Home Language & Literature Historical Sociolinguistics: Language Change in Tudor and Stuart England
Decline of multiple negation
Depicting one 20-year and three 40-year periods, Figure 7.6 shows a very clear case of social stratification: the lower strata lag far behind in the change from multiple negation to single negation (I haven't done nothing vs. I haven't done anything). Unfortunately, no data are available of the upwardly mobile in the first two periods.
The earliest usage being led by the highest strata, the upwardly mobile and the middle ranks take over in mid-range and stay at the top until the completion of the change. Previous studies have shown that this change in fact was led by professional people such as lawyers and administrative officers (Nevalainen 1998). Here it is important to notice that the social differences do not disappear even in the latest phases of the change.6
Figure 7.6. Use of single negation vs. multiple negation. Percentage of single negation. Male informants. CEEC 1998.
Figure 7.7. Variation between the relative pronouns which and the which. Percentage of which. Male informants. CEEC 1998.
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