Routes for development in the pragmaticalization of sorry as a formulaic marker

Clara Molina
2011 Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses  
This paper explores the diachronic transition of the adjective sorry from lexical towards grammatical status which resulted in its entrenchment as a formulaic pragmatic marker. As attested by Helsinki Corpus data, the gradual emergence of a number of context-bound complementation patterns (each one linked to distinct semantic nuances of the term) was matched by an increasing detachment of sorry from the domain of sadness, within which the adjective had been central since the earliest times.
more » ... earliest times. After the developments had been completed in Early Modern English, the increasingly frequent use of sorry in everyday discourse made for the entrenchment of the novel pragmaticalized instances, which have only gained salience in the language ever since. The processes presented in this paper provide insights into the factors involved in diachronic change and contribute to the ongoing discussion of pragmatic markers. Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses English (attested from 1377 to 1600)but not in sorry. The alignment of sore with bodily ailments is stressed by the reading injury, attested from Old to Present-Day English, but not present in any of the other two terms. Sorry and sore, however, overlap in the expression of sickness, present in sore from Old to Early Modern English (last attested in 1727) and in sorry from Middle English (first attested in 1393) to the present. In turn, sorry overlaps with sorrow in the expression of regretconveyed by sorry ever since Middle English (first attested in 1300) and briefly present in sorrow in Middle English (a1470). Sympathy, present in sorry from Old to Present-Day English, and inadequacy, ever since Middle English (first attested in c1250), remain unshared by neither sorrow nor sore. Given the etymological connection and the large degree of formal and semantic overlap (c.f. Molina, 2005 ; and Chamber's Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, which suggests a possible alignment of sorrow and sore, while referring to sore under the entry sorry), the historical development of sorry might have been expected closer to sore than to sorrow, an etymologically unrelated party. Defying expectations, however, sorry did not remain close to sore for a long while, but it rather got increasingly attached in both form and meaning to sorrow, with which the connection was neither etymological nor formal, but rather semanticsorry and sorrow have always conveyed emotional facets of suffering, whereas sore has been increasingly associated with bodily senses. As a result of the reorganization, sorry and sorrow came to be entwined to the extent in which the form of sorry was altered to resemble that of sorrow, more prototypical in the expression of sadness, and the meaning of sorry has been reinterpreted and even taken as the adjective of sorrow. In this respect, consider Skeat's (1894) entry for sorry: "sore in mind, aggrieved. (E.) M.E. sory. A.S. sárig, adj. sorry, sad, sore in mind; from sár, sore. Du. zeerig, Swed. sårig, sore, full of sores, words which preserve the orig. sense. ¶ Spelt with two r's by confusion with sorrow, with which it was not originally connected"; also Shipley (1945) : "I'm sorry, but this word has no relation (save by attachment of meaning) with sorrow. Sorry is the AS adjective sar, sore, with the adjective ending added: AS sarig, whence sorry. Sorrow is a common Teut. word, from AS sorh, from sorh; Du. zorg, G. Sorge, care. Frau Sorge, Dame Care, was an all too common visitor to medieval households"; and a note under the entry for sorry in the OED2: "OE. s ri (f. sár sore n.1), = OS. sêrag (MLG. sêrich, LG. sêrig), OHG. sêrag (MHG. sêrec, G. dial. sêrich, etc.), WFris. searich, sore, pained, sensitive, etc. In English the change of a to o and subsequent shortening have given the word an apparent connexion with sorrow n.". This paper focuses on the way in which sorry and sorrow have strengthened their ties while loosening them with regard to sore, and on the subsequent evolution of sorry as a formulaic marker of empathy. As Tannen (1994: 45) points out, "contemporary sorry is often an automatic conversational smoother devoid of apologetic meaningssomehow like greetings, naturally not meant to elicit a detailed account of aches and pains". Two data sources inform the discussion: on the one hand, the Helsinki Corpus, from which quotations for all terms beginning with either the prefix sar-or the prefix sor-were systematically elicited so as to provide a precise outline of the terms under Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses JJ6 11 In that sorry, in agriculture when there was a good harvest, prices would fall more than proportionately to the change in quantity.
doi:10.14198/raei.2011.24.08 fatcat:xovrswfgxfbszhncqcwtvv7r3m