Chapter published in:Diachronic Corpora, Genre, and Language Change
Edited by Richard J. Whitt
[Studies in Corpus Linguistics 85] 2018
► pp. 219–240
Variation of sentence length across time and genre
Influence on syntactic usage in English
The goal of this paper is threefold: (i) to present some practical aspects of using the full-text version of the Corpus of Historical American English (COHA), the largest diachronic multi-genre corpus of the English language, in the investigation of a linguistic trend of change; (ii) to test a widely held assumption that sentence length in written English has been steadily decreasing over the past few centuries; (iii) to point to a possible link between changes in sentence length and changes in English syntactic usage. The empirical proof of concept for (iii) is provided by the decline in the frequency of the non-finite purpose subordinator in order to. Sentence length, genre and the likelihood of occurrence of in order to are shown to be interrelated.
Published online: 08 November 2018
2008– The Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA): 520 million words, 1990–present. http://corpus.byu.edu/coca/
2010– The Corpus of Historical American English (COHA): 400 million words, 1810–2009. https://corpus.byu.edu/coha/
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Cited by other publications
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