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Subjectivity and the progressive form in early eighteenth-century spoken discourse

Sylvie Hancil
p. 197-218

Abstract

Il est un fait établi depuis longtemps que la forme be + -ing est employée comme marqueur de langue familière (voir, entre autres, van der Laan (1922), Goedsche (1932), Strang (1982), Wright (1995). Nombreux sont les linguistes qui ont étudié le phénomène dans la comédie en prose et dans la correspondance privée à la fin de la période de l’anglais moderne, mais aucune étude n’a encore été faite pour cette période dans le cadre de conversations appartenant à d’autres genres. Le Corpus des Dialogues Anglais permet de mener à bien cette entreprise pour le début du dix-huitième siècle et offre au chercheur la possibilité de travailler dans cinq genres différents (comédie, fiction, manuels, procès et dépositions de témoins). Le but de cette étude est d’examiner l’évolution sémantique de la périphrase en s’intéressant aux valeurs subjectives de la construction dans les deux dernières périodes du Corpus des Dialogues Anglais jusqu’en 1760, en s’appuyant sur la classification des marqueurs de point de vue de Biber et al. (2002). L’hypothèse de Fitzmaurice (2004), selon laquelle l’interprétation subjective est liée à l’utilisation de la périphrase avec des verbes cognitifs à la première ou deuxième personne, en présence d’adverbes de renforcement, dans des propositions principales au présent est testée. Les résultats indiquent qu’il est nécessaire de réviser cette hypothèse. On sera également amené à tester le gradient de la subjectivité de Traugott et Dasher (2002) et on montrera comment la forme be +-ing a diachroniquement évolué selon ce gradient au début du dix-huitième siècle selon la catégorie du dialogue.

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1. Introduction

1English eighteenth-century grammars do not acknowledge aspect as a grammatical category, a fact fully underlined by Wischer (2003):

Aspect as a grammatical category is not mentioned in eighteenth-or nineteenth-century grammar books of English […]. [The progressive] was predominantly a feature of spoken language, used at first as an option to emphasize the continuation of an action in the present or past tense.
(Wischer 2003: 171)

2Nevertheless, the examination of the data explicitly indicates that by 1700 it functions as such (see Strang 1982 and Görlach 2001 among others):

[The progressive] can be regarded as a grammaticalised aspectual indicator in the verbal system by 1700. (Strang 1982: 429)

The be + V + ing came to be established for active verbs as an obligatory category by the early 18th century, following a rapid rise of occurrences from the Restoration onwards. (Görlach 2001: 121-2)

3It is a well-known fact that the progressive form (PF) has undergone a dramatic change throughout the later modern English period, as illustrated in Beal (2004):

Possibly the most spectacular change in English syntax during the later modern period is the increase in both the frequency and range of uses of what has variously been termed the ‘progressive’, the ‘expanded form’, or, simply, the be + ing form of verbs. (Beal 2004: 78)

4A closer look at the data of the eighteenth century shows a slowdown in the increasing use of the periphrasis due to a re-modelling of the function of the form during the early eighteenth century, involving the emergence of subjective values expressing the speaker’s attitude towards the situation.

  • 1 Subjectivity is defined as the linguistic manifestation of the speaker’s attitudes and emotions.
  • 2 For a discussion on the classification of the various registers of direct speech in the corpus, see (...)

5Because the PF has been subject to quite a few changes in the later modern English period (see Beal (2004: 78) among others), the periphrasis has been the object of considerable attention. Wright’s (1994) pioneering work in the study of the subjective PF1 in prose comedy (1670-1710) has set up a methodology to examine the linguistic environment responsible for what she called the experiential function of the PF. The purpose of this study is to pursue the analysis of the subjective PF by enlarging the range of registers in spoken discourse and extending the study up to 1760. The Corpus of English Dialogues (hence CED) closes the gap for the early eighteenth century and provides the researcher with interesting material from five different registers of direct speech (Comedy, Fiction, Handbooks, Trials and Witness depositions).2 We shall focus our attention on the periods D4 (1680-1719) and D5 (1720-1760).

6Wright’s (1994) hypothesis that the subjective interpretation is related to the use of the periphrasis with first-/second-person cognitive verbs in present-tense main clauses, along with strengthening adverbials, is tested and the results indicate that it needs to be revised. This analysis will also lead us to test the subjectification cline proposed by Traugott and Dasher (2002).

2. The PF in the CED

2.1. Overall distribution of the PF

7Before examining the data, it would be worth advancing a hypothesis as regards the distribution of the PF in the different types of direct speech. By definition, authentic dialogues are the registers reflecting the reality of direct speech best and should include the highest normalized frequencies. Because Witness depositions involve an important intervention of the narrator and Trials include very little manipulation of discourse by the narrator, the normalized frequencies are expected to respect this order. In constructed dialogues, Comedy includes the most spontaneous dialogues, and should stand ahead of Fiction and Handbooks.

8The order of the normalized frequencies of the PF in the CED stands in conformity with our hypothesis in D4 (see Table 1). The normalized frequencies extend from 4.48 (Handbooks) to 12.83 (Witness).

Table 1: Distribution of the PF in the CED (normalized frequencies per 10,000 words)

Register Period

Comedy

Fiction

Handbooks

Trials

Witness

Normalized Frequency for the whole period

D4

11.22

9.50

4.48

12.63

12.83

9.81

D5

16.49

11.26

7.62

13.23

20.44

13.42

9Witness depositions are in first position (12.83), followed closely by Trials (12.63). Comedy occupies the third place (11.22); Fiction stands fourth (9.50) and Handbooks, last (4.48). The hierarchy of the registers is respected for the second period, except for two registers: Comedy occupies the second position (16.49) and Trials come third (13.23).

10To explain the increase of 46.9% in the use of the PF in Comedy in D5, we could postulate that the author inventing dialogues in Comedy during D5 became increasingly aware that the be + ing construction was a useful tool to render constructed direct speech as close as possible to genuine direct speech, as exemplified in Trials. The same reason could be brought forward to account for the highest increase in frequency, which is recorded in Handbooks for D5. Even though Handbooks represent the register that is the most resistant to use the PF in both periods (the normalized frequencies are the lowest in this register in both periods), the increasing use of the expression in this register in D5 shows that the narrator is becoming aware that it is a marker of colloquial discourse that can fit in with didactic purposes. Other increases of frequencies that are worth examining concern those in Trials (+4.75%) and in Witness depositions (+59.3%). The totally different behaviours reflect the intrinsic nature of the register in relation to the degree of intervention of the narrator.

