Edited by Ursula Lenker, Judith Huber and Robert Mailhammer
[Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 314] 2010
► pp. 63–78
Prescription or practice?
Be/have variation with past participles of mutative intransitive verbs in the letters of Joseph Priestley
This paper investigates variation in the usage of be and have with participles of mutative intransitive verbs by the Late Modern English grammarian Joseph Priestley. His usage, as exemplified by a corpus compiled from his private manuscript letters, is compared with a reference corpus and with the “rules” in his own grammar. The study shows that Priestley’s usage reflects the general change for this linguistic feature from a predominant use of be to a greater occurrence of have in the late eighteenth century, as discussed by Rydén & Brorström (1987). It is also shown that when compared to his grammar, Priestley’s usage upholds his reputation as an early descriptivist.