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Mapping out particle placement in Englishes around the world: A study in comparative sociolinguistic analysis

  • Jason Grafmiller (a1) and Benedikt Szmrecsanyi (a2)


This study explores variability in particle placement across nine varieties of English around the globe, utilizing data from the International Corpus of English and the Global Corpus of Web-based English. We introduce a quantitative approach for comparative sociolinguistics that integrates linguistic distance metrics and predictive modeling, and use these methods to examine the development of regional patterns in grammatical constraints on particle placement in World Englishes. We find a high degree of uniformity among the conditioning factors influencing particle placement in native varieties (e.g., British, Canadian, and New Zealand English), while English as a second language varieties (e.g., Indian and Singaporean English) exhibit a high degree of dissimilarity with the native varieties and with each other. We attribute the greater heterogeneity among second language varieties to the interaction between general L2 acquisition processes and the varying sociolinguistic contexts of the individual regions. We argue that the similarities in constraint effects represent compelling evidence for the existence of a shared variable grammar and variation among grammatical systems is more appropriately analyzed and interpreted as a continuum rather than multiple distinct grammars.

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We thank Melanie Röthlisberger, Benedikt Heller, Jack Grieve, and members of the Quantitative Lexicography and Variational Linguistics research unit at KU Leuven for valuable comments and feedback. This research was supported by an Odysseus grant (principal investigator: second author) from the Research Foundation Flanders (Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek—Vlaanderen, grant no. G.0C59.13N). The usual disclaimers apply.



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