Nataša Stojaković University of Sarajevo “Diachrony and idiosyncrasy: The subjunctive in the first half of the 19th century.”


The decline of the English subjunctive seems to have been temporarily reversed in Late Modern English. Several sources either state this as an observation or present studies whose results can be similarly interpreted. This article presents a part of an investigation that covered the period from the first half of the 16th c. to the beginning of the 21st c. and also produced a similar result. The investigation was based on examples manually extracted from a corpus specifically compiled for that purpose. The corpus consists of two genres, plays as a primary corpus and a reference corpus of non-fiction texts. Each genre is represented by two authors in a century and the texts that are included were published in the first half of the century. This contribution discusses the trend displayed by morphologically distinct instances of the subjunctive. Apart from the reversal in the first half of the 19th c., the analysis showed considerable individual variation, which is particularly pronounced in that part of the corpus. For most of uses only texts by George Soane and Thomas Carlyle contribute to the instances of morphologically distinct subjunctive forms that create the reversal, in contrast with the overall numbers for the other two authors, M.G. Lewis and Charles Lamb, as would be predicted from the numbers in the previous and subsequent centuries. The higher numbers of subjunctive instances in the texts by Soane and Carlyle may be related to the two authors’ general tendency to use archaic forms and constructions.

full text