No momentary fancy! The zero 'complementizer' in English dialects

Tagliamonte, S. and Smith, J. (2005) No momentary fancy! The zero 'complementizer' in English dialects. English Language and Linguistics, 9(2), pp. 289-309. (doi: 10.1017/S1360674305001644)

Full text not currently available from Enlighten.

Publisher's URL:


In this paper we analyse variable presence of the complementizer that, i.e. I think that/Ø this is interesting, in a large archive of British dialects. Situating this feature within its historical development and synchronic patterning, we seek to understand the mechanism underlying the choice between that and zero. Our findings reveal that, in contrast to the diachronic record, the zero option is predominant – 91 per cent overall. Statistical analyses of competing factors operating on this feature confirm that grammaticalization processes and grammatical complexity play a role. However, the linguistic characteristics of a previously grammaticalized collocation, I think, exerts a greater effect. Its imprint is visible in multiple internal factors which constrain the zero option in the other contexts. We argue that this recurrent pattern in discourse propels the zero option through the grammar. These findings contribute to research arguing for a strong relationship between frequency and reanalysis in linguistic change.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Smith, Professor Jennifer
Authors: Tagliamonte, S., and Smith, J.
Subjects:P Language and Literature > PE English
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Journal Name:English Language and Linguistics
ISSN (Online):1469-4379
Published Online:31 October 2005

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record