Article published in:The Dynamics of Linguistic Variation: Corpus evidence on English past and present
Edited by Terttu Nevalainen, Irma Taavitsainen, Päivi Pahta and Minna Korhonen
[Studies in Language Variation 2] 2008
► pp. 311–333
Her daughter's being taken into care or her daughter being taken…? Genitive and common-case marking of subjects of verbal gerund clauses in Present-day English
This article deals with the variation between genitive and common-case NPs as subjects of verbal gerunds in Present-day British English, as in As compensation for Polly’s (Polly) keeping the house, Preston had received twenty thousand pounds. Previous research on the topic has mostly focused on personal pronouns and the possessive/objective distinction, wheras the present paper draws attention to other NPs, those which take or do not take the genitive ’s.The material comprises 16 million words from the British National Corpus, representing the four genres Academic Prose, Fiction, News, and Conversation. Methods of retrieval are discussed in some detail, since searches for NPs in the common case proved to require manual scanning.Results show that the genitive form is very infrequent in Present-day English, but figures more often than not in formal texts; this finding is in accordance with modern grammars such as Quirk et al. (1985). More than 50% of all genitives are found in the Academic Prose genre, whereas Conversation displays no genitives at all. Common-case forms are seen to be spread more evenly across genres. Moreover, the linguistic factors phonology, animacy and NP length are seen to have influence on the choice of form.
Published online: 03 December 2008