apostrophe's. A study of the apostrophe in New Zealand today : its use, attitudes towards its use and its place in a historical continuum : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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This is the first study to tell the whole story of the apostrophe in one comprehensive work. In a two-part study, the investigation first traces the history of the apostrophe from its origins to the prescriptive rules that govern its use today, before exploring the factors that influence modern attitudes and practices, as well as implications for the future. Part I involves an examination of the relevant literature and original manuscripts and texts to trace the history of the apostrophe from a 2,000 year old Greek papyrus, through French and into English in the sixteenth century, showing that it did not come via Latin as dictionary etymologies suggest. Once in English, the apostrophe was used inconsistently to mark a variety of forms of omission, and while some authors argue that the possessive apostrophe was derived from the form the king his sons, the study shows this to be unlikely. Although prescriptivism eventually brought about a period of relative stability, evidence suggests that there has always been a degree of inconsistency in apostrophe use. In part II, a mixed-methods design was employed to investigate the modern apostrophe in New Zealand English, utilising both quantitative and qualitative elements, the latter adding a whole new perspective to apostrophe research. Examples of apostrophe use were collected from speakers of New Zealand English, while a series of questionnaires and interviews, involving the general public and teachers, captured the complexity that is apostrophe use today. Many participants associate standard apostrophe use with educatedness, but since ideological change banished grammar from the classroom in the 1970s, many teachers today are uncertain of its functions. Consequently, young people have developed new strategies for using apostrophes, relying on appearance rather than rules. This not only results in inconsistent apostrophe use, but it also means young people are more susceptible to the influence of the nonstandard use they see around them. Until editing devices on computers become sophisticated enough to make our apostrophe decisions for us, it seems nonstandard apostrophes will become increasingly evident in future.
English language -- Written English -- New Zealand, English language -- New Zealand -- Usage, English language -- New Zealand -- Public opinion, English language -- Grammar -- History, English language -- Punctuation, Apostrophe