The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1178  Thursday, 12 June 2003

From:           B. Vickers <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 12 Jun 2003 10:54:35 +0200
Subject: Funerall Elegye
Comment:        SHK 14.1107 Funerall Elegye

I am truly grateful to Gerald E. Downs for his comments on the frequency
of 'un-' words in Shakespeare and Ford's Funerall Elegye, and for his
clarification of the correct statistical method for analysing such data.
I accept that, had I known this, I 'could have gone to the heart of the
matter' more directly. For once, I took Foster's data on trust, without
checking. Mr. Downs has helped me to understand that 'total "un-" words
grow at a faster rate than canonical words', and that 'Each succeeding
work comprises repeats and new uses, some of which are nonce-words'. I
suppose this is because 'un-' prefixes constitute what grammarians call
'open-class items', that is, belonging to a class which 'is indefinitely
extendable.  New items are constantly being created and no one could
make an inventory of all the nouns in English (for example) and be
confident that it was complete' (see Randolph Quirk, Sidney Green baum,
Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik, 'A Grammar of Contemporary English',
Longman, 1972,  

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