The English genitive alternation in a cognitive sociolinguistics perspective

Publication date: 2010-01
Pages: 141 - 166
ISBN: 9783110226461
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton; Berlin/New York


Szmrecsanyi, Benedikt


variation, English, genitives, multivariate, real time, text type, standard varieties


As a corpus-based inquiry into the probabilistic nature of lectal variation, the present study seeks to explore how language-external determinants of linguistic variation – real time, geography, text type – interact with language-internal determinants of linguistic variation, and in so doing shape cognitive and probabilistic grammars. The concrete empirical attention of this study will be directed toward the English genitive alternation as an instructive case study. The evidence suggests that the probabilistic grammar underlying the system of genitive choice is fundamentally the same across sampling times, geographic varieties of English, and text types. This overall qualitative stability notwithstanding, the importance of individual conditioning factors varies across different data sources, and this variability is shown to be mediated by language-external factors.