Vol. 17:1 (2016) ► pp.129–152
The evolution of the “hot news” perfect in English
A study of register-specific linguistic change
This paper deals with the “hot news” use of the English present perfect. Previous research has suggested that this use marks the end point of the perfect category, paving the way for further grammaticalisation to a perfective or past tense. To examine its historical development in Modern English, verb forms in the leads of hard news reports in the New York Times and the Sydney Morning Herald were examined, with comparison made between two time periods, 1851–1900 and 1951–2000. Attention was given to contextual influence on the choice between the present perfect and the past tense for expressing hot news meanings. The quantitative findings show that the hot news perfect has not taken over the ground of other tense forms, but has become increasingly associated with unspecified, recent past time. The evolution of the English present perfect in general is characterised by register-mediated functional specialisation.