WiSe 16/17: PS-Historical Linguistics II: Watching English Change - The grammar of Late Modern English
It is often claimed that the grammar of English has remained relatively stable since the end of the early modern period (c. 1700), and that the most obvious changes pertain primarily to the ... Lesen Sie weiter
It is often claimed that the grammar of English has remained relatively stable since the end of the early modern period (c. 1700), and that the most obvious changes pertain primarily to the lexicon. Indeed, even without special training, we can read English at least as far back as Shakespeare with relative ease. Compared to the radical typological differences between Old, Middle and Modern English, this impression is of course plausible.
However, on closer inspection, English has changed surprisingly dramatically on a number of local syntactic and phraseological levels. The last few hundred years have seen, for example, the rise and conventionalization of the progressive (I read vs. I’m reading), the operator do (e.g., I know not vs. I don’t know), particle or phrasal verbs (set up, get together), or the emergence of a class of ‘semi-modals’ (e.g., have to, need to, want to). The fact that Earlier Modern Englishes often feel relatively ‘modern’ is that the ground plan of ‘Contemporary’ English seems to have been laid out very early — however, this ground plan fluctuates on a number of semantic, functional, and statistical dimensions to this day.
In this course, we will take such a closer look at selected ‘local’ syntactic phenomena to investigate the dimensions of linguistic change and variation. As students of English, we are lucky to have abundant linguistic data from that period that allow for the fine-grained tracking of many phenomena. We will come to appreciate the value of a close description of very small grammatical structures for understanding how English and English(es) became what they are today, how languages change more generally — and why language is never fixed, but always ‘emergent’.
This course is explicitly ‘hands-on’ — you need to be willing to get your hands dirty with linguistic data. Course requirements are weekly readings and responses (for Regelmäßige Teilnahme), small (in-class) research tasks and an oral presentation equivalent (for Aktive Teilnahme), as well as a short corpus-based case study on a grammatical phenomenon from a diachronic perspective (aka ‘Hausarbeit’). Previous experience with CQP and/or corpus methods is a plus, but not essential. We will take the first three weeks of term to train in and discuss methods for historical linguistics (for a revision of CQP, you can re-do the corpus tutorial at http://bit.ly/korpustutorium). In any case, you shouldn’t be—and don’t have to be!—afraid of computers and/or numbers.