Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Cognitive Linguistics

Editor-in-Chief: Divjak, Dagmar

IMPACT FACTOR 2017: 1.902
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 2.297

CiteScore 2017: 1.62

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 1.032
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 1.930

See all formats and pricing
More options …
Volume 28, Issue 4


Cognitive indigenization effects in the English dative alternation

Melanie Röthlisberger / Jason Grafmiller / Benedikt Szmrecsanyi
Published Online: 2017-10-21 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cog-2016-0051


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.

Keywords: indigenization; cognitive sociolinguistics; dative alternation; varieties of English; syntactic variation


  • Arnold, Jennifer E., Anthony Losongco, Thomas Wasow & Ryan Ginstrom. 2000. Heaviness vs. newness: The effects of structural complexity and discourse status on constituent ordering. Language 76(1). 28–55.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Baayen, R. Harald. 2008. Analyzing linguistic data: A practical introduction to statistics using R. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Bates, Douglas, Martin Mächler, Benjamin M. Bolker & Steven C. Walker. 2015. Fitting linear mixed effect models using lme4. Journal of Statistical Software 67(1). 1–48.Google Scholar

  • Behaghel, Otto. 1909. Beziehungen zwischen Umfang und Reihenfolge von Satzgliedern. Indogermanische Forschungen 25. 110–142.Google Scholar

  • Berlage, Eva. 2014. Noun phrase complexity in English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Bernaisch, Tobias, Th. Gries Stefan & Joybrato Mukherjee. 2014. The dative alternation in South Asian English(es): Modelling predictors and predicting prototypes. English World-Wide 35(1). 7–31.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Bock, Kathryn. 1982. Toward a cognitive psychology of syntax: Information processing contributions to sentence formulation. Psychological Review 89(1). 1–47.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Branigan, Holly P., Martin J. Pickering & Mikihiro Tanaka. 2008. Contributions of animacy to grammatical function assignment and word order during production. Lingua 118(2). 172–189.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Bresnan, Joan. 2007. Is syntactic knowledge probabilistic? Experiments with the English dative alternation. In Sam Featherston & Wolfgang Sternefeld (eds.), Roots: Linguistics in search of its evidential base, 75–96. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar

  • Bresnan, Joan, Anna Cueni, Tatiana Nikitina & Harald Baayen. 2007. Predicting the dative alternation. In Gerlof Boume, Irene Krämer & Joost Zwarts (eds.), Cognitive foundations of interpretation, 69–94. Amsterdam: Royal Netherlands Academy of Science.Google Scholar

  • Bresnan, Joan & Marilyn Ford. 2010. Predicting syntax: Processing dative constructions in American and Australian varieties of English. Language 86(1). 168–213.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Bresnan, Joan & Jennifer Hay. 2008. Gradient grammar: An effect of animacy on the syntax of give in New Zealand and American English. Lingua 118(2). 245–259.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Bresnan, Joan & Tatiana Nikitina. 2009. The gradience of the dative alternation. In Linda Uyechi & Lian Hee Wee (eds.), Reality exploration and discovery: Pattern interaction in language and life, 161–184. Stanford: CSLI Publications.Google Scholar

  • Bruyn, Adrienne, Pieter Muysken & Maaike Verrips. 1999. Double-object constructions in the creole languages: Development and acquisition. In Michel DeGraff (ed.), Language creation and language change: Creolization, diachrony and development, 329–373. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

  • Bybee, Joan & Paul Hopper. 2001. Frequency and the emergence of linguistic structure. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Collins, Peter. 1995. The indirect object construction in English: An informational approach. Linguistics 33. 35–49.Google Scholar

  • Cueni, Anna. 2004. Predicting the outcome of the choice between the dative constructions of English. Stanford: ms.Google Scholar

  • Davies, Mark. 2013. Corpus of global web-based English: 1.9 billion words from speakers in 20 countries. http://corpus.byu.edu/glowbe/.

  • De Cuypere, Ludovic & Saartje Verbeke. 2013. Dative alternation in Indian English: A corpus-based analysis. World Englishes 32(2). 169–184.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Divjak, Dagmar, Ewa Dabrowska & Antti Arppe. 2016. Machine meets man: Evaluating the psychological reality of corpus-based probabilistic models. Cognitive Linguistics 27(1). 1–33.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Dodson, Kelly & Michael Tomasello. 1998. Aquiring the transitive construction in English: The role of animacy and pronouns. Journal of Child Language 25(3). 605–622.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Ellis, Nick C. 2002. Frequency effects in language processing: A review with implications for theories of implicit and explicit language acquisition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 24. 143–188.Google Scholar

  • Farquharson, Joseph T. 2013. Jamaican structure dataset. In Susanne Maria Michaelis, Philippe Maurer, Martin Haspelmath & Magnus Huber (eds.), Atlas of Pidgin and Creole language structures online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. http://apics-online.info/contributions/8, (accessed 20 January 2017).