11The overall collocation of PF with time adverbials in the CED is 15.6% for D4 but the percentage slightly increases in D5 (21.4%), which shows that the aspectual value is not totally stabilized. Because the PF undergoes a change in its function in this period, it is worth examining the overall distribution of the subjective PF in the CED for the periods considered.

2.2. The subjective PF in the CED

Table 2: Distribution of the subjective PF in the CED (raw numbers and%)

Register Period

Comedy

Fiction

Handbooks

Trials

Witness

Total

D4

24 (45.3%)

9 (20%)

11 (31.4%)

28 (22.9%)

1 (2.9%)

73 (25.3%)

D5

5 (72.5%)

15 (30%)

7 (33.3%)

26 (23.2%)

12 (33.3%)

108 (36.1%)

12We would have expected to find the highest frequencies of the subjective PF in authentic dialogues, following the results displayed by Table 1. But in both periods (see Table 2) the first two positions are occupied by registers from constructed direct speech. Comedy becomes the leader for the frequency of subjective PF in D4 and reinforces its first position in D5, which corroborates the idea that it is the ideal representative of the manifestation of subjectivity in direct speech (Wright 2004: 146). Even though Handbooks were in last position for the frequency of the PF, they have moved to second position for the percentage of subjective PF in both periods. Trials stand in third place in D4 and move down to fifth position in D5. Fiction has maintained its fourth position. Witness depositions stand last in this classification in D4 but move to second position in D5. Overall, Table 2 illustrates a constant increase in the frequency of the subjective PF. The variations observed in the increase of the percentage of the subjective PF over time are related to the same explanations as those in the previous section.

13Consequently, according to Table 2, the early eighteenth-century period is a key period for the distribution of subjective PF among the different registers of direct speech. Let us now examine the linguistic parameters associated with the subjective PF.

3. Linguistic parameters with the subjective PF

14The choice of linguistic parameters occurring with subjective PF relies on the studies by Strang (1982) and Fitzmaurice (2004), taking into account the verb type, the clause type, the tense, and the subject type.

3.1. Verb type

15The classification of verb types is based on Vendler’s analysis: Activity and Accomplishment verbs are noted VA; Achievement verbs, noted VAch; and verbs of state, noted VS.

Table 3: Verb type of the subjective PF across registers in the CED (%)

Register Period

Comedy

Fiction

Handbooks

Trials

Witness

D4

91.7% VA
8.3% VAch
0% VS

100% VA
0% VAch
0% VS

81.8% VA
9.1% VAch
9.1% VS

75% VA
10.7% VAch
14.3% VS

100% VA
0% VAch
0% VS

D5

89.7% VA
6.9% VAch
3.4% VS

93.3% VA 6.7% VAch 0%VS

85.7% VA
0% VAch 14.3% VS

92.4% VA
3.8% VAch
3.8% VS

100% VA
0% VAch
0% V
S

16The subjective PF collocate with Activity and Accomplishment verbs in the great majority of cases (see Table 3). The percentages range from 75% (Trials) to 100% (Witness depositions) in D4. The percentages are even greater in D5, going from 85.7% to 100%.

17Let us examine the nature of Activity verbs collocating with the subjective PF.

Table 4: Types of activity verbs with the subjective PF (%)

Register Period

Comedy

Fiction

Handbooks

Trials

Witness

D4

ACT 22.7%
MOV
31.8%
SAY 27.2%
MENT 18.3%
LOC 0%
PERC 0%

ACT 33.3%
MOV 22.2%
SAY 11.1%
MENT 11.1%
LOC 11.1%
PERC 11.1%

ACT 55.6%
MOV 33.3%
SAY 0%
MENT 11.1%
LOC 0%
PERC 0%

ACT 33.3%
MOV 33.3%
SAY 33.3%
MENT 0%
LOC 0%
PERC 0%

ACT 0%
MOV 0%
SAY 0%
MENT 100%
LOC 0%
PERC 0%

D5

ACT 28.8%
MOV 32.6%
SAY 17.3%
MENT 7.7%
LOC 5.7%
PERC 1.9%

ACT 46.1%
MOV 15.4%
SAY 23.1%
MENT 15.4%
LOC 0%
PERC 0%

ACT 16.7%
MOV 50%
SAY 33%
MENT 0%
LOC 0%
PERC 0%

ACT 29.1%
MOV 37.5%
SAY 16.7%
MENT 0%
LOC 16.7%
PERC 0%

ACT 50%
MOV 16.7%
SAY 0%
MENT 0%
LOC 25%
PERC 8.3%

18The classification of Activity verbs is based on Biber et al.’s (2002) and regroups the following categories: verbs of typical Activity (ACT), including Action and Occurrence; verbs of Movement (MOV); verbs of Saying (SAY); mental verbs (MENT); verbs of Location (LOC); verbs of Perception (PERC).

19The most frequent activity verbs used are the verbs of typical activity and the verbs of movement, as illustrated from (1) to (6):

20- verbs of typical Activity:

  • 3 The whole verbal form including the PF will be in bold characters in this article; it can, for inst (...)

