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Exploring grammatical colloquialisation in non-native English: a case study of Philippine English 1

  • XINYUE YAO (a1) and PETER COLLINS (a2)

Colloquialisation, a process by which ‘writing becomes more like speech’, has been identified as a powerful discourse-pragmatic mechanism driving grammatical change in native English varieties. The extent to which colloquialisation is a factor in change in non-native varieties has seldom been explored. This article reports the findings of a corpus-based study of colloquialisation in Philippine English (PhilE), alongside its ‘parent variety’, American English (AmE). Adopting a bottom-up approach, a comprehensive measure was derived to determine the degree to which a text prefers grammatical features typical of speech and disprefers those typical of writing. This measure was then used to compare and contrast texts in a parallel, multi-register corpus of PhilE and AmE sampled for the 1960s and 1990s. Evidence for colloquialisation was found to vary across registers. While Philippine press editorials and American fiction show a clear colloquialising tendency, learned writing does not show remarkable changes irrespective of variety. The evolution of PhilE registers cannot be explained by a simple process involving emulation of AmE. The patterns uncovered reflect the uniqueness of the sociohistorical circumstances in which PhilE has evolved.

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This research is supported by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities, the Research Funds of Renmin University of China and an Australian Research Council Grant (DP120104846). We are grateful to Bernd Kortmann and three anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier versions of this article. All errors of fact and interpretation remain our own.

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