This study of present-day English genitive variation is based on all interchangeable instances of s- and of-genitives from the ‘Reportage’ and ‘Editorial’ categories of the ‘Brown family’ of corpora. Variation is studied by tapping into a number of independent variables, such as precedence of either construction in the text, length of the possessor and possessum phrases, phonological constraints, discourse flow, and animacy of the possessor. In addition to distributional analyses, we use logistic regression to investigate the probabilistic factor weights of these variables, thus tracking language change in progress as evidenced in the language of the press. This method, married to our large database, yields the most detailed perspective to date on frequently discussed issues, such as the relative importance of possessor animacy and end-weight in genitive choice (cf. most recently Rosenbach 2005), or on the exact factorial dynamics responsible for the ongoing spread of the s-genitive.
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