Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Determinative `numerous' not so new

Via Geoff Pullum

A few days ago, we were discussing numerous as a determinative. Peter Reed has found a example from 1766.
Mortification of Sin implies these Things 1 Abstinence from the Practice of Evil. Lust is very fertile in Conception, and its Aim is to bring forth every monstrous Fœtus with which it is pregnant: Grace is a Check upon it, and stifles numerous of its Productions as soon as they are formed they never see the Light, nor become visible to any Eye, but that of the Soul itself, and unto the all penetrating Eye of God, who knows us far better than we know ourselves.


Ran said...

This is probably a stupid question, but — how well do our current tests for determining lexical category work for the English of 1766? Obviously we have little difficulty understanding that English, so I'm sure that it's mostly the same, but I've noticed that substantive adjectives (fused modifier-heads) seem to be much more common in older forms of English. Is it just that the frequency of this construction has changed, or has some of the grammar at the edges shifted, too? I have no idea. Do you know?

(This is something I wonder about a lot, actually, since we often debate using various CGEL-isms at the English Wiktionary, and I wonder how well they're compatible with a dictionary that covers centuries' worth of English.)

Brett said...

That's a great question. I've wondered the same thing, but to be honest, I know very little about any English apart from late Modern English. My assumption is that it's the same for this construction at least. It seems that numerous of the isn't particularly frequent in the 18th or 19th century. I was only able to find a few examples.

By the way, what's your Wiktionary user name?

Ran said...

Oh! This is Ruakh. Sorry, I should have introduced myself, but somehow I just assumed you would know I was me. I mean, I know I'm me, so obviously everyone else must know, too, right? :-P