An historical perspective on aspects of spoken grammar
1 / 18

An historical perspective on aspects of spoken grammar - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

  • Uploaded on

An historical perspective on aspects of spoken grammar. Ivor Timmis, Leeds Metropolitan University. Spoken Grammar Findings.

I am the owner, or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of the copyrighted work described.
Download Presentation

PowerPoint Slideshow about 'An historical perspective on aspects of spoken grammar' - ohio

An Image/Link below is provided (as is) to download presentation

Download Policy: Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use and may not be sold / licensed / shared on other websites without getting consent from its author.While downloading, if for some reason you are not able to download a presentation, the publisher may have deleted the file from their server.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - E N D - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Presentation Transcript
An historical perspective on aspects of spoken grammar

An historical perspective on aspects of spoken grammar

Ivor Timmis,

Leeds Metropolitan University

Spoken grammar findings
Spoken Grammar Findings

  • “...written-based grammars exclude features that occur widely in the conversation of native speakers of English, across speakers of different ages, sexes, dialect groups, and social classes, with a frequency and distribution that simply cannot be dismissed as aberration”

    McCarthy and Carter (1995: 142)

In from the cold
In from the cold?

  • Existential there and variable concord e.g. There’s some rum buggers in this town.

  • Right dislocation (or Tails) e.g. They all want throwing out, the government.

  • Left dislocation (or Heads) e.g. Most of these navvies, they come in here and have a pint you see.

An historical perspective
An historical perspective

“…a new description of a feature or a new perspective on a feature does not necessarily imply that the feature described is itself new or that it has recently acquired a new function” (Timmis 2010: 1).

The bolton corpus
The Bolton Corpus

  • Mass Observation: a sociological and anthropological movement founded in 1937 by Harrisson, Madge and Jennings

  • Aim: to assemble large teams of observers to make a detailed study of the behaviour and attitudes of the working classes

  • Bolton [Worktown] was a particular focus

  • ‘Overheards’, ‘Directs’, and ‘Indirects’

There s plural np
There’s + plural NP

  • There’s is most commonly selected form even when NP Complement is plural (Biber et al 1999; Carter 1999).

  • ETB concord variation is gaining prominence and acceptability (Cheshire 1999: 138).

Bolton corpus data 1937 1940
Bolton Corpus Data – 1937-1940

First child: There’s no dragons today

Second child: Yes, there is

C1: There’s not

C2: There is

C1: No, there’s not

C2: There is. Dragons eat people in Australia. There’s kangaroos there

C1: There’s not

C2: There are

Back in time
Back in time

  • 19th century NZE had non-standard -s in expletive there sentences; by 1900 non-standard -s was marginal; increased in C20 and is now robust in contemporary NZE (Rupp 205?)

  • …default singulars have existed in every century of the language e.g.

    There was many Dukes, Erles and Barons c.1533

Processing factors
Processing factors

  • Ruehlemann (2007) Ease of processing under real time constraints

  • Crawford (2005): “…the cognitive difficulty of maintaining long turns…”

  • Cheshire (1999: 137):

    “…existential there can be seen as a way for speakers to take the floor quickly and easily in lively conversation. Clearly it would be functional for such a useful construction to be shared and accessed as a prefabricated phrase….”

Linguistic factors
Linguistic factors

  • Trudgill (2008: 343): “It is agreed in linguistic typology that singular number is unmarked, as opposed to plural and other possible numbers, in all the languages of the world that have a number distinction…

  • Sobin (1997) – canonical concord with existential there is a learned alternative: a ‘grammatical virus’.


a)Noun alone can be a tail (Aijmer 1989)

  • They all want throwing out, the government.

    b) Demonstrative pronoun alone can be a tail (Aijmer 1989)

  • It’s going to be a long do, this.

    c) The tail can include an operator which follows the noun (Carter, Hughes and McCarthy 1998)

  • I think it’s a shame, a jolly outrage, I do.

    d) The tail can include an operator which precedes the noun (Carter, Hughes and McCarthy 1998)

  • Oh well, he’s a nuisance is that man.

Back in time1
Back in time

  • Durham (2007): tails in Victorian literature

  • Lambrecht (2001): ‘dislocation’ occurs across a wide range of different languages.

Tails retrospective clarification
Tails:retrospective clarification

  • Where did he come from, that bugler boy?

  • It’s awful, isn’t it, Tuesday night?

  • ‘[Tails] are attentive to the online management of interaction (Carter and McCarthy 1997: 409)

Tails evaluation
Tails: evaluation

Evaluation and tails (e.g. Aijmer 1989)

Around 50% of the tails in the Bolton corpus follow a clause in which there is an evaluative adjective ( e.g. ‘good’ 10 times)

e.g. She’s a good girl, that. She never grumbles whether thi’ lose or not.

Emotional colouring

e.g. rum, awful, shocking, numb, stiff, bloody [3]

e.g. nuisance, sluvvin [sloven], outrage, bestiality, bugger [3] and pillan [pillock].

Heads left dislocation
Heads (left dislocation)

  • Heads involve the utilisation of a topic slot before the core constituents of a canonical sentence (McCarthy and Carter 1995).

  • You wouldn’t think he could sleep in his bed. Hitler, he’s to blame for this.

  • Some of these lower class types, they don’t wash till Friday.

Back in time2
Back in time

  • Traugott (2007): examples of left dislocation in Old English

  • Lambrecht (2001): dislocation occurs in many other languages

Function of heads
Function of heads

  • Aijmer (1989): The main function of heads according to is to foreground a particular item,

  • McCarthy (1998: 77): Heads are “an act of consideration to the listener”

  • Carter and McCarthy (1995): Heads are especially common in the narrative genre.


  • The durability of non-canonical features may in part be explained from a functional perspective: processing factors; pragmatic functions

  • Language stability is at least as interesting as language change, and we are now in a position to research which are the most durable features in spoken language