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Toward more accountability: Modeling ternary genitive variation in Late Modern English

  • Benedikt Szmrecsanyi (a1), Douglas Biber (a2), Jesse Egbert (a3) and Karlien Franco (a1)

Whereas the alternation between the s-genitive (the New Year's message) and the of-genitive (the message of the New Year) is well documented, our study offers a more accountable analysis of genitive variation by including noun-noun (NN)-genitives (the New Year message). We consider four different variable contexts (s versus of, NN versus of, NN versus s, and NN versus s versus of ), which we analyze using regression analysis. The dataset consists of 10,054 variable genitives drawn from the Representative Corpus of Historical English Registers. The material covers the period between 1650 and 2000, thus enabling us to track the evolution of variable genitive grammar in real time. We report that there is an overall drift toward the NN-genitive, which is preferred over other variants when constituent noun phrases are short, possessor constituents are inanimate, and possessum constituents are thematic. In addition to these substantive contributions, we showcase methods of dealing with a complex dataset covering nonbinary grammatical variation.

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Language Variation and Change
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  • EISSN: 1469-8021
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