  • Ferreira, Fernanda. 1994. Choice of passive voice is affected by verb type and animacy. Journal of Memory and Language 33. 715–736.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Filppula, Markku. 1999. The grammar of Irish English: Language in Hibernian style. London & New York: Routledge.Google Scholar

  • Gahl, Susanne & Susan Garnsey. 2004. Knowledge of grammar, knowledge of usage: Syntactic probabilities affect pronunciation variation. Language 80. 748–775.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Garretson, Gregory, M. Catherine O’Connor, Barbora Skarabela & Marjorie Hogan. 2004. Coding practices used in the project optimality typology of determiner phrases. corpus.bu.edu/documentation/BUNPCorpus_coding_practices.pdf.

  • Geeraerts, Dirk, Gitte Kristiansen & Yves Peirsman (eds.). 2010. Advances in cognitive sociolinguistics. Berlin & New York: De Gruyter Mouton.Google Scholar

  • Gelman, Andrew. 2008. Scaling regression inputs by dividing by two standard deviations. Statistics in Medicine 27(15). 2865–2873.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Gelman, Andrew & Jennifer Hill. 2007. Data analysis using regression and multilevel/hierarchical models. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Gerwin, Johanna. 2014. Ditransitives in British English dialects. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar

  • Goldberg, Adele E. 2002. Surface generalizations: An alternative to alternations. Cognitive Linguistics 13(4). 327–356.Google Scholar

  • Grafmiller, Jason. 2014. Variation in English genitives across modality and genres. English Language and Linguistics 18(3). 471–496.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Grafmiller, Jason, Benedikt Heller, Melanie Röthlisberger & Benedikt Szmrecsanyi. 2016. Syntactic variation and probabilistic indigenization in World Englishes. Paper presented at the New Ways of Analyzing Syntactic Variation 2 symposium, Ghent University, Belgium, 19–20 May.Google Scholar

  • Greenbaum, Sidney. 1996. Comparing English worldwide: The international corpus of English. Oxford & New York: Clarendon.Google Scholar

  • Gries, Stefan Th. 2013. Sources of variability relevant to the cognitive sociolinguist, and corpus- as well as psycholinguistic methods and notions to handle them. Journal of Pragmatics 52. 5–16.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Gries, Stefan Th. 2015. The most under-used method in corpus linguistics: Multi-level (and mixed-effects) models. Corpora 10(1). 95–125.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Harder, Peter. 2010. Meaning in mind and society: A functional contribution to the social turn in cognitive linguistics. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar

  • Haspelmath, Martin. 2013. Ditransitive constructions: The verb “give”. In Matthew S. Dryer & Martin Haspelmath (eds.), The world atlas of language structures online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. http://wals.info/chapter/105.

  • Hawkins, John A. 1994. A performance theory of order and constituency. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Heller, Benedikt, Benedikt Szmrecsanyi & Jason Grafmiller. 2017. Stability and fluidity in syntactic variation world-wide: The genitive alternation across varieties of English. Journal of English Linguistics 45(1). 3–27.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Hosmer, David W. & Stanley Lemeshow. 2000. Applied logistic regression, 2nd edn. (Wiley Series in Probability and Statistics). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar

  • Hundt, Marianne & Benedikt Szmrecsanyi. 2012. Animacy in early New Zealand English. English World-Wide 33. 241–263.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Kendall, Tyler, Joan Bresnan & Van Herk. Gerard 2011. The dative alternation in African American English: Researching syntactic variation and change across sociolinguistic datasets. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory 11. 361–389.Google Scholar

  • Klavan, Jane & Dagmar Divjak. 2016. The cognitive plausibility of statistical classification models: Comparing textual and behavioral evidence. Folia Linguistica 50(2). 355–384.Google Scholar

  • Koch, Peter & Wulf Oesterreicher. 1985. Sprache der Nähe - Sprache der Distanz: Mündlichkeit und Schriftlichkeit im Spannungsfeld von Sprachtheorie und Sprachgeschichte. Romanistisches Jahrbuch 36. 15–43.Google Scholar

  • Krifka, Manfred. 2003. Semantic and pragmatic conditions for the dative alternation. Proceedings of the KASELL 2003 International Conference on English Language and Linguistics, 1–14. Hanyang University, Seoul, Korea, 25–26 June.Google Scholar

  • Kristiansen, Gitte & Dirk Geeraerts (eds.). 2013. Contexts of use in cognitive sociolinguistics (Thematic Issue of Journal of Pragmatics) 52.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Labov, William. 1972. Sociolinguistic patterns. Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press.Google Scholar

  • Leufkens, Sterre. 2013. The transparency of creoles. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 28(2). 323–362.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Levin, Beth. 1993. English verb classes and alternations: A preliminary investigation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar

  • MacDonald, Maryellen C. 2013. How language production shapes language form and comprehension. Frontiers in Psychology 4. 1–16.Google Scholar

