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Abstract

To what extent is it possible to interpret the data of pronouncing dictionaries of the 18th century in sociolinguistic terms? Several answers are provided by resorting to Labov’s concepts of change from above and change from below the level of awareness. A systematic investigation of John Walker’s Critical Pronouncing Dictionary (1791, 1809), the most complete and cumulative of all such dictionaries of the time, makes it possible to show that an orthoepist like Walker often reflects the pressure in favour of change from above for vowel quality and resistance to such a change in matters of stress placement. By preferring analogy to conservative pronunciations due to his bias in favour of a rational pattern, Walker also links analogy to the “vernacular instinct”, promoting variant forms witnessing a change from below. And many other changes under way in his time, which pass unnoticed in the orthoepist’s discourse and transcriptions, properly deserve to be treated as changes from below, thus making his dictionary the common ground for pressures from above and pressures from below.

Walker’s prescription is a complex combination of both promotion of, and resistance to pressures from above according to criteria that reflect the ideals of the upper middle class.

Abstract

The paper focuses on linguistic terminology used by Ælfric (10th c.) in his translation of an anonymous Latin grammar (Excerptiones de arte grammatica anglicе) going back to Priscian and Donatus’ works. Ælfric’s grammatical metalanguage, comprising loan words, semantic loans, loan translations, and periphrastic expressions created for explanatory purposes, is characterized by great diversity. A question arises whether these terms, remaining occasional, made any impact on the language system and can be thus evaluated as change from above.

The paper combines a traditional semantic, morphological, and functional description of Ælfric’s terminology and its consideration within the frame of sociolinguistics; the analysis is supplemented by a cross-linguistic study of Ælfric’s terms with remarks on other Germanic languages. The results achieved enable us to argue that Ælfric’s linguistic terminology, being innovative, displays some features of change from above, arising from language contact and individual change.

Abstract

The present paper presents the state of the art of research related to hypothesized changes from above in the diachrony of English. A main aim of the paper is to show how the cooperation of various perspectives can open new directions in the research of language change. We examine the main aspects of a definition of the change from above. We investigate the various perspectives through which the concept of change from above, as an “importation of elements from other systems” (Labov 2007), has been considered a significant factor for the development of English. We show that any attempt to investigate the presence or role of change from above includes the parameters of prestige, distribution of old and new forms, diffusion, gender, and linguistic ideology. Finally, we discuss typical examples of development of patterns and characteristics of English that have been analyzed as influenced by change from above, as well as the prestige dialects / languages and contexts that have been regarded as facilitating a hypothesized change from above (Latin, Anglo-Norman, standardization, prescriptivism, networks and individuals). We argue that the articles of the present special issue provide stable criteria that are required in any attempt to test the hypothesis of change from above in the development of English.

Abstract

Phrases deriving from literary quotations are sometimes included in language histories as contributions from famous writers, like Shakespeare. This paper will argue that the label “change from above” is still a useful label for the addition of literary phrases to the language, even if such an addition is not typical of the variationist changes for which the label was coined. This paper will also demonstrate that the process of incorporating a literary quotation into the language involves several alterations to the quotation’s form and meaning, and that these changes are also part of the “change from above” characterizing the adoption of literary phrases.

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to explore the impact of social and context factors on the diffusion of a linguistic change from above, namely the deployment of the spelling innovation <th> in fifteenth-century English, and especially in some letters from the well-known Paston collection of correspondence. We particularly focus on the socio-stylistic route of this change from above, observing the sociolinguistic behaviour of some letter writers (members of the Paston family) in connection with the social-professional status of their recipients, the interpersonal relationship with them, as well as the contexts and styles of the letters. In this way, different dimensions of this change from above in progress in fifteenth-century English can be reconstructed.

Abstract

The paper traces the intertextual echoes of Frances Burney’s debut novel, Evelina, in The Belle’s Stratagem, a play by Burney’s contemporary Hannah Cowley. The latter was certainly an avid admirer of Burney. In one of her poems she pays tribute to the novelist and praises her ability to achieve uncommon subtlety in the depiction of characters in her writing: “What pen but Burney’s …/… draws from nature with a skill so true” (Escott 2012: 38). The paper, however, argues that the connection between the writers and their literary productions goes much further than the obeisance paid to Burney in Cowley’s admiring verses. The congruence between the plots of Evelina and The Belle’s Stratagem, and, in some instances, the very wording used in the two texts, poses immediate questions about its significance in Cowley’s popular play (which was first produced in 1780, two years after the publication of Burney’s debut). The conclusions suggest that Cowley deliberately drew Burney’s novel into a discussion on viable models of femininity and matrimony in contemporary society. But they also point to a wider phenomenon, namely, the extent to which the relationship between the eighteenth-century theatre and novel was reciprocal. While several recent studies discuss the influence of the theatre on the novel, little has been said on the importance of the novel for the development of the contemporary drama. This new reading of Cowley’s The Belle’s Stratagem as a response to Burney’s Evelina shows the immediacy with which a literary dialogue could be opened by authors and appreciated by audiences on the vibrant eighteenth-century cultural scene.

