Quantifying Variation of the Expanded Form in English

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2007

18 Pages, Grade: 3,0


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The Articles
2.1.Dietrich Nehls „Synchron-diachrone Untersuchungen zur Expanded Form im Englischen: eine struktural-funktionale Analyse“
2.2. Barabara M. H. Strang “Some aspects of the history of the Be+ing construction”
2.3. David Denison “English historical syntax: verbal constructions”

3. Source Constructions
3.1. The function of the EF in Old English

4. Modern Usage of the Progressive Form

5. Comparison of the old and new usage

6. Mossè and Nickel: sources for the progressive

7. Conclusion

8. Works Cited

1. Introduction

The use of the Present/Past Progressive or as some people call it: Expanded Form (EF)in English is part of the curriculum in schools and every students either native speaker of English or a learner of it as a foreign-language must learn this part of English grammar.

Next to German, where it is sometimes undefined when you do/did a specific task it is specified in English by the progressive form. If you did something next to another action happening you have to use the Progressive tense or if you are doing something at the moment, like the reader of this term paper is reading at the moment.

The topic of this term paper is the quantifying variation of the progressive tense during its development from Old English to Modern English. Therefore I will use works by Nehls, Denison and Strang on that specific field and combine them in their resources with Visser which is one of the richest sources of older English to find out if there are differences or one expands.

First, I am going to give a short summary of the work by the three authors. Second, I will give an overview over the source constructions of the Progressive Form (I will use the term ‘Expanded Form as well as ‘Progressive’ because the composers switch between the two terms). In chapter three I will have a closer look on the Modern use of the Expanded Form in English and in a fourth step I will combine the old and modern usage of it to find out what was left or included during the years. In chapter five I will have a closer look on the mini-corpus-studies by Mossè and Nickel, who dealt with the emergence of the progressive and show what changed since they started research on this field. And finally, I will draw a conclusion about the position of the Expanded Form.

2. The Articles

2.1.Dietrich Nehls „Synchron-diachrone Untersuchungen zur Expanded Form im Englischen : eine struktural-funktionale Analyse“

With his analysis of the ‘Expanded Form’ in English Dietrich Nehls gives a structural and functional analysis. In detail he wants to give an explanation why there is a still a use of the ‘Expanded Form’ in English and when they should be used. So he demonstrates that the co-existence of the ‘non-expandend’ and the expanded form exists because of “die sprachliche Realisiserung des perfektiven und imperfektiven Aspekts” (Nehls, 1974: 9).

In his work Nehls generally describes first the terms he is going to use to define the ‘Expanded Form’ and its use in English in the old and modern time, like tense and aspect. While tense is in “den heutigen indo-germanischen Sprsachen als grammatische Kategorie im Verbalbereich angesiedelt” and „eine sprecherbezogene temporal-deitkische Kategorie zur Bezeichnung der erlebten Zeitstufe.“ (Nehls, 1974: 16 & 19) ), aspect is „eine vorgangsbezogene temporal-deiktische Kategorie, die nur zwei Elemente umfasst: den imperfektiven Aspekt und den perfektiven Aspekt.“ (Nehls, 1974: 28). Therefore tense and aspect are „als deitkische Kategorien per definitonem auf das Sprecherereignis bezogen und somit nur unter Hinzuziehung der pragmatischen Komponente der Sprachbeschreibung zu erklären“ (Nehls, 1974: 29).

Second, he specifies the ‘Expanded Form’ in present times according to its function, its usefulness and in detail the co-existence of the ‘non-expanded’ and expanded form. The use of the ‘Non-Expanded Form occurs if the focus is more on the action and not on their progress.

In part three, Nehls gives detailed information about the usage of the ‘Expanded Form’ during its development from Old English to Modern English according to its function and the description of the tense- and aspect system.

Chapter four deals with the problem of the functional continuity of the ‘Expanded Form’ from Old to Modern English.

