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date: 09 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The chapter argues that the best way to profit from the rich corpus-linguistic working environment available to the student of the history of English is to use traditional (and sometimes small) linguistic corpora together with larger textual databases and digital archives, including the World-Wide Web, in a coordinated way. Linguistic corpora (ARCHER, Brown family, BNC, COCA, COHA) are sufficient to document the successive waves of grammaticalisation which have added have to, have got to and, more recently, want to or need to to the older form must, producing the complex layered system of present-day English modal markers of obligation and necessity. Using do-support with modal got (to)/gotta as an illustration, the paper shows that, in spite of its known deficiencies as a linguistic corpus, the World-Wide Web can help fill in the language-historical picture in useful ways where even the biggest available corpora fail to produce sufficient evidence.

Keywords: Web, corpora, English, language change, Representative Corpus of Historical English Registers, Brown family, modal auxiliary function, syntax

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