British or American English?
Speakers of British and American English display some striking differences in their use of grammar. In this detailed survey, John Algeo considers questions such as:
*Who lives on a street, and who lives in a street?
*Who takes a bath, and who has a bath?
*Who says Neither do I, and who says Nor do I?
*After “thank you”, who says Not at all and who says You're welcome?
*Whose team are on the ball, and whose team is?
Containing extensive quotations from real-life English on both sides of the Atlantic, collected over the past twenty years, this is a clear and highly organized guide to the differences – and the similarities – in the grammar of British and American speakers. Written for those with no prior knowledge of linguistics, it shows how these grammatical differences are linked mainly to particular words, and provides an accessible account of contemporary English as it is actually used.
JOHN ALGEO is Professor Emeritus in the Department of English, University of Georgia, Athens. His previous posts include Fulbright Senior Research Scholar, University College London (1986–7), Guggenheim Fellow (1986–7), and University of Georgia Alumni Foundation Distinguished Professor (1988–94). Over the past forty years he has contributed papers to a wide variety of books and journals, including 91 book reviews.
STUDIES IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE
The aim of this series is to provide a framework for original studies of English, both present-day and past. All books are based securely on empirical research, and represent theoretical and descriptive contributions to our knowledge of national varieties of English, both written and spoken. The series covers a broad range of topics and approaches, including syntax, phonology, grammar, vocabulary, discourse, pragmatics and sociolinguistics, and is aimed at an international readership.
MERJA KYTӦ (Uppsala University)
Bas Aarts (University College London), John Algeo (University of Georgia), Susan Fitzmaurice (Northern Arizona University), Richard Hogg (University of Manchester), Charles F. Meyer (University of Massachusetts)
Already published in this series:
Infinitival Complement Clauses in English: a Study of Syntax in Discourse
Charles F. Meyer
Apposition in Contemporary English
Functional Sentence Perspective in Written and Spoken Communication
Izchak M. Schlesinger
Cognitive Space and Linguistic Case
Personal Pronouns in Present-day English
The Development of Standard English, 1300–1800: Theories, Descriptions, Conflicts
Charles F. Meyer
English Corpus Linguistics: Theory and Practice
Stephen J. Nagle and Sara L. Sanders (eds.)
English in the Southern United States
Gender Shifts in the History of English
Irma Taavitsainen and Päivi Pahta (eds.)
Medical and Scientific Writing in Late Medieval English
Elizabeth Gordon, Lyle Campbell, Jennifer Hay, Margaret Maclagan, Andrea Sudbury and Peter Trudgill
New Zealand English: Its Origins and Evolution
Raymond Hickey (ed.)
Legacies of Colonial English
Merja Kytö, Mats Rydén and Erik Smitterberg (eds.)
Nineteenth Century English: Stability and Change
British or American English?
A Handbook of Word and Grammar Patterns
JOHN ALGEOUniversity of Georgia
CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
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Cambridge University Press
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Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9780521379939
© John Algeo 2006
This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without
the written permission of Cambridge University Press.
First published 2006
Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge
A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library
ISBN-13 978-0-521-37137-7 hardback
ISBN-10 0-521-37137-6 hardback
ISBN-13 978-0-521-37993-9 paperback
ISBN-10 0-521-37993-8 paperback
Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.
