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)

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In this paper we analyse variable presence of the complementizer that, i.e. <i>I think that/Ø this is interesting</i>, 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 <i>that</i> and <i>zero</i>. Our findings reveal that, in contrast to the diachronic record, the <i>zero</i> 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>I think</i>, exerts a greater effect. Its imprint is visible in multiple internal factors which constrain the <i>zero</i> option in the other contexts. We argue that this recurrent pattern in discourse propels the <i>zero</i> 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 & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Journal Name:English Language and Linguistics
ISSN (Online):1469-4379
Published Online:31 October 2005

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