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NOT-contraction in 19th century British English: Variation with time, genre, gender and sentence type
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
Responsible organisation
2008 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]


This investigation describes and analyzes the frequency of the NOT-contractions don’t, doesn’t, didn’t and can’t compared with their uncontracted counterparts across time, genre, and sentence type in nineteenth-century British English; the variation is also analyzed across gender in the Letters genre. The investigation is based on data from A Corpus of Nineteenth-Century English (CONCE), and the results are compared to previous research. Two periods from CONCE are included, namely period 1 (1800–1830) and period 3 (1870–1900).

The two genres included in this investigation are Drama and Letters. Drama as a text type is written to be spoken and to a high extent consists of dialogue while Letters as a text type is written down and does not include any dialogue. The results show that dialogue favors NOT-contraction. NOT-contraction is used more frequently within the Drama genre, with a contraction frequency of 58% in period 1 and 77% in period 3 as opposed to the Letters genre, with 4% and 36%. The use of NOT-contraction in the Drama genre increases and has a high contraction frequency. The increase in the Letters genre is vast, but the contraction frequency is lower than in Drama. This is consistent with previous research that contraction had made its way into writing by period 3. The NOT-contraction don’t along with can’t has the highest frequency of contraction. In period 1 for both genres taken together don’t has a higher contraction frequency at 31% and can’t at 14%; in period 3 the contraction frequency was 67% and 41 % for each variable respectively. Across genre DO NOT in the Drama genre had the highest contraction frequency.

As regards sentence type declaratives are the most common sentence type i.e. the sentence type being most frequent in the material. The conflated results for all verb forms show that imperatives have the highest contraction frequency for DO NOT in period 3, and declaratives for all other verb forms and periods. The contraction frequency is higher for declaratives across genre in both periods. With declaratives the contraction frequency increases in the Letters genre from period 1 to 3 for Drama the difference was not significant. The only difference that was significant for imperatives was that between Drama vs. Letters in period 1 where contraction with declaratives is more common with Drama in period 1.

For interrogatives the only significant difference was within the Drama genre across time owing to low expected frequencies this sentence type was omitted from the study

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. , 36 p.
Keyword [en]
NOT-contraction, frequency, contracted, non-contracted, contraction, sentence type
National Category
Specific Languages
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-8028OAI: diva2:199441
Available from: 2008-06-17 Created: 2008-06-17Bibliographically approved

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