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The role of context in the entrenchment of new grammatical markers in World Englishes

Elena Seoane

Abstract

This study explores the role of context in the alleged entrenchment of the adverbs yet, just and (n)ever, among other adverbial elements, as markers of the perfect in World Englishes (Miller 2000; Brown and Miller 2017), from the perspective of Usage Based Theory (Bybee 2006, 2013) and taking data from seven components of the International Corpus of English (ICE, Greenbaum 1996). The probabilistic analysis of the results show that all the micro-level contextual factors analyzed (verbal form, verb type and polarity) determine variation and change in this domain of grammar, in combination with two of the three macrolevel contextual features analyzed, namely type of perfect meaning and register (see Seoane 2017). Mode, however, turns out not to be a valid predictor in the entrenchment of adverbials, which questions previous work using differences between speech and writing as a proxy for ongoing change in ICE. The results of this contextualized approach to grammatical change leads me to advocate for usagebased, onomasiological and statistically-modelled approaches to grammatical variation, in which register variability must necessarily be taken into consideration (Biber and Gray 2016), independent of mode.

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