Degaetano-Ortlieb, Stefania

Hybridization effects in literary texts

Proceedings of the 10th International Corpus Linguistics Conference, Cardiff, Wales, UK, 2019.

We present an analysis of subregisters, whose differentiation is still a difficult task due to their hybridity reflected in conforming to a presumed “norm” and encompassing something “new”. We focus on texts at the interface between what Halliday (2002: 177) calls two opposite “cultures”, literature and science (here: science fiction texts). Texts belonging to one register will exhibit similar choices of lexico-grammatical features. Hybrid texts at the intersection between two registers will reflect a mixture of particular features (cf. Degaetano-Ortlieb et al. 2014, Biber et al. 2015, Teich et al. 2013, 2016, Underwood 2016). Consider example (1) taken from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. While traditionally grounded as a literary text, it shows a registerial nuance from the influential register of science. This encompasses phrases (bold) also found in scientific articles from that period (e.g. in the Royal Society Corpus, cf. Kermes et al. 2016), verbs related to scientific endeavor (e.g. become acquainted, examine, observe, discover), and scientific terminology (e.g. anatomy, decay, corruption, vertebrae, inflammable air) packed into complex nominal phrases (underlined). Note that features marking this registerial nuance include not only lexical but also grammatical features.

(1) I became acquainted with the science of anatomy, but this was not sufficient; I must also observe the natural decay and corruption of the human body. […] Now I was led to examine the cause and progress of this decay. I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life. (Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, 1818/1823).

Thus, we hypothesize that hybrid registers while mainly resembling their traditional register in the use of lexico-grammatical features (H1 register resemblance), will also show particular lexico-grammatical nuances of their influential register (H2 registerial nuance). In particular, we are interested in (a) variation across registers to see which lexico-grammatical features are involved in hybridization effects and (b) intra-textual variation (e.g. across chapters) to analyze in which parts of a text hybridization effects are most prominent.