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Grammatical variation in English worldwide: the role of colloquialization

Issue: Vol 8 No. 3 (2012)

Journal: Linguistics and the Human Sciences

Subject Areas: Writing and Composition Linguistics

DOI: 10.1558/lhs.v8i3.289


Colloquialization – the increasing acceptance of colloquial features, particularly in more formal genres – has been a powerful discourse pragmatic agent of grammatical change in English since the mid-twentieth century. Studies of recent diachronic change in British and American English (e.g. Leech et al., 2009) suggest that it has played a role in the rising popularity of several grammatical categories, including the quasi-modals (have to, be going to, want to, etc.), and the get-passive. Such developments have rarely been investigated beyond British and American English, a gap which has prompted the present exploration of the impact of colloquialization on a number of grammatical features (quasi-modals, get-passives, first person plural imperatives, there-existentials, and progressives) across a range of World Englishes of both the ‘Inner Circle’ and the ‘Outer Circle’. The study – which is based on a set of parallel contemporary corpora – is synchronic, but the comparison of frequencies across spoken and written genres provides apparent-time insights into diachronic processes of change. Data are drawn from a number of sources, including the International Corpus of English and the ‘Brown family’ of corpora.

Author: Peter Collins

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