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Cognitive indigenization effects in the English dative alternation

Melanie Röthlisberger, Jason Grafmiller and Benedikt Szmrecsanyi
From the journal Cognitive Linguistics

Abstract

We advance theory formation in cognitive sociolinguistics by exploring the extent to which language users’ probabilistic grammar varies regionally. For this purpose, we investigate the effects of constraints that influence the choice between the two syntactic variants in the well-known dative alternation (I give Mary a book vs. I give a book to Mary) across nine post-colonial varieties of English. Using mixed-effects logistic regression and adopting a large-scale comparative perspective, we illustrate that on the one hand, stability in probabilistic grammars prevails across speakers of diverse regional and cultural backgrounds. On the other hand, traces of indigenization are found in those contexts where shifting usage frequencies in language-internal variation seem to have led to regional differences between users’ probabilistic grammar(s). Within a psycholinguistically grounded model of probabilistic grammar, we interpret these results from various explanatory perspectives, including language contact phenomena, second language acquisition, and semantic variation and change.

Acknowledgments

Funding by the Research Foundation Flanders (grant no. G.0C59.13N) is gratefully acknowledged. We would like to thank Benedikt Heller for his help in the annotation process, Dirk Geeraerts and Marianne Hundt for insightful comments on an early version of this paper, Christy Ha for her thorough proof-reading, and three anonymous reviewers and the editors for their helpful comments and suggestions. The usual disclaimers apply.

Appendix

Table 5:

Overall proportion of dative tokens by variety and variant.

Varietyditransitive dativeprepositional dativeTotal
CanE630 (73.3 %)230 (26.7 %)860
BrE609 (73.9 %)215 (26.1 %)824
HKE794 (66.1 %)407 (33.9 %)1201
IndE563 (56.1 %)440 (43.9 %)1003
IrE611 (74.2 %)212 (25.8 %)823
JamE665 (73.2 %)243 (26.8 %)908
NZE699 (71.3 %)282 (28.7 %)981
PhiE619 (65.9 %)321 (34.1 %)940
SinE735 (72.8 %)274 (27.2 %)1009
TOTAL592526248549

Table 6:

Overall distribution of dative tokens by verb and variant.

VerbditransitiveprepositionalTotal
accord437
advise303
(re-)allocate01212
allot134
allow66773
answer101
appoint112
assign83038
assure303
award41216
bequeath033
bid9615
bring82122204
carry011
cause445399
cede022
charge21627
concede066
convey13435
deal358
deliver32326
demonstrate044
deny30535
drop30232
entrust055
explain24853
extend33235
feed5914
flick011
forward3811
get279
give3,6869264,612
grant412970
guarantee10111
hand392867
impart099
inform516
issue12728
keep606
leave313364
lend263864
loan123
lose011
(e-)mail6713
name404
offer16183244
owe362965
pass154661
pay91210301
permit505
play81220
pose01616
post044
prescribe112
present36265
promise18220
propose055
quote369
read101626
recommend11213
refuse224
render279
return101
sell2183104
send326218544
serve131124
set729
show31671387
sing325
slip415
submit06363
suggest167
take022
teach11816134
tell42223445
throw6612
toss112
vote011
wish99099
write464894
yield055

Table 7:

Division of the subregisters in the ICE corpora into spoken formal (SpokForm), spoken informal (SpokInf), written formal (WritForm) and written informal (WritInf).

RegisterSubregisters in ICE
SpokFormpublic dialogues, scripted monologues
SpokInfprivate dialogues, unscripted monologues
WritFormacademic writing, popular writing, instructional writing
WritInfstudent writing, letters, reportage, persuasive writing, creative writing

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Received: 2016-5-10
Revised: 2017-2-28
Accepted: 2017-3-17
Published Online: 2017-10-21
Published in Print: 2017-11-27

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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