(1) [$ (^Bev. jun.^) $] Dear (^Myrtle^), I am as much obliged to you for the Cause of your Suspicion, as I am offended at the Effect: but be assured, I am taking3 measures for your certain Security, and that all things with regard to me will end in your entire Satisfaction.
(D5CSTEEL)

(2) [$ (^Brisk.^) $] Boys, Boys, Lads, where are you? What do you give ground? Mortgage for a Bottle, ha? (^Careless^), this is your trick; you’re always spoiling Company by leaving it.
(D4CCONGR)

(3) [$ (^Prim.^) $] Well, Sir, I have been making Preparations for the Wedding that’s to be to-night.
(D5CMILLE)

21- verbs of Movement:

(4) Says (^Darcy^), Where have you been, you have been hot at it? What have you been Fighting with the Devil?
(D4TGILES)

(5) [$ (^Row.^) S] Yes, all four together, in a Confusion they seemed to be, for they were Pushing to and agen,
(D4TMOHUN)

(6) [$Mr. (^Atterbury.^) $] My Lord, about the beginning of (^July, Fourth, Fifth^), or (^Sixth^), or thereabouts, I had some Information, That there were some (^Scotch^)
Gentlemen that
had been shifting up and down, and at that time were About (Black Fryers^), lodged there secretly I immediately went with.
(D4THAMBD)

22The third most used verb type is represented by verbs of Saying, as shown in (7)-(9):

(7) [$ (^Scrub.^) $] Ay, he and the Count’s Footman were Gabbering French like two intriguing Ducks in a Mill-Pond,
(D4CFARQU)

(8) [$said (^Charlot^)… it is not yet arriv’d to the Years of speaking, about thirteen or fourteen it may possibly be saying a thousand soft things to you (D4FBEHN)

(9) [$ (^Oldfield.^) $] Why he wou’d be talking very extravagantly (D4TROOKW)

23Surprisingly enough, the category of verbs of Mental Activity rarely collocates with a subjective meaning. The number of occurrences is extremely rare, oscillating between 0 and 1 occurrence in 8 cases out of 10; it is only in the register of Comedy that we can identify 4 occurrences in each period. Here are a few examples of verbs of Mental Activity in (10)-(12):

(10) (^Truly Madam^) [$ ((^said^) Peregrine) $] (^your behaviour makes me doubt that I am Awake^). (^No, no^), [$ ((^replyed she^)) $] (^you are Dreaming, as I shall convince you^);
(D4FARQ)

(11) [$ (^Smerk.^) $] No Sir, I am only ruminating a while; I am inflamed with her affection, Ο (^Susan! Susan^)! Ah me! Ah me!
(D4CSHADW)

(12) [$ (^Bella.^) $] Fy, (^Ranger^),--will you never think?
[$ (^Rang.^) $] Yes, but
I can’t be always thinking. The Law is a damnable dry Study, Mr. (^Bellamy^),
(D5CHOADL)

24There is only one occurrence in Witness depositions, so the 100% percentage for the category of Mental Activity is not reliable in this register. So Wright’s (1994) hypothesis that the subjective PF tends to occur with mental verbs is not confirmed.

25Even though Activity verbs make up the overwhelming majority of subjective PF, there are still two categories that are worth looking at (see Table 3). There is not a single punctual verb recorded, so the category of Achievement verbs and punctual verbs is reduced to the category of Achievement verbs, as exemplified in (13)-(15):

(13) [$Sir (^J. Jekyll.^) We have the taking the Book in the Custody of the Prisoner, and if there had been no more then it’s being found in his Custody
(D4TFRANC)

(14) [$Mr. (^At. Gen.^)… It is killing a man in his Good Name by a Side-wound.
(D4TROOKW)

(15) [$ (^Scrub.^) $] That Jade, (^Gipsey^), that was with us just now in the Cellar, is the arrantest Whore that ever wore a Petticoat; and I’m dying for love of her.
(D4CFARQU)

26Let us note that we have identified an occurrence of the passive progressive (example (13) as early as 1716 in Trials, the most expressive register of authentic dialogues, which is earlier than the first occurrence (1772) recorded in Warner (1995: 539).

27The percentage of the occurrences of Achievement verbs extends from 0 to 10.7%. There is no occurrence in Fiction for the first period, in Handbooks for the second period and in Witness depositions in both periods.

28As for the category of verbs of State, 50% of the registers in the CED do not use this type of verb for the indication of subjectivity in the PF. In other cases, the percentage varies between 3.4% (Comedy, D5) and 14.3% (Trials, D4). Among the verbs of state, the category of mental states is represented in 8 occurrences of 9, as exemplified in (16)-(18):

(16) [$ (^Weth.^), about five Minutes after One, he sent for me up into his Chamber, where his Wife was crying and in great disorder, as he seem’d to be likewise. She was desiring her Husband to discover.
(D5TCOOKE)

(17) (^Calloph.^) $] I am admiring the fine View from hence: So great a Variety of beautiful Objects, and all so happily disposed, make a most delightful Picture.
(D5HOGILP)

(18) [$ (^Running to ‘em with his Sword drawn^) $] O, my Friends, I have been wishing for you this half Hour. I have been set upon by a dozen Fellows
(D5CGARRI)

3.2. Clause type

29The study of the linguistic parameter of clause type (see Table 5) confirms the overwhelming presence of subjective PF in Main Clauses in 8 cases out of 10. The examples are shown in (19)-(22):

30- Main clause

(19) [$ (^L. Froth.^) $] My Lord, I have been telling my dear (^Cynthia^), how much I have been in Love with you; I swear I have;
(D4CCONGR)

(20) [$And this Informant further saith. That her Husband <P 32>(^Anthony Jones^), observing her the said (^Susanna^) to gripe and twinkle her Hands upon her own Body, said unto her,$] Thou Devil, thou art now tormenting some person or other.
(D4WDEVON)

31- Subordinate clause:

(21) [$ (^Recorder.^) $] What did you say when the Cutler asked him. Whether he had been fighting with the Devil?
(D4TG1LES)

(22) But alas! see there the Success of all her Pains: the Youth transported at the Sight of his Dog, throws his Arms round its Neck, and lavishes upon it those Kisses and Endearments, in the very Sight of the poor afflicted Lady, which she had been flattering herself would have fallen to her share. --
(D5HOGILP)

Table 5: Clause type of the subjective PF across registers in the CED (%)

Register Period

Comedy

Fiction

Handbooks

Trials

Witness

D4

83.3% MC
16.7% SC

77.8%MC
22.2% SC

81.8% MC
18.2% SC

46.4% MC
53.6% SC

100% MC
0% SC

D5

86.2% MC
13.8% SC

80% MC
20% SC

57.1% MC
42.9% SC

50% MC
50% SC

41.7% MC
59.3% SC

(MC = Main Clause; SC = Subordinate Clause)

32This result is in accordance with Wright’s (1994) and Fitzmaurice’s (2004) studies.

