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On periphrastic do and the modal auxiliaries

Boek - Dissertatie

Ondertitel:a connectionist approach to language change
When no auxiliary is present, Present Day English requires a form of do to be used in negated and inverted clauses. Despite its pervasiveness today, auxiliary do (or periphrastic do) is only a sixteenth century innovation. Previous studies have related the rise of do to analogical pressure from the modal auxiliaries can, may, must, shall and will. The modals had grammaticalized in the twelfth century, but continued to develop until about 1550. To investigate the changing relation between do and the modals, I retrieved all instances of these forms from an 800 million word corpus that covers the late sixteenth and entire seventeenth century. Making use of Convolutional Neural Networks, I charted the prototypical usage contexts of do, as well as the contexts where do was functionally equivalent to one of the modals. The results indicate that the modals are likely to have had an impact on the early rise of periphrastic do in the sixteenth century, but fail to account for the construction’s eventual regulation. By the end of the sixteenth century, do had come to serve as a marker of habituality and universality that typically occurred in generic statements to emphasise truthfulness. Late sixteenth century do essentially allowed the speaker to emphatically impose likelihood onto a proposition. This function may be considered a subtype of epistemic modality, which makes affirmative do functionally equivalent to the modals in certain contexts. The seventeenth century, by contrast, is characterised above all by the divergence of do and the modals. While do was well on its way to join the paradigm of the modal auxiliaries, the verb’s modal semantics steadily decline from 1600 onwards. This developments is unlikely to be an effect of analogy with the modals. From a theoretical angle, the present thesis aims to illustrate how a connectionist perspective and methodology can contribute to contemporary research in usage-based linguistics. A highly interdisciplinary framework of cognitive science, connectionism models cognition as a domain-general, inherently dynamic network of associations that accounts in a uniform way for language acquisition, processing and change. By adopting a connectionist methodology to study do in relation to the modal auxiliaries, I not only show how connectionist networks are data-analysis tools whose unprecedented flexibility enables us to make nearly holistic analyses in an automated fashion, I also argue how a connectionist stance allows us to include considerations from language processing and acquisition into research on diachrony.
Aantal pagina's: 314
Jaar van publicatie:2020
Trefwoorden:Doctoral thesis