written to spoken usage in English syntax

Nicholas Ostler nostler at CHIBCHA.DEMON.CO.UK
Thu Jun 26 13:25:07 UTC 2008

One example that occurs to me is the (Second-World-War-vintage?) 
military use of postposed "for the use of"

soup, other ranks for the use of
latrines, officers for the use of
And other things with sticky backing, also ladies for the use of

which was certainly used in spoken language during WW2 and the years 
following, and seems (I conjecture) to have been derived from the way of 
items were listed , e.g. in quartermaster's stores lists. I don't know 
if it's obvious to non-native-speakers, but the interpretation is , e.g.

"And other things with sticky backing, also (in the category of things) 
for the use of ladies "

Nicholas Ostler

Jeroen Wiedenhof wrote:
> 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
> - - -
> Sinological Institute, Leiden University
> P.O. Box 9515,  2300 RA Leiden,  Holland
> @     jeroen at wiedenhof.nl
> W     www.wiedenhof.nl
> T     +31-71-527.2525
> F     +31-71-527.2526

Nicholas Ostler
nostler at chibcha.demon.co.uk

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