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Academic Paper


Title: No momentary fancy! The zero 'complementizer' in English dialects
Author: Sali A Tagliamonte
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: University of Toronto
Author: Jennifer Smith
Institution: University of Glasgow
Linguistic Field: Syntax
Subject Language: English
Abstract: In this paper we analyse variable presence of the complementizer that, i.e. I think that this is interesting, in a large archive of British dialects. Situating this feature within its historical development and synchronic patterning, we seek to understand the mechanism underlying the choice between that and zero. Our findings reveal that, in contrast to the diachronic record, the zero option is predominant – 91 per cent overall. Statistical analyses of competing factors operating on this feature confirm that grammaticalization processes and grammatical complexity play a role. However, the linguistic characteristics of a previously grammaticalized collocation, I think, exerts a greater effect. Its imprint is visible in multiple internal factors which constrain the zero option in the other contexts. We argue that this recurrent pattern in discourse propels the zero option through the grammar. These findings contribute to research arguing for a strong relationship between frequency and reanalysis in linguistic change.

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