Abstract

In this paper we consider a much-quoted phrase published by the essayist Charles Lamb (1775–1834) in the London Magazine in 1822 about a desirable quality in books: that they should be ‘strong-backed and neat-bound’. We identify meanings of modifier neat as evidenced by different communities of practice in early nineteenth-century newspapers, and in particular we present meanings of neat as used in certain Quaker writings known to have been read with approval by Lamb. By this method we assemble a series of nuanced meanings that the phrase neat-bound would have conveyed to contemporary readers – specifically, the readership of the London Magazine.

Abstract

In Lord Jim Marlow functions not only as a narrator who spins the yarn about the morally problematic case of the young sailor, but also as an interpreter who struggles to register impressions as faithfully as possible thus translating the visual into the discursive. Marlow’s double function establishes the novel as a text about the search to understand and to acquire reliable knowledge about Jim and his dilemma. Levin’s distinction of the two styles of vision, the assertoric gaze and the aletheic gaze, offers a neat conceptualization for Marlow’s visual practices which affect his interpretation of Jim. Levin defines the assertoric gaze as a fixed stare which involves the hegemony of a single standpoint, whereas the aletheic gaze, decentred and subversive, cherishes ambiguity and tends to roam about to accommodate multiple points of view. Levin relates this distinction to the two concepts of truth that Heidegger examines in his critique of the metaphysics of presence: truth as proposition, correspondence, or correctness and truth as aletheia or unconcealment as well as the two types of discourse, the hermeneutical discourse of poetizing and the discourse of statements. If Plato and Descartes defined truth and knowledge in terms of a total visibility, Heidegger insists that the path to truth involves confronting shadows and recognizing that they are necessary for the disclosure of being. Within this philosophical framework it is possible to reassess both Marlow’s failure to form an unequivocal explanation of Jim and his growing epistemological scepticism as a departure from the correspondence theory of truth. The encounter with Jim brings Marlow to interrogate his own strategies of grasping the truth and subverts the focus on light as its visual equivalent.

Abstract

Bailey and Maroldt (1977) and Domingue (1977) were the first to argue that language contact during the Middle Ages between Old English and both Old Norse and Norman French resulted in linguistic creolization. This theory, known as the Middle English creolization hypothesis, implies that Middle English, and perhaps Modern English as well, should be classified as a creole. Though frequently discredited on historic, linguistic, and terminological grounds, the creolization hypothesis has attracted interest for longer than might be expected. This paper argues that the persistence of the hypothesis may be ideologically motivated. The first section examines connotations of the term “creole” and applies these connotations to an analysis of the initial presentations of the creolization hypothesis. The second and third section of the paper review and analyze the forty-year history of the debate, focusing separately on arguments for creolization (and koinezation) between Anglo-Norman French and Old Norse, respectively. The fourth and final section examines challenges presented by the concept of creole exceptionalism to common attitudes about language equality and the theory of Universal Grammar. It is argued that these issues attract greater interest when contextualized within a discussion of a “major” world language such as English than when creolization is understood as an atypical process restricted to “peripheral” languages such as Haitian Creole. This paper also references relevant political issues such as the current controversy among medievalists about the field’s historic lack of inclusivity.

Abstract

This paper deals with the syntactic and semantic properties of a specific kind of anaphoric device (AD) in English, instantiated by Prn+SELF lexical items (himself/herself/itself…; ‘SELF’ henceforth), which do not behave like anaphors in the sense of Binding Theory either syntactically or semantically. These devices have received the name of intensives in the grammatical literature (Leskosky 1972; Siemund 2000, among many others). We will look at the syntactic behaviour of so-called intensives in different syntactic contexts, and refine the classification of these ADs taking into consideration (a) how each type of intensive is derived, (b) the kinds of syntactic rules that can affect them, and (c) their meaning.