33In constructed dialogues, it is worth comparing the behaviour of clause type in D5. Even though the use of main Clause increases in both Comedy and Fiction, it dramatically decreases in Handbooks. In authentic dialogues, there is more resistance to the systematic use of the Main Clause. In D5, in Trials there is still an equal number of main clauses and subordinate clauses including the subjective PF but in Witness depositions, subordinate clauses outnumber main clauses by a slight margin. So in authentic direct speech, as opposed to constructed dialogues, the results seem to be symptomatic of the fact that there is still a need to have a syntactic frame to support the occurrence of the subjective PF.

3.3. Tense

Table 6: Tense of the subjective PF across registers in the CED (%)

Register Period

Comedy

Fiction

Handbooks

Trials

Witness

D4

60.9% PR
21.7% PA
17.4% PFPr
0% PRPA

100% PR
0% PA
0% PFPr
0% PFPA

80% PR
20% PA
0% PFPr
0% PFPA

20% PR
56% PA
24% PFPr
0% PFPA

100%PR
0% PA
0% PFPr
0% PFPA

D5

77.4% PR
15.1% PA
7.5% PFPr
0% PFPA

46.7% PR
13.3% PA
40% PFPr
0% PFPA

71.4% PR
14.3% PA
0% PFPr
14.3% PFPA

11.5% PR
73.1% PA
7.7% PFPr
7.7% PFPA

0% PR
58.3% PA
33.3% PFPr
8.3% PFPA

(PR = Present tense; PA = Past tense (preterit); PFPr = Present Perfect; PFPA = Past Perfect)

34Table 6 displays the distribution of tenses across the different registers of the CED over the two periods under study. The present tense is the ideal tense to express a feeling or an attitude at the moment of speech. So it is not surprising to see that the present tense is the most prominent tense in all the constructed dialogues (Comedy, Fiction and Handbooks), with the percentages going from 46.7% to 100%. By contrast, in authentic dialogues, the past tense stands ahead in three cases out of four, with the percentages extending from 56% to 73.1%. So the data only partly confirms Wright’s (1994) hypothesis about the nature of tense associated with subjective PF. Again, this result is directly related to the nature of the genuine dialogues under examination: at Trials, for instance, a defendant or a plaintiff will talk most of the time about past events. Moreover, whether it be in authentic or constructed dialogues, from one period to another, it is difficult to observe a general explanation with respect to the evolution of the use of a given tense. For instance, we cannot find a convincing argument to explain the increase of the use of the present in both Comedy and Fiction on one hand, and the decrease of the use of the same tense in Handbooks.

35The third most-used tense turns out to be the present perfect, which, in D4, is employed only in Comedy and Trials but which in D5 is used in all registers except in Handbooks. The increasing use of the present perfect shows narrators and speaking subjects becoming more and more familiar with the faculty of marking an evaluation of a past situation at the moment of speech, thereby contributing to the enrichment of the different linguistic manifestations of the subjective expressivity. Regarding the rarity of the use of the past perfect over all the registers (0 occurrence in 7 cases out of 10), it is difficult to assess the evolution of this tense over time; the very low percentage could well be attributed to the nature of the registers.

3.4. Subject type

Table 7: Subject type of the subjective PF across registers in the CED (%)

Register Period

Comedy

Fiction

Handbooks

Trials

Witness

D4

39.1% P1
26.1% P2
34.8% P3

22.2%P1
33.3%P2
44.5%P3

30%P1
20%P2
50%P3

28.6% P1
35.7%P2
35.7%P3

0%P1
100%P2
0%P3

D5

31%P1
29.3%P2
39.7%P3

26.7% P1
40%P2
33.3%P3

28.6% P1
14.3% P1
57.1%P3

26.9%P1
7.7%P2
65.4%P3

33.3%P1
0%P2
66.7%P3

  • 4 Because the goal of this section was to compare the results with Wright’s (1994) data, we did not m (...)

36The study of subject type in direct speech takes into consideration three categories: first-person pronoun subject, second-person pronoun subject and third-person subject (both NP and pronoun). Table 74 shows that there are more third-person subjects than first-person subjects collocating with a subjective PF (3 registers out of 5 in D4; 4 registers out of 5 in D5). Here are a few examples with NP-and third-person pronoun subjects in (23)-(26):

(23) [$Sir (^Jeff.^) $] He is bewitch’d, some Witch has gotten his Image, and is tormenting it.
(D4CSHADW)

(24) ‘Tis over, Madam, [$said (^Formator^),$] these Gentlemen have been cutting capers this half-hour to a sorrowful new Tune
(D5FDAVY)

(25) $ (^Mrs Busby.^) as fast as she cou’d pretending to go for my Friends, Mrs (^Rawlins^)
(D4TSIDNE)

(26) (^says the brother^) Nay, the Fool has put it into their Heads too himself, for he is continually Bantring them about it, and making a Jest of himself; I confess, I think he is wrong to do so,
(D5FDEFOE)

37In authentic dialogues, more especially in Trials, we would have expected the first-person subject to be in a leading position but it is the third-person subject which is in the lead in both periods. The figures in Witness depositions in D4 are not reliable since there is only one occurrence. Moreover, in constructed dialogues, more especially in Comedy, there is an interesting evolution of subject types; in D4 the first-person subject is employed in priority, the third-person subject coming second; the tendency is reversed in D5.

38The percentage of the use of the third-person subject with the subjective PF increases steadily in almost all the registers, except in Fiction. The most popular third-person subject is represented by the singular third-person pronoun in 80% of the cases. The register of Comedy is an exception in that the singular NP is the most frequent, the singular third-person pronoun coming second.

39Overall, Wright’s (1994) hypothesis that first-and second-person pronoun subjects are most likely to collocate with subjective PF is not corroborated. Likewise, the data in the CED does not confirm Sairio’s (2006) results showing that the NP was the most common subject type in early eighteenth-century letters.