  • MacWhinney, Brian. 1997. Second language acquisition and the competition model. In A. M. B. De Groot & Judith F. Kroll (eds.), Tutorials in bilingualism: Psycholinguistic perspectives, 113–142. Mahwa, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar

  • McDonough, Kim. 2006. Interaction and syntactic priming: English L2 speakers’ production of dative constructions. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 28(2). 179–207.Google Scholar

  • Meade, Rocky R. 2001. Acquisition of Jamaican phonology. Delft: De Systeem Drukkers.Google Scholar

  • Menard, Scott W. 2010. Logistic regression: From introductory to advanced concepts and applications. Los Angeles: SAGE.Google Scholar

  • Michaelis, Susanne Maria, Philippe Maurer, Martin Haspelmath & Magnus Huber (eds.). 2013. APiCS Online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. http://apics-online.info/.

  • Milin, Petar, Dagmar Divjak, Strahinja Dimitrijevic & R. Harald Baayen. 2016. Towards cognitively plausible data science in language research. Cognitive Linguistics 27(4). 507–526.Google Scholar

  • Mukherjee, Joybrato & Sebastian Hoffmann. 2006. Describing verb-complementational profiles of New Englishes: A pilot study of Indian English. English World-Wide 27. 147–173.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Perek, Florent. 2012. Alternation-based generalizations are stored in the mental grammar: Evidence from a sorting task experiment. Cognitive Linguistics 23(3). 601–635.Google Scholar

  • Pinheiro, José C. & Douglas M. Bates. 2000. Mixed-effects models in S and S-PLUS. New York: Springer.Google Scholar

  • R Core Team. 2014. R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing. http://www.R-project.org/.

  • Sand, Andrea. 2004. Shared morpho-syntactic features in contact varieties of English: Article use. World Englishes 23(2). 281–298.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Schneider, Edgar. 2007. Postcolonial English: Varieties around the world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Scott-Phillips, Thomas C. & Simon Kirby. 2010. Language evolution in the laboratory. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 14(9). 411–417.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Siegel, Jeff, Benedikt Szmrecsanyi & Bernd Kortmann. 2014. Measuring analyticity and syntheticity in creoles. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 29(1). 49–85.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Siemund, Peter. 2013. Varieties of English: A typological approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Stefanowitsch, Anatol & Th. Gries Stefan 2003. Collostructions: Investigating the interaction of words and constructions. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 8(2). 209–243.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Szmrecsanyi, Benedikt, Jason Grafmiller, Benedikt Heller & Röthlisberger. Melanie 2016. Around the world in three alternations: Modeling syntactic variation in varieties of English. English World-Wide 37(2). 109–137.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Tagliamonte, Sali A. 2014. A comparative sociolinguistic analysis of the dative alternation. In Rena Torres-Cacoullos, Nathalie Dion & André Lapierre (eds.), Linguistic variation: Confronting fact and theory, 297–318. London & New York: Routledge.Google Scholar

  • Theijssen, Daphne, Louis Ten Bosch, Lou Boves, Bert Cranen & van Halteren. Hans 2013. Choosing alternatives: Using Bayesian networks and memory-based learning to study the dative alternation. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory 9(2). 227–262.Google Scholar

  • Wasow, Thomas & Jennifer Arnold. 2003. Post-verbal constituent ordering in English. In Günter Rohdenburg & Britta Mondorf (eds.), Determinants Of grammatical variation in English, 119–154. Amsterdam: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar

  • Wolk, Christoph, Joan Bresnan, Anette Rosenbach & Benedikt Szmrecsanyi. 2013. Dative and genitive variability in Late Modern English: Exploring cross-constructional variation and change. Diachronica 30(3). 382–419.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Zaenen, Annie, Jean Carletta, Gregory Garretson, Joan Bresnan, Andrew Koontz-Garboden, Tatiana Nikitina, Mary Catherine O’Connor & Thomas Wasow. 2004. Animacy encoding in English: Why and how. In Donna Byron & Bonnie Webber (eds.), Proceedings of the 2004 ACL Workshop on Discourse Annotation, Barcelona, July 2004, 118–125. East Stroudsburg, PA: Association for Computational Linguistics.Google Scholar

  • Zuur, Alain F., Elena N. Ieno, Neil J. Walker, Anatoly A. Saveliev & Graham M. Smith. 2009. Mixed effects models and extensions in ecology with R. New York: Springer.Google Scholar

About the article

Received: 2016-05-10

Accepted: 2017-03-17

Revised: 2017-02-28

Published Online: 2017-10-21

Published in Print: 2017-11-27

Citation Information: Cognitive Linguistics, Volume 28, Issue 4, Pages 673–710, ISSN (Online) 1613-3641, ISSN (Print) 0936-5907, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cog-2016-0051.

Export Citation

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.Get Permission

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.

Dirk Pijpops, Isabeau De Smet, and Freek Van de Velde
Constructions and Frames, 2018, Volume 10, Number 2, Page 269

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in