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“The next Morning I got a Warrant for the Man and his Wife, but he was fled”: Did sociolinguistic factors play a role in the loss of the be-perfect?


Hundt, Marianne (2021). “The next Morning I got a Warrant for the Man and his Wife, but he was fled”: Did sociolinguistic factors play a role in the loss of the be-perfect? In: Kranich, Svenja; Breban, Tine. Lost in Change: Causes and Processes in the Loss of Grammatical Elements and Constructions. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing, 199-233.

Abstract

This chapter uses data from the Old Bailey Corpus to study the demise of the English be-perfect between the 1720s and 1910s. The corpus provides ample evidence on the development in the period that saw the transition from be to have as perfect auxiliary in constructions with mutative verbs (i.e., intransitive verbs referring to change of state or place); it also makes it possible to gauge the relative importance that social factors (such as speaker sex, speaker role or socio-economic background) may have played in the loss of one of the perfect variants. The stages for the development are derived from the data in a bottom-up approach using Variability-based Neighbour Clustering (VNC). In a second step, random forests and conditional inference trees are fit to the data for each stage. The former provide information on the overall relative importance of predictor variables and the latter on interaction of predictor variables. It turns out that while, overall, social predictors play a far less important role in the process of loss than the predictor lexical verb, they do show significant interaction with this language-internal variable. The speech-based socio-historical data thus add important details to previous studies on the loss of the be-perfect, not least by lending support to the fact that this change happened largely below the level of speakers’ awareness.

Abstract

This chapter uses data from the Old Bailey Corpus to study the demise of the English be-perfect between the 1720s and 1910s. The corpus provides ample evidence on the development in the period that saw the transition from be to have as perfect auxiliary in constructions with mutative verbs (i.e., intransitive verbs referring to change of state or place); it also makes it possible to gauge the relative importance that social factors (such as speaker sex, speaker role or socio-economic background) may have played in the loss of one of the perfect variants. The stages for the development are derived from the data in a bottom-up approach using Variability-based Neighbour Clustering (VNC). In a second step, random forests and conditional inference trees are fit to the data for each stage. The former provide information on the overall relative importance of predictor variables and the latter on interaction of predictor variables. It turns out that while, overall, social predictors play a far less important role in the process of loss than the predictor lexical verb, they do show significant interaction with this language-internal variable. The speech-based socio-historical data thus add important details to previous studies on the loss of the be-perfect, not least by lending support to the fact that this change happened largely below the level of speakers’ awareness.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
06 Faculty of Arts > Zurich Center for Linguistics
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Uncontrolled Keywords:BE:HAVE-perfect alternation, loss of BE-perfect, socio-historical variationist analysis
Language:English
Date:July 2021
Deposited On:10 Mar 2021 08:08
Last Modified:12 Jun 2024 03:43
Publisher:John Benjamins Publishing
Series Name:Studies in language companion series
Number:218
ISSN:0165-7763
ISBN:9789027208637
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1075/slcs.218.07hun
Related URLs:https://benjamins.com/catalog/slcs.218 (Publisher)
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