Wild, Catherine (Kate)
Attitudes towards English usage in the late modern period: the case of phrasal verbs.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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Phrasal verbs are an intrinsic part of Late Modern English, and are found in both informal and colloquial language (check out, listen up) and more formal styles (a thesis might set out some problems and then sum up the main points). They are highly productive: 'up' can be added to almost any verb to signify goal or end-point (read up, finish up, eat up, meet up, fatten up); and once a phrasal verb has been coined, a conversion often follows (for example, the verb 'phone in' was first recorded in 1946, and the noun 'phone-in' in 1967; 'dumb down' was coined in 1933, and we read of 'dumbed-down' material in 1982).
Perhaps because of their pervasiveness, phrasal verbs are frequently criticized (although occasionally praised) in Late Modern English texts about language. The purpose of this thesis is to examine such attitudes in three strands. Firstly, over one hundred language texts (grammars, dictionaries, and usage manuals, among others, from 1750 to 1970) were examined to discover how phrasal verbs were recognized and classified in Late Modern English. Secondly, these materials were analyzed in order to find out how attitudes towards phrasal verbs in English developed in relation to broader attitudes towards language in the Late Modern period. Thirdly, phrasal verb usage in A Representative Corpus of Historical English Registers, a corpus of British and American English from 1650 to 1990, was analyzed to determine how such attitudes affect usage. It will be shown that attitudes towards phrasal verbs reflect various strands of language ideology, including opinions about Latinate as opposed to native vocabulary; ideals relating to etymology, polysemy, and redundancy; reactions to neologisms; and attitudes towards language variety. Furthermore, it will be suggested that in the case of certain redundant combinations such as 'return back' and 'raise up', proscriptions of phrasal verbs did have an effect on their usage in the Late Modern period.
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