notes that the productivity of -ing SC has decreased in PE. Discussing
nominalization in English, the author provides a detailed analysis of how -ing
underwent a functional change from OE to PE while also showing a correlation
between the change in frequency of SC in OE with the functional change of -ing.
Her argument precisely and clearly explains why SC is no longer as productive a
process as it was in earlier forms of English.

The sixth and last paper of this section by Don Chapman, “Bad Ideas in the
History of English Usage,” catalogues one-off prescriptivist rules (essentially
the hapax legomena of rules in English usage manuals) and explains their lack of
currency. These prescriptivist rules are characterized by writers expressing
disapproval about certain idiomatic expressions or diction; one example is an
eighteenth century writer discouraging the use of “you” and “thou” in the same
piece of writing (144). Chapman seeks to determine how some prescriptivist rules
are canonized, i.e., accepted as part of a group of speakers’ idea about how
language should be spoken. Chapman lists four reasons why a construction might
attract the attention of usage manual writers: the construction is (1) rare and
disappearing from the language, (2) not established, (3) topical, and (4) too
frequent and entrenched. He also includes a list of principles (from Garner
2003) that, when true of a particular construction, make the prescriptivist rule
likely to be repeated because it is judged useful to writers. The author then
considers some of the one-off rules from usage manuals, analyzing them using
some criteria from Garner’s list, which he also discusses in detail regarding
some ideas like whether something is logical or redundant. Chapman’s selection
of one-off prescriptivist rules and his analysis of them using Garner’s list
bring to light why such rules disappear or lack general currency.

The second section, “English Lexicon,” begins with Anatoly Liberman’s “The State
of English Etymology (A Few Personal Observations),” in which he examines the
evolution of English etymology as a discipline. With characteristic deftness,
Liberman describes erroneous etymological derivations and provides (when
possible) their generally accepted origins and catalogues the earliest
etymological dictionaries and their authors, commenting on how each author fared
in his etymological quests. These accounts are detailed and reveal a thorough
knowledge of early etymological history. For each period, he notes the most
important publications while including their weaknesses and their strengths
while also situating his own guiding principles in this type of research. For
the latter part of his article, Liberman considers the etymology of the word
‘cocktail’ and examines numerous words that might share some relationship to it.
This consideration is meant to highlight how “English etymology has been equated
with English etymological lexicography” (171); consequently, Liberman examines
how scholars have grappled with the etymology of cocktail and how lexicographers
have digested that research. He then concludes with some ideas on how to produce
a worthwhile etymological dictionary of English and with a saddening list of
reasons why etymological research is not considered a worthwhile endeavor.
Liberman has however shown that etymological research is not only worthwhile but
at times taxing and rewarding (all the while continuing to contribute to

In the eighth essay, “From Germanic ‘fence’ to ‘urban settlement’: On the
Semantic Development of English town,” Ann-Marie Svensson and Jürgen Hering
engage in a diachronic analysis of semantic change of the English word ‘town’.
Beginning with a cursory etymological look at the lexeme in question, the
authors compare how the word evolved in the other Germanic languages and quickly
arrive at Old English and describe how the word evolved, especially as regards
its use in place names (a helpful figure shows the etymon’s evolution on page
189). Looking at ninety Middle English texts, the authors examine how the word
developed from meaning “fence” to “fenced-in settlement” to “village.” This
progression is then compared to other lexemes that had a shared semantic
property regarding inhabitation by people like ‘borough’, ‘city’, and ‘village’;
numerous quotations from Middle English sources catalogue the differences in how
each of these terms was used to refer to various inhabitations of varying sizes
and of various importance. This article provides ample evidence of how ‘town’
developed alongside its etymological cousins to take the place it has today in
modern English.

In Markku Filppula and Juhani Klemola’s article, “Celtic Influence on English: A
Re-Evaluation,” the ninth essay, the controversial issue of how English might
have been influenced by Celtic speakers is presented anew in light of a
continually developing understanding of language contact theory. Filppula and
Klemola begin by giving a short review of scholarship on the Celtic question,
i.e., what influence did Celtic have on English? Their analysis is based on four
areas: “archaeological, demographic and historical, contact-linguistic, and
areal-typological” (208). With each area the prevailing or previously held
scholastic opinions are presented (generally against Celtic having influenced
English), and then newer scholarship is discussed which either dismisses or
brings into question the rather adamant, long-standing view that the
Anglo-Saxons were not influenced by the native Britons. After listing many of
the linguistic features of English that are shared with Celtic but not with
Germanic, the authors analyze the case of periphrastic ‘do,’ e.g., I do like to
sing. Filppula and Klemola consider one of the main arguments to explain
periphrastic ‘do’, namely that it stems from a native English causative
construction, but they find this hypothesis lacking due to mitigating linguistic
evidence that documents early attestations of the form in certain areas of
England. After presenting the Celtic argument for the syntactic construction by
examining dialectal evidence, especially the lack of the construction in Scots
and northern varieties of English, they argue that this evidence along with a
modern sociolinguistic understanding of language change is sufficient either to
call into question or to discount earlier arguments against Celtic influence on
earlier stages of English.

