From: Felicia Lee <leefa99earthlink.net>
Subject: British English Judgments
Query for this summary posted in LINGUIST Issue:
I am pleased to have gotten so many helplful responses to my request for
British English grammaticality judgments a while back. Here are the
preliminary results of my query.
I was looking for judgments on the BE construction whereby certain
group-denoting nouns in singular form can trigger plural verbal agreement,
such as “the government is/are incompetent.” In particular, I was
interested in finding out what kind of number agreement is possible when
group-denoting nouns are quantified.
The results are as follows. I asked my volunteers (eight BE speakers
participated) for their judgments on examples such as the following:
Some North American team has/have a chance to win the World Cup.
More than one North American team has/have a chance to win the World
Every North American team seems/seem to be playing well.
No North American team seems/ seem to be playing well.
Almost all speakers had a strong preference for singular agreement with
quantified group nouns; however, there was wide variation in how strong
this preference was. Two speakers disallowed plural agreement with all
quantifiers, while two others simply considered singular agreement
“preferable”. The remaining speakers required singular agreement with some
quantifiers but not others (for all of these speakers, “every”
obligatorily required singular agreement, for some but not all of these
speakers, “no” and/or “more than 1” did as well.)
I am not sure how to interpret these variations in judgment. More
investigation will be needed, I think, to nail down a definitive pattern.
Thanks to all who graciously took to the time to answer my questions and
volunteer their judgments.
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