Edited by Eva Zehentner, Melanie Röthlisberger and Timothy Colleman
[Studies in Germanic Linguistics 7] 2023
► pp. 226–263
The present chapter explores the variable nature of speakers’ (probabilistic) grammar by analysing variation in the English dative alternation across World Englishes. While the numerous constraints that impact the choice of variant are well-known, the extent to which the regional variability of these constraints in specific registers or lexical items can be generalized to the language as a whole has largely remained understudied (but see, e.g., Bresnan and Ford 2010; Röthlisberger, Grafmiller, and Szmrecsanyi 2017). The current study takes a comprehensive large-scale comparative perspective across nine varieties, 14 different registers and including 86 alternating verbs (N = 13,171) to showcase how restrictions in the dataset (e.g. to specific registers or verbs) can result in misleading generalizations. Results of mixed-effects regression analyses indicate that the factors regionally variable across the whole dataset might not be regionally variable across specific registers. Thus, the present chapter not only confirms the variable nature of probabilistic grammars but also stresses the importance of combining an aggregate perspective with more fine-grained analyses to grasp more fully the cross-lectal variability of speakers’ grammatical knowledge.
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