In the tenth paper, “When arīven Came to England: Tracing Lexical Re-Structuring
by Borrowing in Middle and Early Modern English. A Case Study,” Elizabeth Tacho
first provides a brief theoretical framework for her study, including genre
theory and semantic change, lists which corpora and other materials she uses,
and begins the article proper with a brief history of arīven’s arrival in
English and its competition with the native word lēnden, whose meaning was
undergoing semantic broadening thus facilitating the borrowing of the
Anglo-Norman arīven. She illustrates the narrow and wide meanings of arīven and
provides helpful diagrams of its semantic change. Quantitative analyses done
with the Helsinki Corpus and the Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse detail
the earliest instances of arīven and its distribution among different genres.
Most important seems to be that this loanword is more frequent in translations
from Latinate, Anglo-Norman, and French sources and the written-text genre (as
opposed to genres which make use of dialogic or oral language). Tacho examines
specific Middle English texts and the distribution of arīven and lēnden therein,
noting that an author’s usage of one term over the other might be based on
individual style, context, genre, or place in society.

The eleventh paper by Emily Runde, “Reexamining Orthographic Practice in the
Auchinleck Manuscript Through Study of Complete Scribal Corpora,” is a detailed
analysis of scribal variation and the implications of a holistic approach to
studying an individual scribe’s entire corpus. Having examined multiple copies
of the Auchinleck manuscript that were copied by two scribes, Runde first looks
at whether the scribes’ writing reflects a conscious choice of certain spellings
in their copying by looking at the absence or presence of initial /h/, which was
routinely retained in Anglo-Saxon words but which exhibited instability in loan
words, especially from Anglo-Norman or French. Two tables detail how Scribe 1
and 2 record /h/ in initial position in words of French origin and in “it” and
“have.” To situate the scribes diachronically, Runde then discusses spellings
associated with the earlier and the latter part of the fourteenth century,
concluding that even though the scribes’ practices reflect the earlier spellings
of 14th-century London-area English, this should be seen as merely an
association and not preclude consideration that the scribes’ writings reflect a
transition between older and newer forms. Focusing on “hand” and “land” in Sir
Tristrem and Horn Childe & Maiden Rimnild, Runde looks at how scribal practice
in Middle English manuscripts might give insight into writers’ dialects. Her
analysis reveals that, due to the maintenance of certain northern features, both
manuscripts warrant being associated with either the north or a northern scribe.
This detailed, thorough orthographic study thus provides evidence suggestive of
manuscript provenance or perhaps of scribes’ origins or dialects.

Stefanie Kuzmack, in the last and twelfth paper of the volume, “How Medium
Shapes Language Development: The Emergence of Quotative Re Online,” analyzes how
this quotative particle has evolved and how it functions in current usage on the
Internet today. After first distinguishing quotative ‘re’ from prepositional
‘re,’ Kuzmack briefly introduces how quotative ‘re’ functions syntactically,
especially in contrast to other English quotative particles. The origin and
initial usage of ‘re’ follows as well as the first instances of the particle
from Internet newsgroups, highlighting its use in e-mail subject lines and in
written chatroom discussions, in which a new function has arisen, namely, ''block
quote re.'' She then discusses how quotative ‘re’ functions as a complement of
noun phrases as opposed to one of clauses; her conclusion is that speakers use
‘re’ with noun phrases because they are referring to a speaker’s actual words
and not to his or her identity, for which one would use quotative ‘like’ and
verb complementation. Regarding speech, quotative ‘re’ is equally capable of
referring to direct or indirect speech, but it is generally not able to refer to
other people’s thoughts, which are seen as being outside the knowledge of the
speaker. The history and evolution of quotative ‘re,’ according to Kuzmack, is
grounded in the media where it is found, most recently the Internet, where ‘re’
can easily refer back to earlier statements.

Overall, this volume provides a wealth of information for the general scholar of
English as well as the specialist in syntax or semantics.

Some of the articles, especially the articles heavily devoted to syntactic
theory, might be difficult for the beginning student of linguistics. While not
detracting from the value of the book as a whole, small errors, mostly
typographic, distract the careful reader (e.g., in Runde’s paper, ʒ ‘yogh’ is
seemingly represented as ɜ (passim) and on p. 163, the ᾰ {breve} should be ἀ
{smooth breathing mark}, while the η ‘eta’ should be a π ‘pi’) . Given the
quality of scholarship and the nature of the work (historical linguistics), the
errors do a disservice to the authors.

The editors aimed to provide a coherent view of how historical linguistics has
appropriated methodology used in corpus linguistics and sociolinguistics, and
they admirably achieved their goal by including articles of high quality that
demonstrate how scholars are maintaining abreast of current theories and
practices in their respective fields. The critiques to the articles by fellow
scholars and then the rebuttal by the original author(s) is a highlight of this
book and should be included in other similar volumes to encourage such debate.
While some articles are somewhat narrowly focused (one article focuses solely on
one word), others offer a larger perspective on the topic being discussed (one
article focuses on a class of words).

Garner, Bryan A. 2003. Garner’s Modern American Usage. Oxford: Oxford University

Blake Shedd is a full-time instructor in the English Language Center at Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey. In 2010 he received a Master of Arts in Modern Languages with a specialization in Teaching English as a Second Language from the University of Mississippi; previously he completed a Master of Arts in German in 2008. His research interests include English and German language teaching, historical linguistics, poetry, the history of the English language, and Old English.