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Conjuncts in nineteenth-century English: diachronic development and genre diversity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 February 2014

Department of English, Wescoe Hall Rm. 3001, University of Kansas, 1445 Jayhawk Blvd, Lawrence, KS 66045,
Department of English, Uppsala University, PO Box 527, SE-751 20 Uppsala,


This article explores the use of connective adverbials or conjuncts (e.g. therefore, on the other hand, firstly) in nineteenth-century English. Drawing on A Corpus of Nineteenth-Century English (CONCE), the study focuses on charting change over time and variation among different genres, and considers the distribution of various semantic types (e.g. contrastive, resultive) as well as individual conjuncts and author styles. We show that nineteenth-century English displays considerable genre differentiation in the use of conjuncts, both in terms of frequency and semantic types of conjuncts employed. Within these larger trends, patterns are also evident for individual conjuncts (e.g. now, therefore, so) and individual authors (e.g. in Letters). Science writing, in particular, reveals a drastic increase in conjuncts (in nearly all semantic types), which sets it apart from other genres. This suggests that the conjunct-heavy style of academic writing that has been attested in studies of Present-Day English was established in the nineteenth century. On a more general level, this result underlines the importance of considering formal genres when charting language change, as they may be in the forefront of the formation of new linguistic patterns that are unique to written texts. The article also contributes to our growing understanding of Late Modern English syntax.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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