Friday, 21 May 2010

19th Century Changes

The 19th Century.

The 18th Century saw a period of standardisation in terms of orthography, phonology, grammar and even semantics. Johnson’s Dictionary and Lowth’s guide to grammar stand out as crucial texts in the period (- but there were many more!)

However it would be a mistake to think that “Modern English “ of the late 18th and 19th century is not noticeably different to the language we might use today. Not only are there huge issues relating to technological advances, occupational varieties of English and ever-changing colloquialisms, but the actual grammatical style of texts can also be seen to subtly shift.

Many authors writing in the 19th century would have been brought up with Lowth’s “Grammar”, while idea of “correctness” are common themes in many novels in this period (the work of Austen, for example). The function of grammar as a social marker can be seen in many literary texts from the 19th century, such as the work of Austen. As the use of grammar was under the microscope for these authors, it is in some sense not surprising that we see at this time some very convoluted and formal grammatical / syntactical structures.

Task 1: rewrite the italicised word / phrase in its contemporary form.

I am so glad we are got acquainted
So you are come at last!
What say you to the day?
She doubted not..
Fanny shrunk back…
And much was ate…
It is a nothing of a part…
To be taken into the account…
Will not it be a good plan?
It would quite shock you…would not it?
He told me in our journey
She was small of her age
I stood for a minute, feeling dreadfully
It is really very well for a novel
The properest manner…
The richest of the two…

Identify from the following list which aspect of grammar the 16 examples of grammatical change relate to:
Adverbs Articles
Irregular verb forms Prepositions
Tense usage Use of auxiliary verbs
Comparative adjectives Use of contracted forms

Checklist of things to look out for…

One of the difficulties you might face when asked to identify changes in grammar in a passage or a document is to know exactly what you should be looking for. Here are some important questions, together with some brief examples, that you can use to examine and passages you may encounter.

1) verb inflections (e.g pleaseth / pleases; gotten /got; think’st / thinks)
2) Formations of the past tense (e.g. My life is run its course / My life as run its course)
3) Use of modal and auxiliary verbs (especially “do”)
4) The personal pronoun system (e.g. thou / thee / ye)
5) The relative pronoun system (e.g. Our father which are in heaven / Our Father who are in heaven.)
6) Formation of negatives (e.g. I see not / I do not see, I cannot see no longer / I cannot see any longer)
7) Noun and adjective endings of inflections ( e.g. mankinde / mankind)
8) Formation of plurals (e.g. shoon / shoes)
9) Sentence structure
10) The use of prepositions

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