Verb complementation patterns across New Englishes


New Englishes, as varieties functioning as a second language in a large number of former British and American colonies (e.g. Singapore, India, the Philippines), are varieties that have nativized, i.e. adapted to their environment, and thereby undergone formal changes at all linguistic levels. In other words, such new varieties are marked by a number of innovations. The appearance of large-scale corpora representing New Englishes has allowed more accurate descriptions of these varieties. The focus of this project is on lexico-grammar, and more particularly on verb-complementation.

Aims of the project

This project aims at shedding further light on the nativization process through the investigation of verb complementation patterns across four varieties of New Englishes (Hong Kong, Indian, Jamaican and Singapore English) and has 3 main objectives:

(1) The first objective is purely descriptive and aims at uncovering, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the innovative features of such varieties and at determining to what extent such innovations are shared by the varieties.

(2) The second objective is methodological and sets out to determine the best approach(es) to identifying such innovations by comparing three usage-based frameworks, i.e. Pattern Grammar, Construction Grammar and Corpus Pattern Analysis.

(3) The third objective is explanatory in nature and will seek to account for the potential similarities across varieties. In this regard, cognitive frameworks such as Construction Grammar will be explored as they offer promising explanatory paradigms in language variation and change.

Data and methodology

The data used for this study will come from the International Corpus of English (ICE) (Greenbaum 1996), which is made up of comparable corpora of varieties of English which contain about one million words each, and cover a wide range of different genres in the written (e.g. fiction, student writing, academic writing) and spoken (e.g. phonecalls, broadcast news, business transactions) medium.

As regards the methodology, a verb-based approach will be adopted by analysing the most frequent verbs and identifying the range of complementation patterns of these verbs and thereby the different constructions they enter.