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Periphrastic do in Affirmative Statements

A great deal of attention has been devoted to periphrastic do in the literature.12 Unlike present-day usage with the so-called NICE qualities (Negation, Inversion, Code, Emphasis), do also frequently appeared in affirmative sentences (examples 4.31-4.34). There were linguistic environments that have been said to promote the use of do, such as second-person singular subject (example 4.31), past tense (4.32) and preverbal adverbial (4.33). Nurmi (1999b) discovered that, at least in the CEEC Sampler, these features play a rather minor role. For example, do was only once used with thou and rarely in the second person at all. Two-thirds of the instances of do were in the present tense and only one-third in the past. But as Nurmi (1999a: 23-27) argues, the function of do in the sixteenth century was not grammatical but instead seems to have belonged to the fields of discourse and style. Only later did it acquire the NICE qualities it has today.

  • (4.31) I se by thy last letter thow dost desire much to se me (Katherine Paston, 1625; Pastonk, 82)
  • (4.32) Allso I have had a great fond myend this iij weckes to dryncke red wyne, for the which I dyd send to my brother, hoy sayth (Sabine Johnson, 1545; Johnson, 468)
  • (4.33) Sr Jordan & my cosen Collingwood are both here, they doe fayth- fully promis, that they will not oppose us tomorrow (Daniel Fleming, 1653; Fleming, 37)
  • (4.34) The buyldinges of your noble colledge most prosperouslye and magnyfycently dothe arryse in suche wise that (Thomas Cromwell, 1528; Cromwell, I, 319)

This study counts the occurrences of affirmative do per 10,000 running words. The results of this method may not be quite as accurate as they would have been if the counting had been performed by using the linguistic variable as a basis. This would have meant counting the occurrences of different variants, including simple forms and possibly other auxiliaries, in clauses where affirmative do appeared or could have appeared. A methodology test in Nurmi (1999a: 67-69) shows, however, that a frequency count placed twelve CEEC informants practically in the same order as a variable count did. Hence it seems likely that the less laborious frequency count draws a picture that is sufficiently accurate for the description of a general development.

Figure 4.10 shows how the use of affirmative do increased in the sixteenth century, only to drop after the turn of the century. What is interesting is the

Periphrastic do in affirmative statements. Frequency of do per 10,000 words. CEEC 1998 (based on Nurmi 1999a)

Figure 4.10. Periphrastic do in affirmative statements. Frequency of do per 10,000 words. CEEC 1998 (based on Nurmi 1999a).

timing of the drop during the first decades of the seventeenth century instead of 1575-1600, as argued in Ellegard (1953: 161).

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