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Academic Paper


Title: No taming the vernacular! Insights from the relatives in northern Britain
Author: Sali A Tagliamonte
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Toronto
Author: Jennifer Smith
Institution: University of Glasgow
Author: Helen Lawrence
Institution: University of York
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics; Syntax
Subject Language: English
Abstract: In this article we conduct a quantitative analysis of the markers used to introduce relative clauses in three vernacular varieties of English in Britain. In each variety there is a surprisingly low frequency of WH words in subject relatives and negligible use in nonsubject relatives, suggesting that the WH forms have not yet penetrated the respective vernaculars. Variable rule analyses of the multiple factors conditioning that and zero relative markers reveal that the varieties pattern quite similarly with respect to significance of factors. For the zero variant, there is a favoring effect of (1) sentence structure and (2) indefinite antecedents; however there are dialect specific differences in some nuances of the constraint ranking of factors. On the other hand, the use of zero is also highly correlated with contextual constraints relating to surface level processing, that is, clause length, as well as clause complexity, across all communities. Taken together, these findings provide evidence for both dialect specific and universal constraints on relative marker use, which can be used to further elucidate the task of conducting broad cross-community comparisons. The results also provide support for an important distinction in linguistic change – those changes that are imposed from the outside (like the WH relative markers) and those that arise from within (like that and zero relative markers) proceed very differently in mainstream as compared to peripheral varieties.

CUP at LINGUIST

This article appears in Language Variation and Change Vol. 17, Issue 1, which you can read on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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