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LINGUIST List 25.2576

Mon Jun 16 2014

Qs: English Sentence Patterns: Writing to Speech?

Editor for this issue: Alex Isotalo <alxlinguistlist.org>

Date: 12-Jun-2014
From: Jeroen Wiedenhof <jeroenwiedenhof.nl>
Subject: English Sentence Patterns: Writing to Speech?
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I am looking for an example of (preferably recent) linguistic change in English which:

(a) has developed (or is developing) in the direction from written English to spoken English; and which

(b) is syntactic in nature, i.e. involves a productive construction or sentence pattern.

To clarify: (a) is in contrast with the usual state of affairs, where script and written language trail behind developments in the way people talk; and (b) is intended as a contrast with a lexical item or an isolated idiom.

Some background: I am preparing an English text about this type of writing-to-speech development in Mandarin. I can think of parallels in my native Dutch, but I would like to make a comparison with English.

Also, any reference to publications which I need to explore are most welcome.

The phenomenon of ''headlinese'' has been suggested to me, but the chance of finding native speakers of English who use this in spoken communication seems slim.

The closest example I can think is one way of announcing headlines in radio broadcasts:

- Coming up in this bulletin: the hero student who stopped a gunman.
- Still to come: the Brazilian love of hair care.
- Later in this program: can netball shake off its schoolgirl image?

As one possible analysis, these examples have a subject in sentence-final position, after a prosodic break at the place of the colon.

However, these are still cases of a news script being read out aloud.

What I am looking for instead is a sentence pattern which started out as an innovation in written English (e.g. initially as ''translatese''), but which has since been adopted productively in spontaneous speech.

Thank you for any suggestions!

Jeroen Wiedenhof

Universiteit Leiden, LIAS / LUCL

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
                            Discourse Analysis
                            General Linguistics
                            Historical Linguistics
                            Language Documentation

Subject Language(s): English (eng)

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