Language Change

Language Change

Jane Austen and 19th Century English

Task One

A short extract from the opening of Emma by Jane Austen, 1816:

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

She was the youngest of the two daughters of a most affectionate, indulgent father; and had, in consequence of her sister’s marriage, been mistress of his house from a very early period. Her mother had died too long ago for her to have more than an indistinct remembrance of her caresses; and her place had been supplied by an excellent woman as governess, who had fallen little short of a mother in affection …

1 Read the extract carefully and identify the contextual factors which may influence the way in which language has been used:

·  Genre

·  Audience

·  Mode

·  Subject/topic

·  Purpose

·  Context of production

·  Context of reception

·  Chronology

2 Annotate the extract with notes to show the ways in which its language use differs from contemporary English. Make sure you apply relevant language frameworks in a systematic way:

·  Lexis

·  Semantics

·  Pragmatics

·  Grammar

·  Phonology

·  Orthography

·  Discourse structure

·  Graphology

Task Two

Examples from Austen’s novels of some of the distinctive grammatical features of early 19th century English (from Crystal, Encyclopedia of the English Language, p77).

1 Read each example carefully and rewrite the italicised word/phrase in its contemporary form.

1 / I am so glad we are got acquainted
2 / So, you are come at last!
3 / What say you to the day?
4 / she doubted not …
5 / Fanny shrunk back …
6 / and much was ate …
7 / It is a nothing of a part …
8 / to be taken into the account …
9 / Will not it be a good plan?
10 / It would quite shock you … would not it?
11 / he told me in our journey …
12 / She was small of her age
13 / I stood for a minute, feeling dreadfully
14 / It is really very well for a novel
15 / the properest manner …
16 / the richest of the two …

2 Identify from the following list which aspect of grammar the 16 examples of grammatical change relate to:

© 2005 1 3960

Language Change

Jane Austen and 19th Century English

·  Adverbs

·  Irregular verb forms

·  Tense usage

·  Comparative adjectives

·  Articles

·  Prepositions

·  Use of auxiliary verbs

·  Use of contracted forms

© 2005 1 3960

Language Change

Jane Austen and 19th Century English

© 2005 1 3960