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LINGUIST List 16.2957

Wed Oct 12 2005

Diss: Sociolinguistics: Mittmann: 'Mehrwort-Cluster...'

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        1.    Brigitta Mittmann, Mehrwort-Cluster in der englischen Alltagskonversation: unterschiede zwischen britischem und amerikanischem gesprochenen Englisch als Indikatoren für den präfabrizierten Charakter der Sprache


Message 1: Mehrwort-Cluster in der englischen Alltagskonversation: unterschiede zwischen britischem und amerikanischem gesprochenen Englisch als Indikatoren für den präfabrizierten Charakter der Sprache
Date: 05-Oct-2005
From: Brigitta Mittmann <Brigitta.Mittmannphil.uni-augsburg.de>
Subject: Mehrwort-Cluster in der englischen Alltagskonversation: unterschiede zwischen britischem und amerikanischem gesprochenen Englisch als Indikatoren für den präfabrizierten Charakter der Sprache


Institution: Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg
Program: PhD
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2002

Author: Brigitta Mittmann

Dissertation Title: Mehrwort-Cluster in der englischen Alltagskonversation: unterschiede zwischen britischem und amerikanischem gesprochenen Englisch als Indikatoren für den präfabrizierten Charakter der Sprache

Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)

Dissertation Director:
Dieter Götz
Franz Josef Hausmann
Thomas Herbst

Dissertation Abstract:

The importance of fixed or semi-fixed multi-word expressions such as
routine formulae, lexicalised sentence stems or frequent collocations has
increasingly been recognized over the past two decades. Considering this
surge of interest in lexical combinatorics, it is surprising that the
literature on differences between American and British English has mostly
ignored word combinations.

The book is a thorough and extensive study of this central field of English
dialectology. It is based on two computerized corpora of English
conversation: the 'spoken demographic' part of the British National Corpus
(BNCSD) and the Longman Spoken American Corpus (LSAC). A series of programs
specially written for this purpose by a computer programmer was used to
extract those word combinations (or clusters) from each of the two corpora
which are the most frequent and most typical for each of the two varieties.
Thus, the method is neutral and does not restrict or anticipate the results
in any way. It works very well with an investigating study of the kind
described here.

The study showed that British and American speakers of English differ
considerably with respect to many word combinations which they typically
use very frequently. The clusters reveal interesting phenomena on all
levels of linguistic description. In most cases, the word combinations
studied here are not restricted exclusively to one of the two varieties,
but there are usually strong tendencies for them to occur predominantly in
either American or British English. A number of these differences between
the varieties have been noted in passing by other researchers, but many of
them should be new.

Most of the highly frequent word combinations are conversational routines
or parts of them. They range from greeting and thanking formulae to hedges,
discourse markers and general extenders. Frequent multi-word expletives can
also be considered to be types of routine formulae.

A large number of clusters points to what one might call the 'fuzzy edges'
of phraseology. On the borderline between phraseology and syntax there are,
for example, tag questions, periphrastic constructions such as the present
perfect, semi-modals, and valency patterns. On the borderline between
phraseology and word formation, on the other hand, there are adjectival
combinations consisting of participle and particle, as well as complex
prepositions, conjunctions, adverbs, or pronouns.

Only a small part of the material has to do with what one might consider to
be 'classical idioms', but the corpora contain many other pre-assembled
multi-word chunks that function as linguistic building blocks. Some items
(such as the reporting construction BE like) are indeed idiomatic in
character. Others - like time adverbials or recurrent responses - are not
generally regarded as fixed expressions so that their formulaic character
may come as a surprise. Even they fall within the scope of phraseology.

Traditionally, phraseology is mostly concerned with idioms. However, it is
necessary to widen the scope of what is studied in this field. This means
including not only routine formulae, support verb constructions and word
combinations such as phrasal and prepositional verbs, but also other kinds
of prefabricated expressions. The British-American differences reported on
in this study provide further proof that everyday language consists largely
of ready-made chunks of several words which are presumably stored in the
speaker's memory as entities. Thus, idiomaticity pervades language.







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