4. Subjective markers and the PF

40It is time to turn to the study of subjective markers in more detail. The notion of subjectivity developed by Fitzmaurice essentially took into account the occurrence of the periphrasis with mental verbs, epistemic modality of doubt and certainty, and pragmatic strengtheners such as always. This definition of subjectivity is enlarged, and relies on the classification of stance marking in Biber et al. (2002); it comprises epistemic markers (doubt and certainty, actuality and reality, source of knowledge); deontic markers; markers of affect (emotion and attitude), (the category of attitude including not only moral assessments, aesthetic comments but also markers of punctuation such as exclamation marks, colons, dashes, etc.); and markers of amount (minimizers, approximators, strengtheners).

4.1. Epistemic markers

Table 8: Epistemic markers collocating with the PF in the CED (raw numbers and%)

Register Period

Comedy

Fiction

Handbook s

Trials

Witness

D4

1 (4.2%)

1 (11.1%)

2 (18.2%)

2 (7.1%)

0 (0%)

D5

7 (12.1%)

5 (33.3%)

3 (42.9%)

12 (46.1%)

6 (50%)

41The distribution of epistemic markers occurring with the PF across the different registers in the CED during the periods D4 and D5 is shown in Table 8. Examples of these markers are displayed in (27)-(34):

- doubt and certainty:

(27) [$said (^Charlot^)… it is not yet arriv’d to the Years of speaking, about thirteen or fourteen it may possibly be saying a thousand soft things to you
(D4FBEHN)

(28) [$ (^R.^) S] And perhaps the poor Pains-taking Woman in her Helmet of a Vizard-Mask, and her Fighting-Suit without Stayes, is Galloping as fast in a Hackney-Coach with an Impudent, Chattering, Wall-Ey’d Foreigner to the other End of the Town.
(D4HOLUC)

(29) [$The Constable told him a little mov’d, but very handsomely,$] (^I know my Duty, and what I am, Sir, I doubt you hardly know what you are doing^); [$they had some other hard words, and in the mean time the Joumey-men, impudent and unmanly to the last degree, used me barbarously, and one of them, the same that first seized upon me, pretended he would search me, and began to lay Hands on me:
(D5FDEFOE)

(30) [$Mr. Serj. (^Gapper.^) $] Well, as you were coming back from fishing, what happened then?[$ (^John Egglestone.^) S] Yes: And I told him my Father was shot, and I believed he was dead or dying, but he never came near my Father;
(D5TREDDY)

- actuality and reality:

(31) well; but truly I think ‘em a little touch’d in their Heads, and are going into a Distemper call’d by Physicians (^ReligiousMadness^).
(D5HOBAPT)

(32) [$ (^Prim.^) $] True--she’s always praying that she might see an End of it.
(D5CMILLE)

- source of knowledge:

(33) [$ (^G.^) $] It lies in a very narrow Compass: It is therein supposed, that the (^India^)Company will apply to Parliament (as you was saying in the Beginning of our Discourse) about the Tea Duties
(D5HOJS)

(34) [$ (^Counsel for the Crown.^) $] Mr Fox, my Lord, is near at hand, and will be forth-coming if they desire to examine him.[$ (^Counsel for the Crown.^), but that we think it will be taking up the time of the Court unnecessarily, as the prisoner is already capitally convicted.
(D5TAYLY)

42For the first period, the percentage of the markers is relatively low in the majority of the cases. For constructed dialogues, it extends from 4.2% (Comedy) to 18.2% (Handbooks); for authentic dialogues, it goes from 0% (Witness depositions) to 7.1% (Trials).

43In the second period, all the percentages have systematically gone up but the raw figures still remain low. The most frequent category of epistemic markers is that of doubt and certainty (more than 50% of the occurrences on average), the markers of source of knowledge coming second and the markers of reality and actuality standing last (2 occurrences only). The percentages of epistemic markers in constructed dialogues were multiplied by 2.4 for Handbooks and by 3 for Comedy and Fiction. The most dramatic increase concerns the register of Trials, the percentage of which was multiplied by 7. What this increase shows is that the PF is becoming associated more and more with a pragmatic inference of epistemic modality during the early eighteenth century but because of the relatively low number of occurrences, Wright’s (1994) hypothesis is not borne out.

4.2. Markers of Affect

Table 9: Markers of affect collocating with the PF in the CED (raw numbers and%)

Register Period

Comedy

Fiction

Handbooks

Trials

Witness

D4

10 (41.7%

5 (55.6%)

9 (81.2%)

12 (42.9%)

0 (0%)

D5

34 (58.6%)

17(100%)

7(100%)

18 (69.2%)

8 (66.7%)

44In contrast with the epistemic markers, the markers of affect in Table 9 are far more represented in raw figures. Typical examples are illustrated in (35)-(44):

- markers of appreciation:

(35) But alas! see there the Success of all her Pains: the Youth transported at the Sight of his Dog, throws his Arms round its Neck, and lavishes upon it those Kisses and Endearments, in the very Sight of the poor afflicted Lady, which she had been flattering herself would have fallen to her share. --
(D5HOGILP)

(36) (^Calloph.^) $] I am admiring the fine View from hence: So great a Variety of beautiful Objects, and all so happily disposed, make a most delightful Picture.
(D5HOGILP)

(37) [$Sir (^Rus.^)…He, he, he! I have bin telling her, how eager all the young Fellows will be of hitting the Bride in the Face;
(D4CMANLE)

(38) [$Sir (^Jeff.^) $] He is bewitch’d. some Witch has gotten his Image, and is tormenting it.
(D4CSHADW)

- markers of moral assessment:

(39) [$ (^Tom.^) $] It is a thing that has been said a thousand times when it was so, but now it looks like breaking the Act of Oblivion, a thing that his Majesty, to his Immortal Honour, holds sacred; such a little Rat as he methinks should not be nibling, when the Lyon is unconcerned.
(D4HOE)

(40) [$ (^Fisher.^) $] Yes, for he knew he was out of the Bounds that he ought to have been fishing in; and there was a sort of a Struggle to take away the Net;
(D5TREDDY)

(41) [$ (^Scrub.^) $] Ay, he and the Count’s Footman were Gabbering French like two intreaguing Ducks in a Mill-Pond,
(D4CFARQU)

- markers of punctuation:

Colon:

(42) [$DAFFODIL.$] this Struggle is too much for Man: My Passions are now tearing me to Pieces, and if you will stay, by Heav’n I will not answer for the Consequences.
(D5CGARRI)

