written to spoken usage in English syntax

Jeroen Wiedenhof jeroen at WIEDENHOF.NL
Thu Jun 26 08:59:56 UTC 2008

Dear typologists,

Does modern English have any examples of sentence patterns which 
originated in WRITTEN usage before spreading to the spoken domain?

So far I have only been able to find instances - or at least, claims - 
outside of syntax, e.g. phonological examples (reading pronunciations 
and/or misfits such as [@uphEk] for OPEC; [)f at n] vs. [)ft at n] for 
_often_; [ji:] in Ye Olde Inn, etc.); or lexical examples, e.g. words 
like _e-business_ and _e-learning_.

Please note that the status of the above examples & claims is NOT my 
concern here. I only mention them to inquire if there are any known 
syntactic parallels, i.e. sentence patterns which used to be bookish 
before they entered into mainstream spoken English.

The phenomenon has been observed e.g. in Mandarin, where modern passive 
patterns (especially those in which the patient is not literally 
'suffering') initially spread as written translations from English, 
French, German and Russian, and only later to spoken usage. - Does 
spoken English perhaps have similar developments from translatese, e.g. 
from medieval French literature, or from Latin legalese?

I checked various sources on the history of English to find examples, 
but lacking a background in English studies, I may have been looking in 
all the wrong places. Any suggestions about literature on the subject 
will be greatly appreciated!

Jeroen Wiedenhof

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Sinological Institute, Leiden University
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