No taming the vernacular! insights from the relatives in northern Britain

Tagliamonte, S., Smith, J. and Lawrence, H. (2005) No taming the vernacular! insights from the relatives in northern Britain. Language Variation and Change, 17(1), pp. 75-112. (doi: 10.1017/S0954394505050040)

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In this article we conduct a quantitative analysis of the markers used to introduce relative clauses in three vernacular varieties of English in Britain. In each variety there is a surprisingly low frequency of WH words in subject relatives and negligible use in nonsubject relatives, suggesting that the WH forms have not yet penetrated the respective vernaculars. Variable rule analyses of the multiple factors conditioning <i>that</i> and <i>zero</i> relative markers reveal that the varieties pattern quite similarly with respect to significance of factors. For the <i>zero</i> variant, there is a favoring effect of (1) sentence structure and (2) indefinite antecedents; however there are dialect specific differences in some nuances of the constraint ranking of factors. On the other hand, the use of <i>zero</i> is also highly correlated with contextual constraints relating to surface level processing, that is, clause length, as well as clause complexity, across all communities. Taken together, these findings provide evidence for both dialect specific and universal constraints on relative marker use, which can be used to further elucidate the task of conducting broad cross-community comparisons. The results also provide support for an important distinction in linguistic change – those changes that are imposed from the outside (like the WH relative markers) and those that arise from within (like <i>that</i> and <i>zero</i> relative markers) proceed very differently in mainstream as compared to peripheral varieties.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Smith, Professor Jennifer
Authors: Tagliamonte, S., Smith, J., and Lawrence, H.
Subjects:P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Journal Name:Language Variation and Change
ISSN (Online):1469-8021
Published Online:16 February 2005

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