Brackets:

(43) [^MOLL’S NURSE SPEAKS TO MOLL, WHO DOES NOT WANT TO GO INTOSERVICE.^][^---^] Thou foolish Child, [$says she,$] thou art always Crying; [$ (for I was Crying then) $] prethee, What doest Cry for? because they will take me away, [$ (^says I^),$] and put me to Service, and I
(D5FDEFOE)

Dashes:

(44) [$SOPHIA.$] If I cou’d but catch her at her Pranks – she certainly must be this Way – for the Chair is waiting at the End of (^Rosamond’s^) Pond – I have thrown one of her Chairmen into it --- and if I cou’d but catch her–
(D5CGARRI)

45In fact, in D4, the markers of attitude are the most frequent collocations with the PF, the markers of punctuation coming second in frequency. The percentages for markers of attitude go from 66.7% (Trials) to 100% (Fiction and Handbooks). For the same period, among the markers of attitude, the markers of appreciation are more employed than markers of moral assessments in 3 registers out of 4 (Fiction, Handbooks and Trials), the occurrences being between 3 and 4 times more numerous. In D5, the distribution of markers of affect offers a totally different picture. Even though the markers of appreciation still outnumber the markers of moral assessments in most of the cases, the domination is less marked. More importantly, what happens in this period is a re-distribution of the type of markers of affect collocating with the PF, the marker of punctuation being this time more frequent than the markers of attitude in 4 registers out of 5; the frequencies vary between 47.1% (Fiction) and 66.7% (Trials).

4.3. Deontic markers

Table 10: Deontic markers collocating with the PF in the CED (raw numbers and%)

Register Period

Comedy

Fiction

Handbooks

Trials

Witness

D4

4 (16.7%)

1 (11.1%)

0 (0%)

0 (0%)

1 (100%)

D5

1 (1.7%)

0 (0%)

3 (42.9%)

6(23.1%)

2 (16.7%)

46The distribution of deontic markers (see Table 10) shows very low percentages over all the registers in both periods in general. A few examples are illustrated in (45)-(48):

- modal verb:

(45) I shall give you nothing but a Dish of Tea or Coffee. It is more than sufficient. But I must be going. You are always full of Business.
(D5HGBEIL)

(46) [$ (^Fisher.^) $] Yes, for he knew he was out of the Bounds that he ought to have been fishing in; and there was a sort of a Struggle to take away the Net;
(D5TREDDY)

- lexical verb:

(47) [$ (^Dalton.^) (^Samuel Sylvester^)came out, and said, I was persuading the Boy to sell his Father’s Blood;
(D5TREDDY)

(48) S (^Weth.^), about five Minutes after One, he sent for me up into his Chamber, where his Wife was crying and in great disorder, as he seem’d to be likewise. She was desiring her Husband to discover.
(D5TCOOKE)

47In D4, in constructed dialogues, the percentages go from 0% (Handbooks) to 16.7% (Comedy) and in authentic dialogues, if we leave aside the figures in Witness depositions (one occurrence only), there is no occurrence in Trials. In D5, in constructed dialogues, they vary from 0% (Fiction) to 42.9% (Handbooks), and in authentic dialogues, from 16.7% (Witness) to 23.1% (Trials). Overall, the evolution of the distribution of deontic markers is quite uneven.

48The rarity of the occurrences (6 or even less) makes the interpretation of the data unreliable and therefore it would be more cautious not to offer a global evolution of the distribution of the deontic markers collocating with the PF.

4.4. Markers of amount

Table 11: Markers of amount collocating with the PF in the CED (raw numbers and%)

Register Period

Comedy

Fiction

Handbooks

Trials

Witness

D4

12 (50%)

12 (100%)

3 (27.3%)

5 (17.9%)

0 (0%)

D5

22 (37.9%)

29 (100%)

1 (14.3%)

4 (15.4%)

1 (8.3%)

49The study of markers of amount reveals interesting results (see Table 11).

- strengtheners:

(49) [$ (^Care.^) $] And thou art always spoiling Company by coming into ‘t.
(D4CCONGR)

(50) (^says the brother^) Nay, the Fool has put it into their Heads too himself, for he is continually Bantring them about it, and making a Jest of himself; I confess, I think he is wrong to do so,
(D5FDEFOE)

(51) nay, [$ (^sayshe^),$]’tis so far from talking Harm of her, that we have been talking a great deal of good, and a great many fine Things have been said of Mrs.(^Betty^), I assure you;
(D5FDEFOE)

(52) [$said (^Charlot^)… it is not yet arriv’d to the Years of speaking, about thirteen or fourteen it may possibly be saying a thousand soft things to you
(D4FBEHN)

- minimizers:

(53) [$ (^Enter^) Florinda.$] I was just defending the Cause of Fools; What is your Opinion?
(D4CKILLI)

(54) [$ (^Smerk.^) $] No Sir, I am only ruminating a while; I am inflamed with her affection, Ο (^Susan! Susan^)! Ah me! Ah me!
(D4CSHADW)

50In the first period, among constructed dialogues, the percentages oscillate between 27.3% (Handbooks) and 50% (Comedy), and among authentic dialogues, the percentages are lower (0% in Witness depositions and 17.9% in Trials). In the second period, the raw figures double and the percentages decrease systematically in Comedy and Handbooks, which shows that the marker of Amount is becoming increasingly semanticized in these types of direct speech. Trials follow the tendency but at a moderate speed; the other registers do not present reliable results because of the rarity of the occurrences. Interestingly, among the various types of markers of amount, strengtheners remain the most frequently used over 4 registers out of 5 (Witness depositions being the exception) in both periods. The second most-used marker is represented by minimizers, the category of approximators being rare (1 occurrence in Trials in D5). A few examples are provided in (49)-(54).

