This article investigates the variation between past-tense forms burned/burnt, dwelled/dwelt, dreamed/dreamt, and the like historically with the help of the Corpus of Historical American English and asks whether prescriptive grammars in the nineteenth century may have influenced the development of regular forms as a present-day morphological Americanism. Contrary to what is often assumed, this article argues that the irregular forms are the actual innovations and that the return to regular forms is found in writing only and is highly lexeme-specific. Also contrary to expectations, prescriptive grammar writing is shown to have been mostly ignorant of which verbs were undergoing change, in which direction, and to which degree, and prescriptive grammar writing could not have been instrumental in supporting, let alone triggering, the development of this morphological Americanism.

You do not currently have access to this content.