A diachronic analysis of the progressive aspect in Black South African English
Piotrowska, Carolina Monika
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Current research into language change and evolution focuses on native varieties of English, Schneider’s (2007) settler strand, but we have little knowledge concerning diachronic changes in non-native varieties of English, Schneider’s (2007) indigenous strand. Such a theory must take into account language contact as well as theories pertaining to Second Language Acquisition. This dissertation describes the diachronic changes which occur in one feature of Black South African English (BSAE), namely the progressive aspect. Current synchronic research on BSAE suggests that the progressive aspect is overextended to include stative verbs. This dissertation aims to evaluate the value of this hypothesis, and determine whether there is evidence of this overextension in diachronic data. In order to observe instances of language change, a diachronic corpus of BSAE was complied. This corpus consisted of data from letters, fiction, and newspapers ranging from the 1870s until the 2000s. Using this corpus, analyses were performed in order to determine the frequency of progressive use, the distribution of aktionsart categories, and which temporal meanings were denoted by stative verbs and activity verbs used in the progressive aspect. These analyses were then repeated for data taken from the historical corpus of White South African English (WSAE), in order to ascertain whether changes in BSAE developed parallel to WSAE, or if it follows its own trajectory of change. One further analysis was conducted on BSAE: the aspectual categories of 71 state verbs were analysed in order to determine whether speakers of BSAE indeed do overextend the –ing progressive form onto stative verbs describing states and qualities. The results indicate that the frequency of verbs used with the progressive aspect increases for BSAE, but decreases for WSAE. The comparison of aktionsart distribution indicates that BSAE has a higher overall frequency of communication verbs and accomplishments, while WSAE has a higher frequency of activity verbs, verbs denoting the future, and stative verbs. Achievements are used as expected by both varieties. The analysis of the temporal meanings of stative verbs indicates that speakers of WSAE denote the prototypical short duration associated with the progressive aspect for 74.83% of the verbs, while BSAE uses an extended temporal meaning for 46.86% of the verbs, indicating that speakers of BSAE more likely to overextend the temporal duration of stative verbs than WSAE speakers. The temporal meanings for activities were the same for both varieties; the prototypical short duration is denoted by 77.83% of the total activities in BSAE, and 77.11% of the activities in WSAE. The extended duration in both varieties may be due to language change in general, while the additional temporal meanings for statives in BSAE are a result of substrate transfer.
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