Wow! I'm actually composing new content. I had intended to keep recycling my removed material, but my last post on Austen's use of contractions provoked so much engagement, and, consequently, new questions and research, that I'm actually inspired to follow up. Perhaps blogging begets more blogging? Makes sense to me. I'm going to try my darnedest not to overanalyze the situation and just roll with it. What is transparent is that I geeked out hard.
Thanks to informed readers (much obliged, Suzan Lauder), I was made aware of some previous research on the subject of contractions published in 2013. If I've followed the trail correctly, it was first posted at Jane Austen's Tea Room, then maybe it was reposted at A Happy Assembly? I'm not perfectly certain. The author was "JanetR," or Janet Rutter, a vibrant member of the online Jane Austen community who unfortunately passed away in 2018. Her survey of contractions in Austen includes the letters and fragments, which is awesome! She also counts how many times each character uses which contractions. I wish I knew who to ask for permission to repost her work, as it is an excellent resource. Instead, I shall have to limit myself to commenting on the two areas which I found particularly compelling.
|Lady Susan, Conclusion|
|Lady Susan, Letter Five|
He was rewarded by a gracious answer, and a more liberal full view of her face than she had yet bestowed. Unused to exert himself, and happy in contemplating her, he then sat in silence for some minutes longer, while Tom Musgrave was chattering to Elizabeth ; till they were interrupted by Nanny's approach, who, half-opening the door and putting in her head, said, – "Please, ma'am, master wants to know why he be n't to have his dinner?"Don't try to parse Nanny's sentence structure. It gave me such a headache. I'm honestly not even sure what words are being contracted, though her meaning remains clear. It is of no surprise that it is a servant who says it. Over the course of the past week, I have become increasingly fixated on the use of contractions in Austen not as an indicator of a casual or sloppy manner of speech, but also as a means to command dialect. Writers have been doing this since the introduction of the grammatical oddity we call the apostrophe during the Renaissance, when it was used to indicate the absence of letters, not as an indicator of possession. Adds a bit of historical clout to the use of contractions, doesn't it (you can read more about it here).
|Love and Friendship, Letter Two|
|History of England, Henry the 7th|
|Persuasion, alternative chapter 11|