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The Use of Relativizers across Speaker Roles and Gender: Explorations in 19th-century Trials, Drama and Letters

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Chapter Summary

In Present-day English, the development of the relativizers has been towards a more frequent use of that. In 19th-century English, however, the wh-forms predominate. The present paper explores the distribution of that and the wh-forms (who, whom, whose and which) across speaker roles and gender in 19th-century Trials, Drama and Letters, and, in particular, describes the contexts in which that occurs. The data are drawn from CONCE, A Corpus of Nineteenth-Century English, consisting of 1 million words, covering genres representative of 19th-century English usage. The wh-forms are favoured by 19th-century letter writers, and speakers in Trials and Drama. A few female letter writers use that frequently, introducing a new, less formal, style in letter writing. In Trials, that is used most frequently by judges, lawyers and witnesses in typical environments: in cleft sentences; that is used with nonpersonal nouns and with pronouns such as something, everything and all. Playwrights may use that as a stylistic device to describe the speech of, primarily, waiters, maids, and other servants.



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