|British and American as national varieties||1|
|Differences between British and American||2|
|The basis of this study||2|
|Sources of comparative statistics and citations||4|
|Conventions and organization of this study||6|
|Part I Parts of Speech||9|
|1.3 Verb phrases||24|
|2.1 Definite article||43|
|2.2 Indefinite article||49|
|2.3 Possessive construction||52|
|2.4 No determiner versus some determiner||53|
|2.5 Predeterminers and postdeterminers||64|
|3.4 Names and titles||102|
|3.5 Genitive constructions||104|
|5.2 Frequency and collocation||126|
|5.4 Adjective order||131|
|6.4 Adverb order||148|
|6.5 Adverbial particles||151|
|7.1 Modifying adjectives or adverbs||153|
|7.2 Modifying prepositional phrases||157|
|7.3 Modifying comparative structures||158|
|8.1 Choice of preposition||159|
|8.2 Omission of any preposition||194|
|8.3 Omission of the prepositional object||197|
|8.4 Prepositional phrase versus noun adjunct||197|
|8.5 Order of numbers with by||197|
|9.1 Coordinating conjunctions||199|
|9.2 Subordinating conjunctions||201|
|Part II Syntactic Constructions||215|
|11.1 Complementation of verbs||217|
|11.2 Complementation of nouns||251|
|11.3 Complementation of adjectives||257|
|11.4 Complementation of adverbs||261|
|12.1 Mandative present indicative||264|
|12.2 Mandative past indicative||266|
|13.1 Five “light” verbs in British and American||270|
|13.2 Modification and complementation of the expanded predicate noun||276|
|13.3 Other expanded-predicate-like constructions||277|
|14.1 Verb and pronoun concord with collective nouns||279|
|14.2 Verb concord in other problematical cases||285|
|15.1 Propredicate do||287|
|15.2 Complements of propredicates||292|
|16.1 Canonical form||293|
|16.2 Anomalous forms||293|
|16.3 Frequency of use||296|
|16.4 Rhetorical uses||297|
|16.5 Other forms and uses||302|
|17.2 Phatic language||308|
|Bibliography of British book citation sources||313|
|Bibliography of studies, dictionaries, and corpora||319|
|Index of words||325|
The study on which this book is based began about forty years ago as a casual interest in the subject engendered by Thomas Pyles’s history textbook, The Origins and Development of the English Language (now in its fifth revised edition, Algeo and Pyles 2004). It was focused during a year (1986–7) the author spent in the Survey of English Usage at University College London as a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar and a Guggenheim Fellow. In those days, the Survey was only beginning to be converted into electronic form, so at first research involved hunting through paper slips and copying information by hand. Later, as the Survey was computerized, electronic searches became possible, initially only at the Survey office and later through a CD anywhere.
The present study later benefited from the collection of citations made by Allen Walker Read for a historical dictionary of British lexical items. My wife, Adele, and I then set out to supplement Read’s files with citations we collected from more recent material than he had used, including citations for grammatical as well as lexical matters. Our own corpus of British citations is now about three million words in size. That is not large for a contemporary data file, but it consists entirely of citations that we had reason to suspect exemplified British use.
Work on this book was delayed by a variety of other duties to which its author had fallen heir. It is now presented, with painful awareness of its limitations, but, as the French are fond of saying, faute de mieux. Undoubtedly, British and American English are grammatically different in ways not reported here. And some of the grammatical differences reported here may be less certain than this book suggests because of difficulties in identifying and substantiating those differences or because of the misapprehension of the author. Nevertheless, I hope that it will be helpful in pinpointing various areas of structural difference between the two major national varieties of the language.
The debts owed for help in producing this book are more than the author can pay. The greatest debt for a labor of love is to his wife, Adele Silbereisen Algeo, who has assisted him in this, as in all other activities during the nearly fifty years of their married life. In particular, she has been the major collector of British citations that compose the corpus from which most of the illustrative quotations have been taken. She has also critiqued and proofed the text of the book at every stage of its production.
Gratitude is also due to a succession of editors at the Cambridge University Press who have, with kind hearts and gentle words, tolerated a succession of delays in the book’s preparation. Likewise gratitude is due to the Cambridge University Press for permission to use the Cambridge International Corpus, without which statements of relative frequency in British and American use would be far more intuitional and far less data-based than they are.
I am indebted to a variety of scholarly studies, both general and specific, for their insights into British-American differences. These are cited in the text of this book and listed in the bibliography of scholarly works at the end. I am particularly indebted to the works by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik (1985), Michael Swan (1995), and Pam Peters (2004). For existing scholarship that has not been cited here, I can only say “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.”
Individuals who, over the years, have kindly sent Adele and me quotations that have been entered into our corpus include notably Catherine M. Algeo, Thomas Algeo, L. R. N. Ashley, Carmen Acevedo Butcher, Ronald Butters, Tom Creswell, Charles Clay Doyle, Virginia McDavid, Michael Montgomery, and Susan Wright Sigalas.
Finally, and in a sense initially, I am grateful for the support of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the Fulbright Senior Research Scholar Program for support at the Survey of English Usage, University of London, during the academic year 1986–7, when the project was begun, and to the now departed Sidney Greenbaum, who as Quain Professor of English Language and Literature invited me to the Survey