5. Subjectification and the PF

51Having examined the types of subjective markers collocating with the PF, we shall now focus on the interrelationship between subjectification and the PF. Subjectification is the diachronic process through which the speaker/writer renders his attitude towards the situation semantically explicit, as described in Traugott and Dasher (2002):

Subjectification is the semasiological process whereby SP/Ws [speakers/writers] come over time to develop meanings for Ls [lexemes] that encode or externalize their perspectives and attitudes as constrained by the communicative world of the speech event, rather than by the so-called « real world» characteristics of the event or situation referred to. (Traugott and Dasher 2002: 30)

Table 12: Lexical support of the subjective PF (raw numbers and%)

Register Period

Comedy

Fiction

Handbooks

Trials

Witness

D4

16 (66.7%)

8 (88.9%)

7 (63.6%)

12 (42.9%)

1 (100%)

D5

21 (36.2%)

10 (66.7%)

3 (42.8%)

10 (38.5%)

6 (50%)

52The evolution of the lexical support of the subjective PF is displayed in Table 12. In both D4 and D5, the lexical support is generally more important in constructed dialogues than in authentic dialogues. The results are in accordance with what we might expect from the data.

53In D4 in the first set of registers, the percentages range from 63.6% (Handbooks) to 88.9% (Fiction) whereas in the second series of dialogues, they amount to 42.9% (the figures in Witness depositions are not being taken into account since there is only one occurrence). We would have been inclined to think that the register of Handbooks was more likely to use more subjective expressions with the PF than the register of Comedy, but the data confirm the opposite tendency); the low number of occurrences probably makes the results for Handbooks unreliable for this register. Moreover, it is not surprising to find the lowest percentage in Trials since a speaker tends to be more reserved in front of a judge in the linguistic expression of his subjectivity.

54The data also show that the implicature of the subjective meaning of the PF is more conventionalized in Trials than in any other register of constructed dialogues in D4. In this sense, authentic dialogues remain ahead of constructed dialogues for the grammaticalization of subjective meaning.

55In D5 the figures are more balanced: the percentages in constructed direct speech extend from 36.2% (Comedy) to 66.7% (Fiction) and those in genuine direct speech move from 38.5% (Trials) to 50% (Witness depositions). It follows from this observation that over the two periods, there has been a significant decrease in subjective lexical support of the PF. The smallest decrease takes place in Trials proceedings (-10%) and the highest in Comedy (-45%). The figures in D5 contribute to demonstrate that the expression of subjectivity in Comedy tends to be closer to what happens in spontaneous, direct speech in real life. The same remark can be applied to Handbooks, which get a comparable percentage of lexical support. Surprisingly, the semantic marking of subjectivity has not decreased considerably in Fiction.

56Intersubjectification represents the ultimate stage of the diachronic process of subjectification, through which the speaker/writer semantically expresses his attitude to the addressee’s face, as explained in Traugott and Dasher (2002):

In instances where meanings come explicitly to index and acknowledge SP/W’s [the speaker/writer’s] attitude toward AD/R [the addressee/reader] in the here and now of the speech event, intersubjectification takes place […]. Intersubjectification, therefore, is a change which results in the development of meanings that explicitly reveal recipient design: the designing of utterances for an intended audience (Clark and Carlson 1982) at the discourse level. (Traugott and Dasher 2002: 31)

57To express growing intersubjectivity, the speaker/writer is likely to use different linguistic markers, which take into consideration the recipient self-image. We have selected the following markers: plural first-person pronoun; second-person pronoun; vocative form; imperative form; and other hedges (see Table 13).

Table 13: Intersubjective markers collocating with PF in the CED

Register Intersubjective marker

Comedy

Fiction

Handbooks

Trials

Witness

Period

D4

D5

D4

D5

D4

D5

D4

D5

D4

D5

Plural first-person pronoun

1

2

0

2

0

0

3

4

0

0

Second-person pronoun

6

17

2

6

2

1

10

10

1

0

Vocative

9

29

0

7

0

0

0

2

1

2

Imperative

0

2

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

Other hedges

1

3

0

3

0

1

0

1

0

0

58Despite the extreme rarity of the occurrences all over the registers in the CED, two registers stand out, namely Comedy and Trials, the very registers that previously showed the highest degree of subjectification. The results, therefore, confirm that the process of intersubjectification can only emerge if the level of subjectification is high enough, as illustrated in Traugott and Dasher (2002):

Note that there cannot be intersubjectification without some degree of subjectification because it is SP/W who designs the utterance and who recruits the meaning for social deictic purposes. (Traugott and Dasher 2002: 31)

59Let us examine the data in more detail. From D4 to D5 Comedy records the highest increase in the use of second-person pronouns and vocatives: the figures treble in both cases (see Table 13). Here are examples illustrating the linguistic marking of intersubjectivity with the PF from (56) to (61):

- Plural first-person pronoun:

(55) [$ (^Cimb.^) $] […] And do you see, Sirs, pray let me have a Copy of what you say, in (^English^).
[$ (^Bram.^) $] Why, what is all
we have been saying? --
In (^English^)! Oh! but I forgot my self, you’re a Wit –
But however, to please you, Sir, you shall have it,
in as plain terms, as the Law will admit of.
(D5CSTEEL)

- second-person pronoun:

(56) [$ (^Jones,^) (^How came your Sword broke? Have you been fighting with the Devil? No^
(D4TGILES)

- vocative:

(57) [$ (^Ind.^) $] You are always finding ways, Mr. (^Bevil^), to make Life seem less tedious to me. --
(D5CSTEEL)

- imperative:

(58) [$ (^Mr. Strict.^) $] Look ye, Mrs. (^Strictland^), you have been asking me for Money this Morning.
(D5CHOADL)

- other hedges contributing to interaction:

(59) [$ (^Smy.^) $] Why, very well, since you are both so indifferent,‘twere no great harm, if you never see one another again. As to you, Gentlewoman, ‘tis Mortifying you too much, to suffer the Visits of a Man, who has not Sense to know your Worth;
(D4CMANLE)

(60) “Aye, so they have, my dear,” [$rejoined the other, with a careless air;$] “but, prithee, where have you been rambling by your self?” “No farther than Bedford-street,” [$answered miss Betsy:$]
(D5FHAYW)

(61) [$ (^Looby.^) $] Why, a couple of foul-mouth’d Carrions have been abusing me at such a rate, within; and pretend that I am marry’d to ‘em both.
(D5CMILLE)

60Even though the other intersubjective markers are rare in Comedy, they are all represented in D5, which is not the case in the other registers. The second highest number of intersubjective occurrences is to be found in Trials. In contrast with Comedy, Trials maintain their level of second-person pronouns and it is in this register that we find relatively more plural first-person pronouns. Nevertheless, we would have expected the plural first-person pronoun to collocate more often with subjective PF but the occurrences are rare in both registers.

