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The subjunctive in Present-Day English: A critical analysis of recent research, leading to a new diachronic investigation of the mandative subjunctive

Waller, T; (2017) The subjunctive in Present-Day English: A critical analysis of recent research, leading to a new diachronic investigation of the mandative subjunctive. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

It seems the subjunctive lives on in Present-Day English (PDE), despite repeated predictions of its death and the discouragement of the Fowler brothers, who in The King’s English (1906) dismissed it as ‘never necessary, often dangerous, and in most writers unpleasantly formal’. One use of the descendant of the old past subjunctive – as in If that were true vs If that was true – remains a favourite topic for prescriptivists, while there are still a number of productive uses of the descendant of the old present subjunctive. One of these, the mandative subjunctive – as in I insisted that he come – has received considerable scholarly attention following reports of its increasing frequency in the twentieth century, first in American English (AmE) and later in British English (BrE). Even so, reference grammars such as Huddleston & Pullum (2002) are reluctant to apply the term ‘subjunctive’ to English verb forms in a synchronic description of the language. The two main aims of this thesis are to re-evaluate the growing body of research relating to the subjunctive in PDE, and to present a new study of the mandative subjunctive. The first part features an in-depth critical analysis of subjunctive-related studies since the 1960s, looking in particular at theoretical and methodological approaches. In the course of this, previously unrecognised inconsistencies are identified in important studies involving the mandative subjunctive such as Johansson & Norheim (1988) and Leech et al. (2009). The second part is a new corpus-based diachronic study that for the first time examines the mandative subjunctive in AmE and BrE using freshly derived data from four data points – 1931, 1961, 1991/2 and 2006. This study provides evidence confirming the inconsistencies identified in previous studies and presents new findings regarding variation in preferences in English mandative clauses over a period of 75 years.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The subjunctive in Present-Day English: A critical analysis of recent research, leading to a new diachronic investigation of the mandative subjunctive
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1575514
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