Register and the development of periphrasis in the history of English (SFB Register B01)

B01 is a subproject in area B "Register and Change" of the DFG-funded Collaborative Research Center 1412 “Register”: Language Users’ Knowledge of Situational-Functional Variation.

Project B01 will examine periphrastic alternations in the history of English to shed light on what the profile of specific changes can tell us about register knowledge. In the first phase the focus will be on the periphrastic/synthetic alternation in the comparative/superlative of adjectives along with the periphrastic progressive. There is evidence that the shape of variation with these two periphrases is sensitive to register, and the early development of both has been connected to the influence of Latin and French. This can provide the basis for investigating how register interacts with contact and the causes of change. The following three questions will be explored: (i) What can register effects on an alternation tell us about the origins of the novel (periphrastic) construction in the alternation? (ii) What role can register play in triggering and shaping changes? (iii) What can changes in register-sensitive alternations tell us about knowledge of variation?

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