This article examines the historical evolution of
subject–verb concord in New Zealand English. We investigate the
usage of the singular form of be with plural NP subjects
(existentials and nonexistentials) over the past 150 years. The results
demonstrate that the New Zealand English subject–verb concord
system has undergone considerable reorganization during this time.
Singular concord in nonexistentials occurred in early New Zealand
English, but is now largely absent. In existentials, it steadily
declined during the late 19th century, and then reversed this
trajectory to become a well established feature of modern New Zealand
English. Singular concord in New Zealand English existentials is now
conditioned by a range of social and linguistic factors, and largely
resembles other varieties in this respect.
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