61Consequently, the study of the distribution of intersubjective markers indicates that the process of intersubjectification is still in its infancy. An intersubjective meaning can be pragmatically inferred from the immediate context but it is not semantically encapsulated in the PF yet.

62Following the interpretation of the results concerning the collocation with subjective markers, the registers of the CED can be placed on the cline of (inter)subjectivity by Traugott and Dasher (2002) as follows in Figure 1:

Figure 1: Subjectification cline and the PF in the CED

Figure 1: Subjectification cline and the PF in the CED

Conclusion

63The analysis has shown that Biber et al.’s (2002) classification of stance markers has proved very useful for the evaluation and the quantification of the subjective markers collocating with the PF in the CED over an eighty-year period. It would be worth extending the study by taking into account sociolinguistic markers such as age, gender and social rank.

64All in all, this study illustrates how language change is subsumed to linguistic creativity: the grammatical category of aspect is recruited to become over time a rhetorical device that partakes of the organization of discourse and contributes to enrich the process of interactionalization in direct speech, whether it be in authentic or constructed dialogues.

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Bibliography

References

Beal, Joan (2004). English in Modern Times 1700-1945, London: Arnold.

Biber, Douglas, Conrad, Susan, Leech, Geoffrey (2002). The Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English, London: Longman.

Fitzmaurice, Susan (2004). “The meanings and uses of the progressive construction in an early eighteenth-century English network”, in Anne Curzan and Kimberly Emmons (eds.), Studies in the History of the English Language II: Unfolding Conversations, Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 131-174.

Goedsche, C. Rudolph (1932). “The terminate aspect of the expanded form, its development and its relation to the gerund”, journal of English and Germanic Philology, 31: 469-477.

Görlach, Manfred (2001). Eighteenth-Century English, Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag C. Winter.

Killie, Kristin (2004). “Subjectivity and the English progressive”, English Language and Linguistics, 8: 25-46.

Laan, Jacobus van der (1922). An Inquiry on a Psychological Basis into the Use of the Progressive Form in Late Modern English, Gorinchem, Holland: F. Duyn.

Sairio, Anni (2006). ‘Progressives in the Letters of Elizabeth Montagu and her Circle in 1738-1778”, in Christiane Dalton-Puffer et al., Syntax, Style and Grammatical Norms, Bern: Peter Lang, pp. 157-169.

Strang, Barbara M. H. (1982). “Some aspects of the history of the be +ing construction”, In J. M. Anderson (ed.), Language Form and Linguistic Variation: Papers Dedicated to Angus McIntosh, Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 15, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 427-474.

Traugott, Elizabeth. C. and Richard B. Dasher (2002). Regularity in Semantic Change, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Warner, Anthony (1995). ‘Predicting the Progressive Passive: Parametric Change within a Lexicalist Framework”, Language 71(3): 533-557.

Wischer, Ilse (2003). ‘The Treatment of Aspect Distinctions in Eighteenth-and Nineteenth-Century Grammars in English”, in Marina Dossena and Charles Jones, Insights into the Late Modern English, Bern: Peter Lang, pp. 151-174.

Wright, Susan (1994). “The Mystery of the Modal Progressive”, in Kastovsky, Dieter (ed.), Studies in Early Modern English, Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 467-486.

Wright, Susan (1995). “Subjectivity and Experiential Syntax”, in Dieter Stein, and Susan Wright, (eds.), Subjectivity and Subjectivisation: Linguistic Perspectives, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 151-172.

Corpus

The Corpus of English Dialogues 1560-1760 (2006), Compiled under the supervision of Merja Kytö (Uppsala University) and Jonathan CULPEPER (Lancaster University).

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Notes

1 Subjectivity is defined as the linguistic manifestation of the speaker’s attitudes and emotions.

2 For a discussion on the classification of the various registers of direct speech in the corpus, see Kytö and Culpeper (2006). As underlined by one of the anonymous reviewers, it is fully acknowledged that every type of register privileges one facet of subjectivity, namely didactic elements in Handbooks, a tendency to favour a reserved attitude on the part of the judge in Trials, vividness in authentic dialogues, etc. For space reasons, these remarks will not be further explored in this article.

3 The whole verbal form including the PF will be in bold characters in this article; it can, for instance, contain a modal, a passive form, etc.

4 Because the goal of this section was to compare the results with Wright’s (1994) data, we did not make a distinction between singular and plural data in the classification. A further exploration of the data can be briefly summarised as follows. First-person pronouns are most frequently used in the singular with the subjective PF in all registers except in Trials for the second period (D5); singular second-person pronouns outnumber their plural counterparts with the subjective PF, whatever the register may be; and in the case of third-person subjects used with the subjective PF, the domineering form is the singular third-person pronoun in all registers but in Comedy for the second period (D5).

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List of illustrations

Title Figure 1: Subjectification cline and the PF in the CED
URL http://journals.openedition.org/anglophonia/docannexe/image/1003/img-1.jpg
File image/jpeg, 34k
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References

Bibliographical reference

Sylvie Hancil, « Subjectivity and the progressive form in early eighteenth-century spoken discourse », Anglophonia/Sigma, 12 (24) | 2008, 197-218.

Electronic reference

Sylvie Hancil, « Subjectivity and the progressive form in early eighteenth-century spoken discourse », Anglophonia/Sigma [Online], 12 (24) | 2008, Online since 13 December 2016, connection on 17 December 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/anglophonia/1003 ; DOI : 10.4000/anglophonia.1003

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About the author

Sylvie Hancil

Université de Rouen. An earlier version of this paper was presented to The Third International Conference on Late Modern English, 30 August-1 September 2007, Leiden. The author would like to thank Merja Kytö, Erik Smitterberg, Steven Schaefer, along with two anonymous reviewers, for their insightful remarks and comments on the paper

By this author

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Copyright

Licence Creative Commons
Anglophonia – French Journal of English Linguistics est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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