The subjunctive mood in Late Middle English adverbial clauses: the interaction of form and function

Kikusawa, Namiko (2017) The subjunctive mood in Late Middle English adverbial clauses: the interaction of form and function. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis focuses on the history of the inflexional subjunctive and its functional substitutes in Late Middle English. To explore why and how the inflexional subjunctive declined in the history of English language, I analysed 2653 examples of three adverbial clauses introduced by if (1882 examples), though (305 examples) and lest (466 examples). Using a corpus-based approach, this thesis argues that linguistic change in subjunctive constructions did not happen suddenly but rather gradually, and the way it changed was varied , and that different constructions changed at different speeds in different environments.

It is well known that the inflexional subjunctive declined in the history of English, mainly because of inflexional loss. Strangely however this topic has been comparatively neglected in the scholarly literature, especially with regard to the Middle English period, probably due to the limitations of data and also because study of this development requires very cumbersome textual research.

This thesis has derived and analysed the data from three large corpora in the public domain: the Middle English Grammar Corpus (MEG-C for short), the Innsbruck Computer Archive of Machine-Readable English Texts (ICAMET for short), and some selected texts from The Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse, part of the Middle English Compendium that also includes the Middle English Dictionary. The data were analysed from three perspectives: 1) clausal type, 2) dialect, and 3) textual genre.

The basic methodology for the research was to analyse the examples one by one, with special attention being paid to the peculiarities of each text. In addition, this thesis draw on some complementary – indeed overlapping -- linguistic theories for further discussion: 1) Biber’s multi-dimensional theory, 2) Ogura and Wang’s (1994) S-curve or ‘diffusion’ theory, 3) Kretzchmar’s (2009) linguistics of speech, and 4) Halliday’s (1987) notion of language as a dynamic open system.

To summarise the outcomes of this thesis:
1) On variation between clausal types, it was shown that the distributional tendencies of verb types (sub, ind, mod) are different between the three adverbial clauses under consideration.
2) On variation between dialects, it has been shown that the northern area, i.e. the so-called Great Scandinavian Belt, displays an especially high comparative ratio of the inflexional subjunctive construction compared to the other areas. This thesis suggests that this result was caused by the influence of Norse, relating the finding to the argument of Samuels (1989) that the present tense -es ending in the northern dialect was introduced by the influence of the Scandinavians.
3) On variation between genres, those labelled Science, Documents and Religion display relatively high ratio of the inflexional subjunctive, while Letter, Romance and History show relatively low ratio of the inflexional subjunctive. This results are explained by Biber’s multi-dimensional theory, which shows that the inflexional subjunctive can be related to the factors ‘informational’, ‘non-narrative’, ‘persuasive’ and ‘abstract’.
4) Lastly, on the inflexional subjunctive in Late Middle English, this thesis concludes that 1) the change did not happen suddenly but gradually, and 2) the way language changes varies. Thus the inflexional subjunctive did not disappear suddenly from England, and there was a time lag among the clausal types, dialects and genres, which can be related to Ogura and Wang’s S-curve (“diffusion”) theory and Kretzchmars’s view of “linguistic continuum”.

This thesis has shown that the issues with regard to the inflexional subjunctive are quite complex, so that research in this area requires not only textual analysis but also theoretical analysis, considering both intra- and extra- linguistic factors.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: English, Middle English, subjunctive, mood, verb, adverbial clauses, corpus linguistics, historical linguistics, dialect, genre, Norse, language contact, Scandinavian.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PA Classical philology
P Language and Literature > PE English
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Supervisor's Name: Smith, Professor Jeremy
Date of Award: 2017
Depositing User: Ms Namiko Kikusawa
Unique ID: glathesis:2017-7887
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2017 13:32
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2017 15:20

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