2.2. Barabara M. H. Strang “Some aspects of the history of the Be+ing construction”

In her article about “Some Aspects of the History of the Be + Ing Construction” Strang gives an detailed overlook of the history if the Progressive Form.

She starts with the explanation of her writing such an article because “the origins of the construction are a matter of controversy” (Strang, 1982: 429)

and she wants to give certain support to understand it. Further on she talks about the historical problem.

In chapter two and three, she gives historical and stylistic variations using the literary genre of the novel to show the changes because, according to Strang (Strang, 1982: 431),

[…] whatever the function of the be+ing aspect may be, it operates by contrast with the simple tenses and plain forms, and can best be studied in an environment which regularly sets off this construction its related simple form. Narrative prose is the location, par excellence, of the simple past […].

Therefore, Strang takes up the novel “Sense & Sensibility” by Jane Austen to give detailed excerpts of the Progressive Forms.

In chapter four she is analysing certain factors contributing to the growth in frequency using the verb, the clause and the subject.

In step five Strang makes an interpretation about the linguistic and literary significance and draws a final conclusion.

2.3. David Denison “English historical syntax: verbal constructions”

In his work Denison also deals with the progressive in chapter 13, first defining the problem of definition. He gives detailed examples according to the use of the progressive in old, middle and modern English. Denison uses the work of Visser and Nehls as basis of his analysis and gives detailed information about them and other research papers on the topic of the progressive.

3. Source Constructions

According to Nehls (1974:120) the existent meaning that the Expanded Form is “eine lehnsynstaktische Fügung” from Latin, develops two questions: 1st why is there a strong development of the Expanded Form in English while it is extinct in the other Germanic languages and 2nd why did it become so popular to the people if it was reputed first used only literarily? (Nehls, 1974:121) The Expanded Form appeared also all old-Germanic languages but today neither of them uses it only in English it still exists. To Denison (1993:382) the reason for claiming Latin as the source for the progressive is just the fact that it “was often used in Old English to translate perfect […] deponent verbs in Latin texts. […] Jesperson makes the plausible suggestion, […], that the ‘translator wanted to render a Latin expression consisting of two words […] by means of a similar collocation’” Visser (1973: 1991 § 1854) talks about this thesis as that it “happened strikingly frequently in interlinear versions where the glossator had two spaces to fill up underneath the Latin two-word cluster.” Further more he (1973:1988 §1852) speaks about that the Expanded Form “was used in quite a number of older Indo-European and Semitic languages.” But there is no evidence whether these forms were equivalent to the form in English. It seems rather that it was an “accident construction or collocation of two verbal forms.” (Visser, 1973:1988 §1852).

Nehls answers the questions posed by him (at the beginning of this chapter) by presenting the example of a real “literarische lehnsystaktische Konstruktion […] das absolute Partizip” (Nehls, 1974:121): it never became popular and is only used even today in a literary context. So it is neither possible that such a construction can become so popular over the years and be used by a widely spread community.

According to Nickel (Nehls, 1974:121) “die EF (besaß) im Gebrauch bereits ein Maß an Eigenständigkeit […], das durch die Annahme einer Entstehung durch lateinischen Einfluß einfach nicht erklärt werden kann.“ One step further he goes by speaking about three structures that advanced the existence of the expanded form: „Strukturen mit adjektivischem Partizip, […] mit appositiven Partizip, […] mit nomen agentis auf end(e).“ (Nehls, 1974:121). To Denison (1993:372) this is “the resemblance of agent nouns […] in –end to present participles: […] (b) He wæs […] ehtende cristenra monna […] He was persecuting Christian men.”


Excerpt out of 18 pages


Quantifying Variation of the Expanded Form in English
University of Göttingen
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Quantifying, Variation, Expanded, Form, English
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Mandy Stein (Author), 2007, Quantifying Variation of the Expanded Form in English, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/119287


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