Commentary Essay

1733 words - 7 pages

1. Introduction: Defining the periods of English
As being a contentious issue, arbitrariness can be expected in terms of the divisions of different English language periods. In this essay, I am taking Nevalainen’s (2006:1) perspective, who is a favourer of the idea that 1700 is the dividing line of early and late Modern English periods. The date created for my two Frederick Hamilton’s letters are in 1790 and 1810 respectively. Therefore, they both belong to the late Modern English period.

In the process of transliteration,

Five salient syntactic interests, two morphological interests and two orthographic interests of my transliterated passages constitute the major part of the commentary, followed up by a brief conclusion.

2. syntactic interest
2.1 disordered direct object and indirect object
In present day English, the position of a direct object and an indirect object is interchangeable by replacing the indirect object with a prepositional phrase following the direct object (Quirk et. 1985:59). The former can also be called the thing-object, the latter is person-object (Pautsma 1928:212). However, deviation from this rule is found in HAM/1/4/2/15.
(1) I enclosed to you at Taxal a Post Bill…
One more example is quoted from HAM/1/4/2/28.
(2) Mr Greoille has notified to me his surprise and concern…

(1) and (2) can be amended as:
(1a) I enclosed a Post Bill to you at Taxal… (ambiguity of the adverbial adjunct phrase of place can be found in 2.3)
(1b) Mr Greoille has notified his surprise and concern to me…

As Pautsma (1928:216) stated, the misplaced construction was actually employed in not a few cases in lModE, which can be largely attributable to the author’s desire to enhance the quality of literary or rhythm. This is a potent reason in the light of Ingrid’s (2009:121) thinking that ‘letter writing was considered to be an ‘Art’’ in Late ME period.

2.2. Modal Verbs
Perhaps the most spectacular linguistic interest in Frederick Hamilton’s letters is the use of modal verbs. Let’s start from shall and will.

2.2.1 shall and will
Tieken-Boon van Ostade (2009) stated both shall and will can function as a future marker, which signal prediction as defined in Traugott’s modals chart (1972:198-9). Buchanan (1762:116) explicitly commented the relationship between personal pronouns and the use of will and shall. In other words, they are possessed of variant meanings when occurred after variant personal pronouns. Interestingly, shall and will behave against each other. (See Table 1)

Modal verbs First Persons Second Persons Third Persons
Shall Future Action Promise/ threatens
will Promise/threatens Future Action
Table 1: different use of shall and will by three personal pronouns (Buchanan 1762:116)

Examples (3) to (7) illustrate the use of shall in first persons and will in third persons, both with the meaning of foretelling the future.
(3)I shall be much obliged to you if … (HAM/1/4/2/15)
(4)I shall be...

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