English Sentence Patterns: Writing to Speech?

Bill Palmer bill.palmer at NEWCASTLE.EDU.AU
Thu Jun 12 23:20:04 UTC 2014

In Australia at least, it's quite common for dates to be expressed as e.g. "on six June" vs "on the sixth of June", which seems to me to be the result of the relatively recent convention in this country of writing dates as "on 6 June".

The suggestion of headlinese as a source of changes in the direction you're talking about rings true to me though I can't think of any examples right now. However, a similar kind of example would be the formation of polar interrogatives with 2 person subjects based on advertising forms such as "Want a new car?" or "Unaware of your rights?" etc, where the polar interrogative structure lacks both the subject and inverted auxiliary.


From: Discussion List for ALT [mailto:LINGTYP at LISTSERV.LINGUISTLIST.ORG] On Behalf Of TRUDGILL Peter
Sent: Thursday, 12 June 2014 10:40 PM
Subject: Re: English Sentence Patterns: Writing to Speech?

There has been a definite increase in British people saying "June twelfth" for 12/06 rather than the more usual "June the twelfth". This is perhaps not syntax in the way that you want, and may be due to USEng influence, but it could well also be the result of the fact that we have always written <June 12th> in spite of always saying "June the twelfth". So, if Im right, this is at least a phenomenon involving the influence of writing on speech.

On 12 Jun 2014, at 12:13, Jeroen Wiedenhof wrote:

- Apologies for any cross-posting!

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
jeroen at wiedenhof.nl<mailto:jeroen at wiedenhof.nl>

Peter Trudgill  FBA
Prof. of Sociolinguistics, Agder Univ., N;
Prof. Emeritus of Eng. Linguistics, Fribourg Univ, CH;
Adjunct Prof., CRLD, La Trobe Univ., Aus.
Hon. Prof. of Sociolinguistics, UEA, Norwich, UK.

The Eastern Daily Press publishes Peter Trudgill's   language and dialect column on Mondays: http://www.edp24.co.uk/home/e-edition

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