Flat adverbs and Jane Austen’s letters

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The stricture against flat adverbs, adverbs without the suffix -<i>ly</i>, originated in the eighteenth century. In a micro-level analysis of the epistolary language of Jane Austen, this paper focuses on her use of flat adverbs. Using flat adverbs herself, Jane Austen adopted them to mark her non-standard fictional characters, a process which was independent of the development of the normative stricture. Focusing on early grammatical discussion of the phenomenon, in comparison with the grammarians&#8217; own usage, the paper shows that the development of the category of adverbs as modifiers of verbs, adjectives and other adverbs, was not a straightforward process. It illustrates the enormous potential of Jane Austen&#8217;s letters as a source for our knowledge of informal Late Modern English.


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