Chapter published in:New Trends in Grammaticalization and Language Change
Edited by Sylvie Hancil, Tine Breban and José Vicente Lozano
[Studies in Language Companion Series 202] 2018
► pp. 381–430
Cross-varietal diversity in constructional entrenchment
The final-tag construction in Irish and American English
The present study analyzes clauses with final tags as a construction, i.e., a symbolic form-meaning pairing, which is formulated as [[ANCHi FTj] ↔ [S conclude verbalization of propositioni with attitudej]] (ANCH: Anchor, FT: Final Tag, S: Speaker). The final-tag construction is observed in most varieties of English. However, a comparison of two spoken corpora of English (SPICE-Ireland and the Santa Barbara Corpus) reveals that the degree of the constructional entrenchment of this symbolic unit differs markedly between Irish and American English. Our analysis illustrates that both type and token frequencies of final tags are higher in Irish English than American English. Interpreting the results in terms of the three characteristics of grammatical constructionalization: increase in schematicity, increase in productivity, and decrease in compositionality (Traugott & Trousdale 2013), our study concludes that the final-tag construction is more entrenched in the minds of Irish English speakers than American English speakers. This observation points to a greater development of the construction in Irish English, where the final position has become a more accommodating slot of broader versatility in which the speakers can put a wider variety of expressions for emotive and/or interactive purposes. In addition to conceivable motivations (sub- and superstrate influences) responsible for the development, the constructional approach can also illustrate the impact of a well-entrenched schema on incremental language use.
Keywords: constructionalization, entrenchment, final tag, Irish English, American English
Published online: 06 December 2018
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