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The Progressive as a Symbol of National Superiority

Presentation for LateModernEnglish 5, August 2013, Bergamo, Italy

Lieselotte Anderwald

on 26 September 2014

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Transcript of The Progressive as a Symbol of National Superiority

The Progressive as a
Symbol of National Superiority
in 19c Grammars of English
Comments in 19c grammars
Feeling of national superiority transferred to PROGRESSIVE
The Progressive
19th century
Socio-cultural climate of the 19c
Lieselotte Anderwald
University of Kiel, Germany
= century of prescriptivism
normative grammars
medium of standardization
No one has ever said, "I really like the way young people talk today, it's so much better than the way we talked when I was growing up." ... The most general and most deeply held belief about language is the Golden Age Principle: At some time in the past, language was in a state of perfection. It is understood that in such a state, every sound was correct and beautiful, and every word and expression was proper, accurate, and appropriate. Furthermore, the decline from that state has been regular and persistent, so that every change represents a falling away from the golden age, rather than a return to it. Every new sound will be heard as ugly, and every new expression will be heard as improper, inaccurate, and inappropriate. Given this principle is it obvious that language change must be interpreted as nonconformity to established norms, and that people will reject changes in the structure of language when they become aware of them.
(Labov 2001: 514)

"Golden Age" Principle
vicious criticism of Progressive Passive
harsh criticism of GET-constructions
criticism of
multiple negation
adverbs without
(but different rules from today)
lack of S – V concord

NEW constructions
"vernacular universals"
expected: what is new will be criticized
what is undergoing change will be criticized
corollary: what is old
should not be criticized
what is stable
should not be criticized
interesting counterexample:
undergoes change over 19c
striking increase in frequency
"integration" into verbal system
"secondary grammaticalization"
becomes obligatory
Charlotte Bronte 1847. Jane Eyre.
but: no negative comments in 19c grammars
The rise of the Progressive (corpus studies)
more exact
more precise
with nicety and precision
more emphatic
more expressive
more vivid
1815 victory over Napoleon
military superpower
British Empire
"on her dominion the sun never sets"
"workshop of the world"
global economic power
Rise of
consumer culture
Advances in science
Advances in social conditions:
hygiene, education, trade unions ...
Richard Ansdell 1847 "The Fight for the Standard"
British Empire 1897
The Great Exhibition 1851 (Crystal Palace)
Florence Nightingale (Illustrated London News, 1855)
London sewers (Strand Magazine, 1898)
London Embankment (Illustrated London News, 1865)
Red Brick Universities (e.g. Birmingham)
moral superiority
+ Urbanization
English language=nation
superior to:
link to British pragmatism
(vs. German idealism)
[DOing rather than THINKing]
cf. Milroy and Milroy 1999
Criticism in 19c grammars
Grammars cited:
Arnaud, René. 1998. "The development of the progressive in 19th century English: A quantitative survey." Language Variation and Change 10: 123-152.
Bailey, Richard. 1996. Nineteenth-Century English. Ann Arbor, Mi.: University of Michigan Press.
Hundt, Marianne. 2004. "Animacy, agentivity, and the spread of the progressive in Modern English." English Language and Linguistics 8: 47-69.
Kranich, Sonja. 2010. The Progressive in Modern English: A Corpus-Based Study of Grammaticalization and Related Changes. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
Labov, William. 2001. Principles of Linguistic Change. Vol. 2. Social Factors. Oxford & Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell.
Matthew, Colin, ed. 2000. The Nineteenth Century: The British Isles: 1815-1901. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Milroy, James, and Lesley Milroy. 1999. Authority in Language: Investigating Standard English. 3rd edition. London & New York: Routledge. [First published 1985].
Mugglestone, Lynda. 2003. Talking Proper: The Rise of Accent as Social Symbol. 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [First published 1995].
Mugglestone, Lynda. 2006. "English in the nineteenth century." In Lynda Mugglestone, ed. The Oxford History of English. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 274-304.
Smitterberg, Erik. 2005. The Progressive in 19th-Century English: A Process of Integration. Amsterdam & New York: Rodopi.
Thompson, F.M.L. 1988. The Rise of Respectable Society: A Social History of Victorian Britain 1830-1900. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
full list on: http://www.anglistik.uni-kiel.de/de/fachgebiete/linguistik/anderwald/cng-collection-of-nineteenth-century-grammar
since 1760s
Not everything that underwent change was criticized.
(Not everything that was old was venerated: BE-perfect.)
The same arguments that were used to criticize one construction were held up as model characteristics in another.
We need more nuanced studies of individual phenomena.
between grammars
within grammars
between phenomena
We need comparisons
with other prescriptive sources
Usage Guides
Newspaper Columnists
Book Reviews
Cultural key words of the 19c:
between editions
Belief in PROGRESS
connect with cultural studies of the 19c
in Britain and America
Thank you
for your attention!
more definite
more explicit
Lindley Murray 1797 (3rd ed): 84

Link to wider cultural climate
Crane 1843: 211
Hamlin 1832[1831]: 47
Kerl 1868[1865]: 141
frequency per 100,000 words
Oliver 1825: 81-82
Kelke 1885: 104
West 1898[1893]: 157
Mason 1858: 58
Mason 1858: 60
greater accuracy
minute distinctions of time
more exact
more complete
other languages

any other language
Crane, George. 1843. The Principles of Language; Exemplified in a Practical English Grammar. With Copious Exercises. Designed as an Introduction to the Study of Languages Generally, for the Use of Schools, and Self-Instruction. London: Whittaker and Co.
Hamlin, Lorenzo F. . 1832. English Grammar in Lectures: Designed to Render its Principles Easily Adapted to the Mind of the Young Learner, and its Study Entertaining. Brattleboro', Vt.: Peck, Steen and Company. [First published 1831].
Kelke, William Henry Hastings. 1885. An Epitome of English Grammar for the Use of Students. Adapted to the London Matriculation Course and Similar Examinations. London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co.
Kerl, Simon. 1868. A Common-School Grammar of the English Language. New York: Ivison, Phinney, Blakeman & Co.; and Chicago: S.C. Griggs. [First published 1865].
Mason, Charles Peter. 1858. English Grammar; Including the Principles of Grammatical Analysis. London: Walton and Maberly.
Murray, Lindley. 1797. English Grammar, Adapted to the Different Classes of Learners. With an Appendix, Containing Rules and Observations, for Assisting the More Advanced Students to Write with Perspicuity and Accuracy. 3rd edition. London: Wilson, Spence, and Mawman. [First published 1795].
Oliver, Samuel. 1825. A General, Critical Grammar of the Inglish Language; on a System Novel, and Extensive: Exhibiting Investigations of the Analogies of Language, Written, and Spoken, Discussions on the Authorities of Grammarians, and a General Grammatical Criticism of the Learned and the Modern Languages in Comparative Illustration of the Inglish Tongue: to which is Prefixt a Discourse on the Study of Languages in Polite Education. London: Published, for the Author, by Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy.
West, Alfred S. 1898. The Elements of English Grammar. Enlarged edition. Cambridge: University Press. [First published 1893].
found only in British grammars:

than the simple form
Collection of 19c Grammars
257 grammar books
from 10 decades (1800-1900)
both British and American
collected 2007-2011 from Google Books
only full texts
manually annotated for 80 definitions and evaluations of linguistic phenomena
to explain ...
Telephone 1876
Light bulb 1880
Penny Post 1840
Steam engine 18c
Stephenson's Rocket 1829
Telegraph 1837
Savoy Theatre 1881
Postal Services
First public building illuminated by electricity
Full transcript