A Corpus-based Study of Variation and Change in Adverb Placement across World Englishes
Recent investigations have shown an effect of geography on syntactic variation among dialects in a handful of languages. As dialect corpora are becoming increasingly available, developments in corpus-based dialectology have introduced sophisticated analysis techniques for studying dialect differences. For example, in a study analyzing variation in adverb position, spatial autocorrelation techniques have been employed to identify regional clusters from a corpus of written Standard American English (Grieve 2012). In another study, Euclidean distances were used to measure morphosyntactic differences in British dialects from the Freiburg Corpus of English Dialects (FRED, Szmrecsanyi 2011). However, not much is known about syntactic variation among socially and geographically non-contiguous varieties such as World Englishes, and the effectiveness of modern dialectometric techniques in these types of studies.In this study, adverb position is analyzed for geographical patterning across ten varieties of spoken and written English from the International Corpus of English (ICE) – Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Kenya, Tanzania, Jamaica, Hong Kong, India, Philippines, Singapore, and Canada. Three adverb positions: sentence-initial, preverbal, and postverbal, and four adverb classes: evaluative, frequency/temporal, manner, and modal adverbs, were chosen and their probabilities were extracted from each corpus. This study then employs a number of statistical analysis and visualization techniques to identify similarities and differences due to geographical space.The analysis shows significant overall spatial clustering for five variables in the spoken data: frequency/temporal adverbs in postverbal position, manner adverbs in preverbal and postverbal positions, and modal adverbs also in preverbal and postverbal positions. None of the variables in the written texts were found to exhibit significant geographical patterning. In the spoken data, ‘hot spots’ were analyzed around Ireland and Canada for postverbal position, and around India for placing adverbs before the verb. In all of these societies, bilingualism and multilingualism are integrally interwoven, and many speakers learn English as their second-language. Possible explanations for variation in adverb placement are intense contact with the languages of these locales and similarities to placement preferences in English when it was first introduced in these locations as a result of colonialism.
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